Building Bridges

Issue # 5 of 43 

David LeClaire
By: David LeClaire

The 3 Kinds of Couples

When it comes to conflict, there are at least 3 kinds of relationships:

  1. Those that go out of their way, to any length, to avoid conflict.
  2. Those that have conflict but settle it without major damage and reach compromises relatively easily.
  3. Couples who fight passionately, sometimes with explosive and dangerous blow-ups.

While some relationships from all three categories end in divorce, you may be surprised to learn that couples who do anything to avoid conflict are more likely to divorce because they never address issues that need to be resolved.

Maybe you know a couple who never fought, who you always thought got along pretty well, who once shocked you with news of their separation. It is such a shock because they probably didn't share their unhappiness with each other much less with you.

In their efforts to "not rock the boat," to keep peace, to leave well enough alone, some couples abandon what's important to them by ignoring their frustrations, disappointments and hurts. They build a facade like a Hollywood movie set that sends the message that everything is fine when in fact it's all a front.

While these relationships may last a long time, they tend to end eventually in a higher proportion than the other two kinds of couples. This is not to say that fighting is good, but couples that air their feelings, hurts, concerns, and needs are more likely to see resolution, movement and change.

It may not always be comfortable or easy. But couples who speak up and learn to do so in a way that creates positive results improve their odds.

Couples who bury their anger, hide their sadness, and pretend to be satisfied, can only live the lie so long. They try to rationalize the absence of everything they want, dreamed for, and hoped to have. Yet someday they usually have to face the reality, the emptiness of their lives, and realize that the love is so far gone that they just walk away from it all.

You don't need to try to create conflict, you simply don't want to ignore challenges in order to avoid it. Couples don't have to fight to stay in love. When there are problems, if you talk about them in mature, constructive ways, you can repair the bridges and heal the wounds.

Conflict is an important but dangerous part of relationships. Couples who learn how to navigate the waters of conflict will probably survive without hitting a submerged iceberg. Avoiding important issues, denying upsets and ignoring frustrations very rarely makes the adjustments to the undiscussed weak spots in relationships.

If you are both committed to making your partnership work, you won't be frozen by fear of conflict and instead will bring up the tough issues and get them out on the table. When you actually get better at solving challenges together you will rarely fight. Fighting is an ugly, unpleasant reality for many couples, but if done with some basic parameters, can at least give the couple some clues of things they need to work on.

Try to communicate and learn how to resolve issues without fighting and getting angry. Future articles will give you some valuable ideas on how to do this. But whatever you do, don't bury it, hide it, or ignore it.

David LeClaire has spent much of his time teaching at community college and private school, and lead communications training for Fortune 500 companies. Now a popular and active Seattle area sommelier, this graduate of Central Michigan University led seminars for a wide variety of organizations. LeClaire is the author of "Bridges To A Passionate Partnership." He can be reached at

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Text © 1998, David LeClaire. Part of the original Sideroad.
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