The researchers discovered that WhatsApp mirrors how we interact with one another offline and that it provides a second platform for relationships or a place to argue and reconcile. Furthermore, the researchers said, “WhatsApp correspondence not only gives another forum for conducting the relationship but can also save it.”
John Gottman, a clinical psychologist and mathematician, acknowledged the value of conflict in relationships and asserted that the capacity to handle disagreements forms the basis of a strong union. Additionally, he discovered three conflict resolution patterns in relationships that might help to predict their stability.
Three Conflictual Behavior Patterns in Stable Partnerships that were Represented in WhatsApp Communications:
Avoidance: The ‘avoiders’ showed less regular WhatsApp interaction and a lack of communication amid tense situations. The first category of Gottman’s results, which is characterized by the low level of interdependence that exists in relationships between couples who avoid confrontation, was matched by this conduct, which also represented the partners’ different areas of interest. ‘Avoidant’ couples may utilise WhatsApp as a separate pastime that they carry out apart from one another.
For example, in describing conflicts with his partner, A, from Tel Aviv told the researchers, “We fight in silence.” E, from the Sharon region, said that she almost goes crazy when her partner purposely does not respond to her on WhatsApp. T, from the south of the country, said, “At home, we don’t fight, we go to sleep… and, in parallel, on WhatsApp, it’s a cold peace.” In all these cases, the couples maintain active social interactions via WhatsApp with friends and family. The avoidance of interaction by a couple during a fight, and the low degree of availability to each other during a routine, reflect a paucity of common interests and a reluctance to listen to one another other.
Emotional: relationships that experienced emotional conflict tended to communicate more frequently both daily and during conflicts. These couples talked about their mutual attempts at persuasion that took place both in person and simultaneously on WhatsApp. This behavior falls under Gottman’s second category of behavior, which is defined by a lack of distinction between personal and shared space in a partnership.
When I quarrel with L, face-to-face, I yell and scream for the entire world to hear, but on WhatsApp, I just can’t let go, claimed H, from the south. I have a limitless supply of exclamation points to use in my texts. Couples who talked about emotionally charged disagreements explained how a fight that started at home in the morning could continue over WhatsApp and occasionally even appear in the family group chat. There were also instances where contentious issues from the couple’s WhatsApp conversations spilt over into their in-person interactions.
Rational: Gottman’s third category describes the ability of couples to listen to one another during a dispute. Although conflicts that the couples opted not to address on WhatsApp may not be present in this category. The moderate and balanced graph of the couple’s correspondence on WhatsApp, displayed in the study’s main body, reflects this trend.
A, and A, from Modi’in, revealed how they developed their fighting skills over the course of their 20-year relationship. “Our communication on WhatsApp is a language we have created, and it helps us find a way to resolve conflicts- sometimes by laughing at the dispute with the appropriate emoji, or at the very least, by putting it in perspective. Sometimes re-reading the correspondence (after a fight) helps me comprehend my partner’s point of view,” continued R. from the north of the country. In these situations, there is a good chance that the couple may use the app when attempting to patch things up.
The visual models (4, 5 and 6) on the following pages provide a conceptual representation of the escalation of partner conflict in both face-to-face and WhatsApp interactions. An in-depth examination of the WhatsApp communication graph reveals a seismograph that tracks relationship alterations and a metronome that tracks shifts in the dynamics of the couple’s pace. By watching the couple’s interactions on WhatsApp and in person, we may learn more about our own roles in relationships and how to make them more stable through kind deeds and genuine expressions of emotion.
The research involved interviews with 18 couples, aged 35 to 50 years, who have been together for more than five years over the course of a year. Israelis from various backgrounds and regions of the country participated in the interviews (religious, secular, same-sex). The couple’s use of WhatsApp was the main topic of the content analysis; the researchers discovered technical, practical, casual and emotional relationship patterns.