Move over love languages, what you really need to understand is relationship 'fight styles'.

When you think of healthy relationships, chances are the first thing that comes to mind isn’t conflict. However, according to podcaster, author, life coach and former monk, Jay Shetty, being aware of how you and your partner ‘fight’ is a key component to any successful partnership.

Shetty believes that just as we have love languages, we have fight languages or styles as well, and the more we can understand one another’s ‘fight style’, the better our intimate relationships will be.

Okay, but how do we figure out our partner’s ‘fight style’ and our own? 

I’m so glad you asked. 

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In his latest book, 8 Rules of Love, Shetty identifies three main relationship ‘fight styles’ as outlined below:

  • Venting: People who need to find a solution right away and therefore want to hash things out as soon as problems arise. 
  • Hiding: People who shut down during an argument. They need time and space to process emotions before they can even contemplate discussing solutions.
  • Exploding: People who can't control their emotions and regularly erupt in the heat of the moment.

If you’re not sure which one you or your partner are, you can take Shetty’s What’s Your Fight Style Quiz? here.

What are the benefits of understanding each other’s ‘fight style’?

Shetty says, “Identifying your partner’s fight style and your own is the first step towards fighting for love.” In practical terms, this looks like the following:

  • Reduce misunderstandings: prevents one partner from feeling hurt by the other's response to conflict because they don’t take it so personally.
  • Helps maintain neutrality: lessens the chance of arguments escalating so you can both respond more effectively. 
  • Gets you back on the same team faster: instead of fighting each other, you can start fighting the problem and resolving issues together.

Relationship coach, Katie O'Donoghue, says ‘fight styles’ are something that are often discussed in client sessions and believes understanding them significantly contributes to long-term relationship health and success. 

“When you seek to understand how each of you shows up during conflict, it’s much easier to tailor communication and behaviour to be more effective in resolving conflict – and do it in a way that avoids triggering negative reactions in the other person,” says O'Donoghue. 

“Not only that, but when you both ‘get’ how your childhood created certain patterns of behaviour, misunderstandings are greatly reduced and ultimately, intimacy is deepened. The more you both talk about what has shaped you in dealing with conflict, the more opportunities there will be to grow together, to resolve issues more easily together, and to create deeper levels of safety and trust in the relationship,” O'Donoghue adds. 

What if you and your partner have completely different ‘fight styles’?

It’s important to remember there are no right or wrong ‘fight style’ or ‘fight style’ combinations – we’re not talking star sign compatibility here. If there are differences in the way you approach conflict versus the way your partner does, the point is being aware of those differences and working with them, not against them.

Shetty openly talks about the fact that he is a ‘venter’ and his wife is a ‘hider’. He says these two very different fight styles initially caused a lot of stress in their relationship because he would want to immediately hash things out until they found a solution, whereas his wife would need to gather her thoughts over the course of a few days before she was ready to speak. 


“Understanding this about each other stopped me from feeling hurt when she would go quiet during an argument, and it stopped her from being annoyed when I would want to discuss an issue at length,” says Shetty. 

Now that they know each other’s ‘fight styles’, Shetty says they’re able to make conflict compromises and come back to discuss their issues 12-24 hours after they occur. 


O'Donoghue says that when two people have different fighting styles, open communication, empathy and a willingness to compromise are crucial. 

“It’s important for both sides to acknowledge that you have different approaches to conflict, but it doesn’t mean one is right and the other is wrong. You’ve simply learned different approaches. However, this doesn’t excuse any abusive behaviour – there’s simply no excuse for that.” 

O'Donoghue adds that demonstrating self-awareness and paying close attention to what causes you to react to someone can also be helpful. E.g., is it the language they are using? Or their tone of voice? Body language? Topic of conversation? Your own stress levels?

What if you and your partner have the same ‘fight style’?

And just because you have the same ‘fight style’ as your partner, doesn’t make conflict any easier, believe me. My husband and I are both ‘hiders’ which means we can quite easily get into patterns of avoidance when it comes to conflict. 

Now that we’re aware of this however, we’ve started doing things like scheduling in time to have those conversations or check-ins to make sure issues get addressed, discussed, and hopefully resolved. For us, we need that kind of accountability. 

O'Donoghue says it’s worth remembering that just because people find themselves in patterns of behaviour in their relationships, doesn't mean they have to stay there. 


“Just because you both show up in a certain way doesn’t mean it has to stay that way forever, change is possible, and change is likely needed if conflict is not working smoothly or effectively for you both. Creating a new pattern needs to be a conscious commitment though and it will take practice. Acknowledging any unhelpful patterns is the first step for creating change. Then, create a safe space to discuss what is going on for you both when conflict arises or when there are issues that need to be addressed.”

 Whether your ‘fight style’ is venting, hiding, or exploding, O'Donoghue says it’s helpful to remember that you and your partner are a team.

 “Teams work together to reach goals. So, come up with a strategy to handle difficult issues and if that feels hard, consider the support of a therapist so together you both can get to where you want to be with navigating conflict,” adds O'Donoghue.

And I think we can all agree that fighting relationship issues together, sounds a lot better than fighting each other. 

Katie O'Donoghue is a Relationship Coach and the host of the Self Explained podcast. You can find more about her on Instagram or her website.

Emily McGrorey is a freelance writer, full-time reader and part-time procrastinator. She lives on Awabakal Land/Newcastle. You can follow her on Instagram here.

 Feature Image: Supplied.

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