Which Of The Relationship Pattern Labels Describes Yours?

When you enter a relationship with someone else, not only are the two of you building something new, but you're both bringing your baggage, experiences, and traits into the foundation that you're now building together. Every relationship has its issues — they're bound to appear at some point. In order to work through that conflict, experts at Clark University have created a process called Relationship Pattern Labeling. 

Psychology Today has laid out the 12 patterns, complete with the definitions of them. The labels are meant to serve as metaphors or visuals to describe the role of each partner in the relationship. Through the labels, both partners can better understand their role in the relationship and the changes and compromises that should be made in order to progress.

Through a process of reflection and discussion about habits and patterns within the relationship, both partners can come to realize how they function together. Although the process is not an easy one, growth only comes in the face of true honesty.


With the cactus/fern label, the cactus may want to be constantly around the partner or always desire to know what they're up to. The fern, however, may feel like their partner's nosiness is a bit prickly, preferring to have a bit of privacy and space. There's nothing wrong with having a bit of absence from your partner; they do say it makes the heart grow fonder. If you're a fern, figure out how much time you need — perhaps enough to finish a book — and let them know. 


The introvert/extrovert dynamic is a more common label. One partner often likes to be alone or spend date nights in a quiet setting. Meanwhile, the extroverted partner feels energized when the two of you go out frequently and are surrounded by others. To reach a compromise, the partners can take turns planning dates. Additionally, the extrovert can also give their introvert some time to recharge before social events rather than springing something on them. Learn to be okay to saying no to plans if your partner isn't mentally ready to attend them — or, discuss if you'd be okay rolling solo.


With the approach/withdraw label, one partner is more comfortable discussing their feelings . The approacher may also have physical touch and quality time as their love languages — they simply can't get enough of their partner. Meanwhile, the withdrawer feels claustrophobic with their other half's constant affection. Love can show up in various ways; it isn't always expressed via physical touch .

Both partners should discuss the ways that they show and feel love. Communication allows the other to see how the little habits and tics of their partner is truly an expression of love. 


Different personality types aren't indicative of incompatibility, just like various ways of thinking don't mean two people can't be together. The emotional/logical dynamic shows one partner that reacts based on how they feel and the logical one analyzes conflicts and situations.

Both thought processes should be appreciated for the roles they serve in the relationship. While the emotional partner won't ignore the feelings of either partner during a dispute, the logical one will ensure they reach a fair compromise that takes both people's wants and needs into consideration.


The criticize/defend dynamic pits partners against one another. The criticizer has a habit of pointing out their significant other's faults, causing their partner to constantly feel the need to defend themselves from a constant barrage of attacks. If you're stonewalling when you get criticized, take a second to find ways to communicate how you feel rather than arguing back.

The time away can help you reflect on whether their critiques are valid. If you're the criticizer, think about what exactly you want your partner to know. Is it something worth bringing up or is your annoyance fleeting? 


If you've found yourself in a criticize/defend partnership, you may also fall into the mountains/molehills category. While one partner hyperbolizes the issues within a relationship, the other partner downplays them. If you view problems as a mountain, reflect on your own issues outside of your relationship that may contribute to your grandiose perspective of your partner's problems. Meanwhile, the molehill partner should adopt an empathetic viewpoint to understand their partner's POV. Chances are, the two of you may be looking at issues unrealistically.

Mutual avoidance

The mutual avoidance label examines the problems of having a partner that's too similar to you. While it certainly isn't a deal breaker in a relationship, both partners should learn to face their problems head on. After a while, pent-up anger and frustration may explode over something that is actually a molehill. Examine why you both feel discomfort expressing your emotions.

If something is bothering you, schedule a time with your partner to discuss the state of your union. Once you start to approach shaky territory in your relationship more, having those necessary conversations will feel natural. 

Mutual blame

The mutual avoidance archetype is the direct opposite of the mutual blame one. In this one, both partners frequently criticize the other, claiming that they are the one who caused the problem.

With this label, the partners must realize that they're not at war with one another. Rather, it's the two of them tackling the issue that's getting in the way of a healthy relationship. Meeting each other on common ground and humbling yourself enough to realize that you, as well as your partner, are contributing to the conflict will allow you to move forward.


Per Market Watch, financial issues contribute to many relationship endings. Many couples may find that they fall into the spender/saver dynamic. One person spends freely while the other is conservative about money. A divergent mindset about money should be discussed at the beginning of a relationship.

When budgeting for non-essentials, examine the price you put on certain aspects of life. Is eating out worth that much to you or can you live with cooking at home frequently? To many people, life experiences are worth paying for. It's up to the couple to discuss the value they place on things.


While debating about things within the relationship, don't adopt the teacher/student dynamic. For the involuntary student, it's demeaning to be talked down to like you're not in an equal relationship. Don't get defensive if there's good intentions; explain to your partner that if you wanted help, you would ask. If you're the teacher and you take issue with the way your partner does something, try to take it upon yourself to complete the task rather than referring it to them. Instead of trying to control your partner's actions, doing something by yourself may prevent an issue


It can be nice to have stability in a relationship; having a safe haven to come home to can help center you. For the other person in a conventional/unconventional relationship, they may cherish spontaneity in a relationship. While one partner doesn't want much excitement, the other takes pleasure in adventure.

Both partners can learn to strike a balance between predictability and excitement. Assurance is knowing that your partner is the safe haven, not the routine you've created. Additionally, finding joy in the quieter aspects of life can help you slow down and enjoy your partner. 


For the dreamer/realist labels, both partners may be at odds with the lens through which they view the relationship. The issue with this couple isn't the way they act towards each other, but moreso what they glean from the relationship itself. What's most important in the relationship is shared values and the desire to attend to the other's wants and needs. If one partner values the whimsical nature of being in a relationship over the growth that comes from it, it shouldn't come in the way of mutual respect and love.