Perpetual Problems

When you fight about the same thing over and over and over….

We all have these kinds of arguments right? The ones that come up again and again. You say the same things like it’s a script, practiced so many times that you practically know it by heart. 

And yet, nothing seems to change. No matter how many times you talk about it, you never seem to get anywhere with it. 

These are what Dr. John Gottman calls Perpetual Problems and every couple, even the blissfully happy ones, have them. In fact, he found that 69% of problem in marriage are perpetual.

This great news, my friend. This means that you can have issues that never seem to go away, and still have a wonderful, healthy, and happy marriage. Awesome, right?

Perpetual problems, by definition don’t really have a solution. You and your partner are stuck in this battle of trying to convince each other that your way is right and their way is wrong. And no one is willing to budge. They become highly emotional and are often difficult to talk about. 

As adults, you are each entitled to your opinion, and in marriage, there really is no right or wrong way. Just two opinions that are equally valid.

So does this mean that you’re doomed to years and years of arguing over why he doesn’t put his dirty clothes in the hamper?

No. Yay!

The key to overcoming perpetual problems is to change the goal. Rather than trying to come up with a solution, the goal becomes simply to understand your partner’s point of view. 

You see, when you are holding onto the idea that your husband needs to change the way he deals with laundry, it is virtually impossible for you to see any other possible solution. It clouds out everything else and your brain becomes gridlocked into a cycle of “my way or the highway.”

But as soon as you let go of the idea that he needs to change, and try to simply understand why he thinks the way that he does, magic happens.

You begin to see him in a whole new, deeper way. 

For my husband and I, the issue was always money. We had the same argument over and over and over at the end of every month for about 10 years. I can still feel my palms getting sweaty as I think about those conversations.

See, my husband is an accountant and loves to track our spending. He loves budgeting and planning and saving. I am a little more free spirited with money. 

Now neither of us are extreme, so we have never had drastic consequences because of our spending/saving habits, but it was enough to drive us both a little batty. 

So we decided to really do the work and get to the heart of this issue for us. Over the course of several conversations, we came to understand each others point of view. 

I now know exactly why Eric wants to have a fully funded savings account. He needs that structure to feel calm, and in control of not just our finances, but our lives. It is tied into his ability to take care of his family. It makes sense. He has good reasons and I get it. I don’t agree or feel the same way, but I get why he does. 

And he understands why I hate being managed around money. It makes me feel trapped and I feel most in control of my life and at peace when I can spend money, at least some of the time, with a lot of flexibility. He doesn’t feel the same way, but he understands where I am coming from. And he is willing to accept it as part of the package deal when he married me. 

So what happens when you get to this place of understanding and letting go of trying to change each other? 

You find new solutions. 

For us, we found a way to get both of our needs met. It still bugs me that he tracks our spending, but I can let it go, because he doesn’t nag me about it. We still talk about our finances at the end of every month, but it is a gentle, loving discussion now, instead of a heated debate. 

Working through these perpetual problems instead of avoiding them or going at them with a sledge hammer, creates an opportunity to deepen the emotional intimacy in your marriage. It really is where the magic happens.

So, don’t avoid conflict anymore, my friends. Go and use it as the chance of a lifetime to see, understand and love your partner in a while new and deeper way. 

If you are having a hard time doing this in your relationship, I can help. Just click the button below to set up a free, no obligation call and we can get you feeling better about conflict in your relationship after just one call.