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.
Often a goal of marriage and relationship education is to increase the assertiveness and active listening skills of one or both partners. This series of posts discusses assertiveness and self-confidence and avoidance and perceived partner dominance.
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.
As partners in a relationship improve 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.
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.
Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.
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