Research shows that almost 2/3 of marital issues are unsolvable. At the Gottman Institute We call these perpetual problems.
Psychologist Dan Wile says, “When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unresolvable problems.”
Joe is always early, everywhere he goes. Sue is always late.
Kris wants to go on long vacations and travel far away. Jim just likes to stay home and hang out by the pool when he has time off.
Despite what we’ve been led to believe by our friends, other couples and even other therapists, the goal is not to solve problems, all the time.
That’s because every couple has perpetual problems-problems that persist throughout the relationship, as a result of the fact that the two people are different. These are not so much problems (even thought they can lead to conflict) but are differences.
And without differences, our relationships can be pretty boring.
The key is to be able to talk about your problems in a way that is respectful to the other person, while not necessarily caving in on your own needs being met. Otherwise, your conflict will become gridlocked. Gridlocked conflict leads to conflict.
Thriving couples don’t avoid problems, but they don’t always solve them either. They use them as another opportunity to understand each other better over time.
Take a minute to talk with your partner about a perpetual problem in your relationship, with a desire to understand their position, and without trying to solve it.