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    Solve your Marriage Problems

    It seems like everyday, you find yourself and your significant other arguing about ……..the same thing. 

    You desperately want to solve the problem but you just can’t seem to figure out how to do it. You’re at a loss and one or both of you are beginning to feel rejected. You keep discussing the same issue, spinning your wheels and making no headway. Both of you are entrenched in your position on this issue. (You’re right, your partner isn’t). Your conversations about this issue leave you feeling frustrated, in pain, betrayed, or hurt. You never get anywhere when you talk about it. The lack of give and take (gridlock) on this issue leaves both of you feeling more polarized, taking more extreme positions, and being uncompromising. You increasingly feel emotionally disengaged and lonely. 

    What if I told you there is no solution to some problems? Whoa! What? So now you are thinking “Great, I’m destined to feel frustrated, betrayed, hurt and lonely the rest of my life?”

    Research has shown that almost 70% of couples problems are what we refer to as perpetual problems (Gottman). Yes, you read that correctly, 70%!

    What are Perpetual Problems?

    *Fundamental differences in your personalities that repeatedly create conflict.

    *Fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs, need that are basic to your own identity, or who you are as a person.

    *Issues that you’ve had a long time that keep arising

    Some common differences that create perpetual problems:

    Differences in neatness and organization. One person is neat and organized and the other is sloppy and disorganized.

    Differences in wanting time together versus time apart and alone. One person wants more time alone than the other, who wants more time together.

    Differences in optimal sexual frequency. One person wants more sex than the other.

    Differences in preferred lovemaking style. There are differences in what each person wants from lovemaking. For example, one sees intimacy as a precondition to making love, while the other sees lovemaking as a path to intimacy.

    Differences in handling finances. One person is much more financially conservative and perhaps a worrier, while the other wants to spend money more freely and has a philosophy of living for the moment.

    Differences with respect to family of origin. One person wants more independence from family, while the other wants more closeness.

    Differences in how to approach household chores. For example, one person wants equal division of labor, while the other does not.

    Differences in how to raise and discipline children. One person is more involved with the children than the other. One person is stricter with the children than the other. One person wants more gentleness and understanding with the children than the other.

    Differences in punctuality. One person is habitually late, and the other feels it is important to be on time.

    Differences in preferred activity level. One person prefers active physical recreation, while the other is more passive and sedentary.

    Differences in being people-oriented. One person is more extroverted and gregarious than the other.

    Differences in preferred influence. One person prefers to be more dominant in decision-making than the other.

    Differences in ambition and the importance of work. One person is far more ambitious and oriented to work and success than the other.

    Differences with respect to religion. One person values religious values more than the other.

    Differences with respect to drugs and alcohol. One person is far more tolerant of drugs and alcohol than the other. 

    Differences in independence. One person feels a greater need to be independent than the other.

    Differences in excitement. One person feels a greater need to have life be exciting or adventurous than the other. 

    Differences in values. There are major differences in what we value in life.

    The key to these problems is not to solve them but to learn to accept one another’s differences, to see the differences as endearing instead of as an annoyance or a burden. 

    The Gottman Method focuses on building emotional intelligence and developing skills for managing conflict and enhancing friendship to help couples create a system of shared meaning in your relationship. What matters is not solving perpetual problems, but rather the affect with which they are discussed. The goal should be to establish a dialogue about the perpetual problem that communicates acceptance of your partner with humor, affection, and even amusement, to actively cope with the unresolvable problem, rather than allowing it to fall into the condition of gridlock. Gridlocked discussions only lead to painful exchanges or icy silence, and almost always involve criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness.

    Sharing fondness and admiration is a friendship skill that helps us accept those differences in our relationship that are causing gridlock and allows us to see and understand our partner in a more emotionally intimate way.

    What exactly is fondness?

    Fondness is affection for another. To share it is to make it more mature. It’s not enough to say “I’m fond of you.” It’s important to share why.

    Instead of:

    “I’m proud of you.”

    “I’m attracted to you.”

    “I’m impressed by you.”

    “I like you.”


    “I’m proud of the way you _____.”

    “I’m attracted to your _____ (inside and out).”

    “I am impressed that you _____.”

    “I like how you _____.”

    Appreciation on the other hand is gratitude.

    It’s primarily Thank You, and there is no reason not to include “thank you” as part of your everyday vocabulary. For making the bed. For taking the kids to school. For making dinner. But thanks must extend beyond “what you do for me” and into “who you are.”

    Check out the “I Appreciate….” exercise:

    Through sharing of fondness and admiration and learning to manage instead of fix or eliminate conflict we can learn to live, love and thrive as a couple, despite our perpetual problems. 

    Until Next Time