Marriage therapist and researcher John Gottman has found that in marriage (and I’m including committed relationships with partners) there are three kinds of issues: those which are resolvable, those which are not resolvable,which he calls perpetual problems, and gridlocked perpetual problems. The surprising finding is that 69% of the conflicts are about issues which cannot be resolved! If you think you keep going around and around on the same issue, you aren’t imagining it.
So what’s a person to do when they come up against one of those issues that they can’t come to some agreement on in their marriage? Is divorce a given? Fortunately, no, divorce is not an inescapable outcome of an issue which can’t be resolved. The key to issues which are not resolvable is in how you and your partner handle them. Do you acknowledge how the other person is feeling and is affected by the issue? As you are discussing it, do you show that you accept your partner even though you both have different opinions about how a perpetual problem should be addressed? Or do you get defensive, criticize your partner, give them the silent treatment, or express any contempt you are feeling?
Perpetual problems are just that: they are likely to be with you for the duration of your relationship. But it’s possible to have a loving, strong, and happy relationship even with those perpetual problems. What matter is how you and your partner deal with each other about the issue.
If you and your partner are struggling with a perpetual problem that is dividing you and causing hard feelings, I invite you to schedule an appointment with me. Let’s talk about it and see if we’d like to work together to get you to back on the same team again. You can call or text me at (816) 226-4678 for a free 30-minute consultation or to make an appointment.