People high in avoidance tend to feel dominated by their partner

Based on the research, we have discovered there is a positive cycle linking assertiveness and self-confidence and a negative cycle linking avoidance and perceived dominance.

In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

This series of posts discusses assertiveness and self-confidence, and avoidance and perceived partner dominance and aids in the understanding of each partner and how each partner’s characteristics are related to the underlying couple dynamics. These four interrelated areas together provide a comprehensive picture of each partner.

Avoidance: Avoidance is a person’s tendency to minimise issues and his/her reluctance to deal with issues directly.

Avoidance tends to be highest in people who are passive or non-assertive. Conversely, people who are very assertive tend to be low on avoidance. There is increasing evidence that an avoidant style creates problems in close relationships.

People who score high in avoidance tend to report they feel dominated by their partner, dislike the personalities of their partner, and dislike the way they communicate and resolve conflicts with their partner.

John Gottman (1994), a prominent researcher on marriage, described three common styles of relating in couples. One of his three types of couples was the avoidant couple.

Avoidant couples tend to minimise conflict and often don’t resolve their differences, agreeing to disagree. Gottman has found an avoidant marriage is one style that can endure, but states, '...there is a low level of companionship and sharing in the marriage.” He goes on to report, “Another hazard of this type of marriage is that it can become lonely” (Gottman, 1994, p. 46). Individuals in such marriages may often feel disconnected, misunderstood, and ill-equipped to deal with conflict should it arise.

Often a goal of marriage and relationship education aims to increase the assertiveness and active listening skills of one or both partners and aims to assist in the understanding of each partner and how each partner’s characteristics are related to the underlying couple dynamics. As each partner improves their assertiveness and active listening skills, their self-confidence will increase. This is the positive cycle of more assertiveness increasing self confidence. Increasing assertiveness also tends to decrease avoidance and partner dominance, which is a common negative cycle in couples.

The four Relationship Dynamic scales are very relevant to other categories within PREPARE/ENRICH. Individuals, for example, who are more assertive tend to like the personality of their partner (Partner Styles and Habits), feel good about their communication (Communication) and report satisfaction in their abilities to resolve conflict (Conflict Resolution). Conversely, those who are high on avoidance tend to dislike the personality of their partner, dislike their communication, and report dissatisfaction in their abilities to resolve conflict.

For more details on this exercise, refer to the Couple’s Workbook.

#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 to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich.

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