Avoidant Men and Assertive Women and Issues with Effective Conflict Resolution

Couples often present with serious communication issues. This can sometimes be seen in the pattern of scores in the Conflict Resolution category (individual dissatisfaction and low couple positive agreement scores). It can also be evident in the avoidance scores – sometimes one partner is avoidant of conflict whereas the other is happy to tackle it head on.

Some years ago a US study (Swann, Rentfrow & Gosling: 2003) revealed that when critical, verbally disinhibited women (perhaps also likely to be low on avoidance and highly assertive) are paired with verbally inhibited men (likely to be high on avoidance and low assertiveness), relationship quality suffers.

This effect appears to emerge when verbally disinhibited women pair with relatively inhibited men and the disinhibition of the woman amplifies women’s criticalness because they are frustrated with their partners’ avoidance and reluctance to discuss issues (man-more-inhibited couples). These men are this alienated and feel they are being pressured to deal with issues that they are reluctant to confront.

The authors commented: “Three studies provided evidence that relationship quality suffered in man-more-inhibited couples; a 4th study showed that the criticalness of women in man-more inhibited couples did indeed undermine relationship quality.”

This is a pattern worth looking for in couples taking PREPARE/ENRICH inventories. It is helpful to assist such couples to explore ways for the man to be less avoidant and for the woman to be more constructively assertive.


William B. Swann Jr., Peter J. Rentfrow, & Samuel D. Gosling (2003). The Precarious Couple Effect: Verbally Inhibited Men - Critical, Disinhibited Women - Bad Chemistry, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 1095–1106.

#PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or support with a couple or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich

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