By: Logan Everett, MA, LMFTA
How many times does it feel like you’re preparing for battle or you feel like you get dropped in the middle of “war zone” every time a conflict comes up? You may know it is coming and have your defenses up and ready, but other times it hits you like a big left hook and you both end up feeling even more rejected and hurt than before.
When it comes to conflict, most couples don’t realize that they are most likely dealing with a problem that can’t even be solved!
How can this be? Based on years of research we now know that when couples argue, they are dealing with a solvable problem only 31% of the time. This means that the other 69% is dealing with problems that may never offer any real solution or resolution. So what’s the answer?
Identify the Problem
“Don’t worry about doing the chores tonight dear, I will take care of them when I get home” is a good example of a solvable problem. Other examples may include decisions about how who will pick up the kids from soccer, when it is time to turn out the light for bed or even how much will be put into savings for this month. These problems have a concrete, tangible, easily defined solution. Remember, this only accounts for 31% of all couple conflict.
How do we know if we are dealing with a perpetual issue? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does this conflict cause me to feel rejected every time it is discussed?
- Do I/we feel misunderstood and unheard when trying to explain my view?
- Do I/we become more unwilling to discuss the issue every time it is brought up?
- Does my partner seem more polarized and set in their position and unwilling to budge?
- Do I feel more emotionally distant after our argument?
This image shows us two ovals. the inner oval depict areas in our lives that are simply non-negotiable and represents our core needs. The outer oval represents more flexible areas in the same subject.
3 Steps of Compromise
- Define your minimal core needs (your inflexible areas).
- Define areas of flexibility. Try to make as big as possible.
- Come up with a temporary compromise and revisit often to reevaluate. (see below)
Getting to “Yes”
The “masters” of relationships have shown that we must be willing to accept influence if we are to ever have influence in our relationships. The goal is greater understanding and understanding must precede advice and influence. To do this we must “yield to win.” Both partners are saying “compromise with me like I am someone you love.” Ask the following questions to achieve greater understanding and move toward compromise to answer the final question:
- Help me understand why your inflexible area is so important to you.
- What are your core feelings, beliefs, or values about this issue?
- Help me understand your flexible areas.
- What are our common goals?
- What feelings do we have in common?
- How can I help you meet your core need(s)?
“Our compromise that respects and honors both our needs and dreams is:” ________.
Don’t expect to “get it right” the first time, second or even the third time. It takes a lot of practice to find what really works the best for you both especially when dreams and goals have been kept hidden. Unfortunately sometimes dreams and core needs go unnoticed, unhonored and unrealized causing painful resentment and emotional disengagement. If this describes you, I would encourage you to seek help from a pastor, mentor or a licensed professional. I have been trained using the Gottman Method Couples Therapy model based on 40+ years of research to make marriage work well. If you would like more information please feel free to call at (317) 572-7411 for a free phone consultation, send an email or schedule an appointment online.