According to The Gottman Institute, “Acknowledging and respecting each other’s deepest, most personal hopes and dreams is the key to saving and enriching your marriage.” This is based from their empirical research in studying couples. They have done over forty years of research with couples. If you are in a relationship, then you have probably noticed that the same problems come up over and over.

The research suggests that the perpetual conflict in your relationship may symbolize the differences in your lifestyle and personality. Perpetual problems often come from, not feeling understood by your partner or well-known. It’s easy in our fast paced world to forget about our dreams or shove them aside. It’s even more frustrating when our partner doesn’t even know what our dreams are.

More than anything, we want to feel like our partner has our back and really gets us. If you don’t feel this way, then you start to drift apart. If you feel like this, you are not alone. Many couples go through this after they have been together for a while.

The good news is you can use The Gottman’s Institute research to help overcome the perpetual problems in your relationship. Here are seven helpful tips:

  1. Keep working on your unresolvable conflicts. Couples that are demanding of their relationships are more likely to have a happy and satisfying relationship, than those that have lower expectations. Ask your partner questions and wait for answers. This will let your partner know that you have a vested interest in the relationship.
  2. Keep your dreams alive. Allow yourself to contemplate dreams you have buried in your perpetual problems. This will help you understand your feelings and wishes that are not being addressed in the relationship. If you don’t know your partner’s dreams, then you don’t know your partner. It’s important to create an environment that is safe enough to share your dreams with one another. Your dreams don’t have to match, you just need to be supportive of one another’s dreams.
  3. Complain without blame. Dig deeper and suspend judgment. Come to an understanding that you and your partner have within the conflict. Ask questions and do not attempt to resolve the conflict immediately. This will help set a positive tone on your disagreements.
  4. Soothe each other. Perpetual problems are stressful. Compliment your partner when they speak to you in a nice tone and use soft start-up. This means, using “I” feel statements and stating what you need from your partner. You don’t need to rush. If you feel you are incapable of a productive conversation, then take a break.
  5. Accept that some problems are unsolvable. Dr. Gottman has stated, the goal is to declaw the issue, to try to remove the hurt so the problem stops being a source of great pain. It’s easy to focus on solving the problem, work on understanding one another. Learn to have a dialogue about your perpetual problems that is not painful.
  6. Define your areas of flexibility. Go into this conversation with a positive attitude. Try to make the areas that you cannot agree on as small as possible. This is where you want to be like Gumby and bend as much as possible. Don’t argue to be right or for your point of view. Listen with empathy to your partner.
  7. Work on a compromise. One where you both feel your dreams are honored. You aren’t looking for a quick fix here. Take time and work on steps that will help you both achieve your goals. We’ve been hearing this since the beginning of time, compromise is key in a relationship. When you don’t compromise you create the I win/we lose scenario. What you really want is the we win/we win scenario.

We hope that by taking these steps it will help you manage conflict in your relationship. All couples have conflict, at The Gottman Institute we have found that 69% of problems in a relationship aren’t solvable. So, what does this mean, learn to have a dialogue about your problems that is not harmful to one another.

Lianne Avila is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, with extensive training using The Gottman Method for Couples.  She specializes in couples and relationship work. You can reach Lianne at (650) 892-0357.

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