Overcoming Perpetual Problems

Let’s talk about those perpetual problems where we find ourselves in a gridlock. According to John Gottman Ph.D., these perpetual problems represent 69% of our issues with many perpetual problems not being resolved. Principle 6: Overcome Gridlock.  According to John Gottman Ph.D., he believes that a gridlock in a relationship has occurred because each partner has dreams for their life that the other person is unaware of. Dreams represent hopes, aspirations, and wishes that are a part of your identity and give purpose and meaning to your life. 

The Steps to Resolving Perpetual Problems

So how do we work on these perpetual problems in which we find ourselves in a gridlock?

Step 1: both of you write down your position, being honest and non-critical, using only the facts as you see them. Then each of you has 15 minutes to share with the other your point of view. Starting with the speaker; being honest and using I statements are important. As for the listener; suspending judgment and really hearing your partner. When the first person has finished speaking the listener can ask questions such as (1) What is your ideal dream here? (2) Tell me the story of your dream. Does it relate to your history or childhood in some way? I would like to understand. (3) What do you want? What do you need? (4) If I could wave a magic wand and you got exactly what you wanted, what would that look like?

Step 2: Soothe each other, because it can be stressful. Remember you are discussing perpetual problems that have been recurring and lots of emotions and feelings can surface.

Step 3: is to reach a temporary compromise (using the two-circle method) and try and find some common ground. What are you flexible with and what are you not flexible with?

Step 4: Say thank you to each other, or use words of appreciation and gratitude. Again this could have been an issue that has been plaguing you both for some time, and even getting a temporary compromise can be a step forward.

The 4 Pillars to Strengthening Your Relationship

Principle 7: Create Shared Meaning refers to a couple’s inner world uncovering rituals and stories that have shared meaning for them. Within shared meaning, there are four pillars.

Pillar One: Rituals of Connection

How many families sit around the table at dinner time and just talk about their day, or tell funny stories? Not many I am sure. A ritual is a structure or routine that you each enjoy and depend on and that strengthens the connection between the two of you. It could be how you spend holidays, vacations, birthdays or something as simple as waking up on a Sunday morning and how you spend the day. 

Pillar Two: Support for Each Other’s Roles

We all play different roles. We are not just partners but parents, children, siblings, and friends and we also have professional roles. Moreover, we have our own perspective on our roles, but it is also important to account for how our partner views our role. Their perspective can either create meaningfulness or create tension and disharmony. For example, different views on how to parent, or how to interact with parents, siblings and friends, can lead to perpetual problems if they don’t align with our views. We may not agree 100%, but a consensus needs to be reached. 

Pillar Three: Shared Goals

As in goals for your life, old age, financial, spiritual, social, intellectual, environmental and physical goals. I mean what makes life meaningful is the goals that we strive to achieve and doing it as a couple provides more intimacy and connection. 

Pillar Four: Values

How do you value love and trust, the importance of family, spiritual beliefs, the role of sex in the relationship, the importance and meaning of money and possessions, education, retirement and old age, the role of fun, play, adventure and connection with nature, values around personal freedom, autonomy and interdependence and the sharing of power in the relationship. As we come to a close, I hope that you have enjoyed learning how to overcome perpetual problems in order to make your relationship work. As you can see, friendship and connection are important, but so is how we deal with our conflict. If you need couples counseling, please do not hesitate to call our office. I have completed Level 2 training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy and would be happy to talk to you, using the methods described above.