• David Flowers

Most problems in relationships are unsolvable. So what do you do?

Updated: Jan 27



69% of all conflicts in intimate relationships are unresolvable. This is because they are not issues of right/wrong, black/white, but matters of perspective -- more like Democrat/Republican, or chocolate/vanilla.

This fact tells you if you think communication issues are the fundamental issue between you and your partner, you're almost surely wrong. Even the couples that communicate best will resolve only around 30% of their disagreements.

It is not primarily communication skills that are needed to thrive in relationships, but the skill of recognizing when you've hurt your partner and being able to reach out and say/do something to move the relationship through it. Think of a skipping stone. Your relationship cannot get bogged down in every single disagreement. There are just too many of them. The water is too deep. You have to learn how to lightly touch down and then immediately keep moving.

The other required skill is being able to recognize and accept this gesture from your partner and not nursing your woundedness and demanding a deep and exhausting reckoning of everything.

Being able to do this, in turn, requires the ability to choose your battles very carefully. You can't just avoid all your issues. Sometimes you'll need to wade into the deep waters.

These efforts to recognize potential trouble and head it off are called "repair attempts." Here's an example.

Her: I'm so tired.

Him: Why? From the looks of it, it doesn't seem like you've been working super hard today.

[He notices the angry look she shoots at him at that moment.]

Him: [Makes a stupid face and looks at the floor.] I'm a total idiot.

Her: I don't know. Not a TOTAL idiot. I'm hungry, wanna grab dinner?

End of conversation. It could also go this way.

Her: I'm so tired.

Him: Why? From the looks of it, it doesn't seem like you've been working super hard today.

Her: What? Did you say, "I know baby, you've probably had a really hard day today, let me rub your back for a few minutes"?

Him (picking up on the cue): No, what I said was that you've had a hard day and I'd be happy to give you a massage because you work so hard and it's the least I can do.

Her: (Lying down on the bed, face down, and getting comfortable) That's what I thought.

The ability to handle potential problems this way is the one thing that distinguishes satisfied couples from dissatisfied ones. Not frequency of fights. Not intensity of disagreements. Happy couples don't fight less or less intensely than unhappy couples, they just know how to not get bogged down in negative emotion and keep things on track.

Get more information on making and receiving repair attempts.

#repair #disagreements

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