If you have just joined First Steps, we are nearing the end of The Child-Ready Marriage lessons. The demands of parenting, additional costs, adjusting to a new life-style, and establishing good child rearing practices all stress the relationship between husband and wife. So, these Child Ready Marriage lessons are to help you strengthen your marriage so that you won’t be one of those couples that just give up and divorce.
We are in the set of lessons on Resolving Conflicts. The five parts of this series are: The Gentle Start-up, Take a Break, Accepting Influence, Solvable and Perpetual Problems, and Repair and Compromise. You can see the whole series of lessons at:
The Child-Ready Marriage page.
Our last lesson was about accepting your spouse’s influence.
Accepting your spouse’s point of view does not mean you have to totally agree with them or do things the way they think it must be done. It does mean, however, you have to respect their opinion. You identify and empathize with your spouse’s point of view.
Solvable and Perpetual Problems
We need to be aware that not every problem is solvable. In other words, there may not be a way to come to agreement on many issues that you face in your marriage. There are Solvable problems and Perpetual problems.
Solvable problems are mostly irritants and annoyances that cause minimal frustration. These can be resolved because there is room for negotiating and compromise.
Perpetual problems on the other hand, are more intense and recur periodically. These problems usually have some underlying root for the conflict. They may have to do with personality differences, issues brought into the marriage, or the meaning attached to an action. Gottman’s research indicates as many as 69% of relationship problems are perpetual.
When perpetual problems resurface, we try to find the best workable solution for the time being. Knowing we cannot agree, we make a decision about our actions for the near future.
For example for years, my husband would want complete accounting for any money I spent while he was away on a trip. I was never careless with money, so I resented what seemed like his distrust of me. This was a perpetual problem. I tried different methods of keeping track of what I spent. These ‘solutions’ each worked for a while and then we’d have another argument.
Finally after many years, he told me he didn’t want to be that way. Just knowing he realized it was his problem and that he wanted to change, helped me tremendously. He had been very poor as a young adult and needed to watch every cent. He realized that it was no longer an issue. Understanding that, I was able to take his questions with more grace. And over time, he no longer asked at all.
Dealing with Perpetual Problems
So perpetual problems can have a temporary compromise. They will crop up again because the root problem has not been solved. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree, but not be disagreeable about the issue.
Solvable Problem Exercise:
Categories of Disagreements
- Household chores
- Diet, food or nutrition issues
- In-laws and extended family
- Recreation and having fun
- Balancing Career and family
- Handling stress
- Other (please specify)
- Review the list of common disagreements. Choose just one area that you want to work on.
- Write a description of the problem you want to discuss.
- Discuss ways you could compromise to solve this problem.
Choose a relatively small problem that seems to have a solution. Don’t choose a perpetual problem, one that comes up over and over.
Description: I am often late getting our child from day care. I never know exactly when I can leave work, but my car has the car seat. My husband gets off at the same time every day, but he always stops to pick up dinner on his way home. Maybe if we switched chores, it would work better.
“The next time your spouse makes a complaint, think about it as their way of communicating how important the issue is to them – not as an attack on you. Then, instead of getting defensive, identify the reasonable part of their request, and yield to win. By identifying and empathizing with your partner’s point of view, you are more likely to find a solution that honors both of you.” From The Marriage Minute- Yield to Win