In this lesson we cover perpetual problems, those problems that crop up over and over in your relationship. They may take new forms, but the underlying problems are the same.
We marry someone who has their own opinions, personality quirks, and values. We all choose someone with a particular set of un-resolvable problems. All couples argue. About 2/3 of the arguments in your marriage are about perpetual problems, that is Gottman’s finding from his research. That means if you are having an argument again, about the same issue, you are not alone. Your marriage isn’t worse than anyone else’s. But what you do with these arguments will place you among the Masters or Disasters.
When a perpetual problem comes up and you know you’re in for another bout over the same issues, there are some things you can do to reduce the damage and improve your marriage.
We talked in the last lesson about Taking a Break when either of you realizes you are getting ‘flooded.’ When your heart rate is over 100 beats per minute, you can no longer think clearly to carry on a conversation. Take time to calm down, 20 to 30 minutes is good and never over 24 hours.
When you begin again, there are some choices you can make.
You do not have to follow the same pattern you have in the past. You can make a choice about how you are going to respond. Choose kindness. Listen to the other side. Speak at a normal volume. Think about how your words are affecting the other. Anding a tender touch of affection can really help, too.
Choose humor. Masters are able to relieve tension in an argument with humor. This is victimless humor. It is not laughing at the other. Find some of the things that are being said or other things happening nearby to introduce some humor.
Most importantly, choose perspective. The goal is not solving the problem, it is dialogue. When you can talk about the issues, you will no longer be gridlocked.
Please watch the short Gottman video: Is There Hope?
Although many of your perpetual conflicts will never be completely resolved, there is a need to learn to find ways to compromise.
When the conflict is a recurring, perpetual problem, a compromise is necessary to find a workable solution for the time being. Compromise is defined by Mike Constantine as, “A mutual adjustment for the sake of improvement.” This means neither one gets their way 100% or gives in 100%. It means both choose to yield in some ways to improve the relationship.
After reading the article, use the Compromise Exercise page to consider one of your perpetual problems.
* Carefully consider your beliefs and your limitations concerning the issue at hand.
* In the center circle, write your most minimal core areas on which you cannot yield. Remember, you cannot have it all. But what part are you unable to yield?
*In the outside circle, write those parts of the situation on which you can yield.
When you are both ready, compare your charts. You may not have been aware of your spouse’s core areas on which they cannot yield. This gives you a chance to discuss why this is so vital to your spouse. With understanding, compromise is easier. You may easily see the parts you each can yield and a way to solve the problem for now or even permanently.
Next, read: The Aftermath of a Fight.
Don’t waste your arguments. Don’t let the pain inflicted or the frustration fester. When you are calmed down after a disagreement take some time to think about what caused it, how you handled the emotions, what you did that hurt the process, and what you could have done better. Don’t make another huge issue out of the discussion, but do learn from it. The point of the aftermath of a fight is understanding so that future fights do not have to get so intense and cause so much damage.
You may choose to go deeper into what triggers your fights. This is an optional article and exercise, but it is here for you use, if you want to use it. Discussion Triggers
Ask questions or make comments in the “Comment” box at the bottom of this page or email me personally. Please include any comments about the lesson content and teaching method, too.