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Fixing Relationship Problems – How to deal with 70% of Your Conflicts

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Most of us experience relationship problems on a daily basis, whether it’s with your spouse, family members, children, friends or colleagues. So, it’s no surprise that fixing relationship problems is vital to personal and professional success.

It can be very frustrating and demoralizing when you feel like your trying everything in your power to solve a problem yet nothing seems to work.

Practical relationship problems are the result of you having to deal with undesirable aspects of a situation or person.

Here are some common Practical Problems:

  • Your spouse has become less interested in sex
  • Your teen is disrespecting you and not following your rules
  • Your friend wasn’t there for you in a time of need
  • You hate your job
  • Your mom is spending all your inheritance money on some young guy
  • Your child is withdrawn and sullen
  • Your boyfriend/girlfriend comes home late with out telling you beforehand or having a good reason
  • Your boss makes you do all the work and takes all the credit without acknowledging your hard work  

Practical relationship problems fall into one of two categories

1) Solvable problems


2) Ongoing problems

Think of the last time you had an argument with someone. What were you arguing about? Did you solve the problem or is it an ongoing problem? Try to put yourself back into the argument…

What were you feeling? Were you Angry? Depressed? Anxious?

  • Did you feel rejected by the other person?
  • Are you more frustrated and hurt after discussing the issue each time?
  • Are you feeling more right about your side of the argument each time?
  • Are you starting to blame the other person and his/her opinions or actions for the problem?
  • Do you feel so overwhelmed that you have to isolate yourself from the other person for awhile?

We usually believe that a majority of our relationship problems are solvable, but nothing could be further from the truth. This one false expectation can be disastrous for your relationships. It often leads to the demanding story in your mind that “all problems must be solved and if they’re not we’re in trouble”.

This alone can lead to great conflict.

According to John Gottman, a world renowned relationship expert, 69% of relationship issues are ongoing problems. What does this mean? It means that most of the time we are arguing about the same issues over and over again.

If you answered “yes” to a majority of the above questions regarding your last argument, you were most likely arguing about an ongoing problem.

Here are some common ongoing problems:

  • One person wants more sex than the other person
  • One person spends a lot of money and one is frugal
  • One person doesn’t care about a clean house and one does
  • One parent wants to raise the children a certain religion and the other doesn’t
  • One parent is really strict and one parent is really laid back
  • One person likes to go out or travel a lot and one person likes to stay at home

We usually deal with ongoing problems by digging in and believing more and more that our position is the only right one. We have the same arguments over and over, often focusing on minor aspects of the issue to prove a point or blame the other person. When this occurs you start to turn away from each other, become isolated and lose any chance at fixing relationship problems.

Ongoing problems are made much worse when we are unaware of or disrespect each other’s hopes, goals and dreams that are involved in the conflict.

How to deal with almost 70% of your relationship problems

First, it is helpful to realize that most relationship issues will be ongoing problems. That means that you and your partner, child, friend etc. will deal with 70% of your disagreements for the rest of your relationship. This is actually a good sign because you can take the pressure off of yourself to solve the problems right away. Your goal instead is to take the pain and emotional stress out of your ongoing problems.

Fixing Relationship Problems – People who are able to Effectively Deal with Ongoing Problems

People who successfully deal with ongoing problems are able to accept and like the other person overall as a human being, even if they absolutely hate their opinions or behavior. They don’t make the other person out to be a villain or totally bad simply because they differ in opinions. They are able to disagree and even passionately argue with each other with an overall feeling that they like and accept each other as unique, different, mistake prone human beings.

These people completely avoid Other-control or the “I know what’s right for you” position. They have strong relationships and connections because they don’t try to control each other. They understand that they’ll never be able to solve their problems by demanding that the other person see that they are right and the other person is wrong. They understand that the only person’s behavior they can control is their own and focus on if their behavior is helping or harming the relationship.

Also, these people have a sense of humor about their differences. These issues sometimes get worse and sometimes get better, but the two people in the relationship are working together, instead of against each other. Throughout their relationship, they are able to frequently talk about their differences and the problems they have with a sense of humor.

These people are able to help each other uncover individual hopes, goals and dreams involved in the conflict. Maybe you’ve always dreamt of having one boy and one girl, which is in direct opposition to your partner’s dream of having only one child. Both partners in this situation could talk about their dreams.

You can effectively respond to someones hopes, goals and dreams by:

  • Supporting the other person in pursuit of his/her dreams (not always possible)
  • Joining the other person in the pursuit of his/her dreams (not always possible)
  • Simply uncovering, accepting, understanding and respecting the other person’s dreams without agreeing or pursuing them (always possible)

There are almost always hopes, goals, and dreams that are compromised or lost in relationships. It is important to talk about, appreciate, and understand these dreams even if they’re never realized. The next step is to work together to compromise. Compromise does not always mean someone giving up something they are truly passionate about, or lessening their dream to meet that of their partner’s. We like to view compromise as choosing your battles. If something is very important to your partner, and only slightly important to you, let them have that one…and vice versa!

Summary

When fixing relationship problems there are both solvable and ongoing problems involved. The majority of your relationship issues are ongoing problems. What’s most important is that you continually talk about these ongoing problems throughout your relationship with humor, acceptance of each other, and most importantly by uncovering, understanding and respecting each others’ hopes, goals and dreams involved in the conflict.

Say Yes to Love,

Dr. Michael Arn & Dr. Ashley Arn

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