Confrontation 101

Imagine this scenario: You’re in a bar with your significant other, and someone comes along and spills a drink on you. Do you: a) hope your partner will beat this person to a bloody pulp for their rudeness (aggressive), b) not say anything (passive) or c) a reaction that falls somewhere between A and B (assertive)? The implications of your answer might surprise you.

Research from MacEacherson and colleagues studied this process and presented their results at last week’s International Association of Relationship Research (IARR) conference, (at which the eHarmony Labs team was lucky enough to attend and also present). Some of their results seemed pretty logical. For example, men were more directly aggressive when in a situation where they were standing up for their partner, while women were more indirectly aggressive. Additionally, both sexes deemed assertiveness as being the best call in terms of confrontation, being aggressiveness as the worst call, and a passive response falling somewhere in between.

However, even though women say it’s a better call to be passive than aggressive, it’s actually a worse call in terms of relationship implications. This is not to say that your partner should get really heated, but it does suggest that in order to feel the best about your relationship after a situation, your partner should definitely do something. An important note: the “offender” in this scenario was of the same sex as the partner. Therefore, this research does not suggest a woman stepping in for her male partner or vice versa (these results also shouldn’t be generalized to same-sex couples). Likewise, a male shouldn’t stand up to a female.

So the next time you feel you need to stand up for your partner, remember to be assertive, and don’t take on a person you know you can’t handle. In other words, speak up, but think before you speak!

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