I was discussing a situation with a client.  He told me he was confused.  His wife avoided emotions.  Except she would explode in anger.  He couldn’t figure it out.  He tended to avoid conflict, but expressed his emotions.  “What gives?”

Well, my client and his spouse are expressive and avoidant about two different things.  So, I suggested thinking about a quadrant, where there are four types of expressive behaviors.

There are two categories:  emotions and conflict.  There are two different scales:  avoidant and expressive.

“Emotions” is a category about how someone is feeling and reacting.  Happy, mad, sad, angry.  All emotions.  That some share and some avoid.

Then, there is “Conflict,” which is relational, around areas of disagreement.  There will always be conflicts in intimate relationships.  The question is how they are processed and expressed (or avoided).

The “Expressive” or “Avoidant” scales are not absolute, but a continuum from avoidant all the way to expressive.

You could be expressive in both emotions and conflicts.  You can be avoidant in emotions and conflicts.  Or you could be expressive in one, but avoidant in the other.  Which leaves us with four categories.

And it is likely that you and your spouse do not share the same square.

And if you do, you may not share the same spot on the continuum.

Let me tell you more in the podcast below.

(And if you are ready to save your marriage, please GRAB MY SAVE THE MARRIAGE SYSTEM.)

This article first appeared here