We are up to the seventh chapter! Who out there is reading along?
This chapter brings up a really great point that no one ever talks about in marriage: that there is two types of conflict in marriage. One is the type of conflict that has a resolution, but the other type is perpetual and ongoing! That’s what no one ever says, right? That some marital conflict just IS and may be ongoing.
Dr. Gottman actually estimates that almost 70 percent of marital conflict is perpetual! Wow! He writes, “Time and again when we do four year follow-ups of couples, we find that they are still arguing about precisely the same issue.”
And guess what? Despite the same perpetual problems and conflict, these couple remain happy and satisfied within their marriages! This is because “they’ve learned to keep it in its place and to have a sense of humor about it.”
Problems are an inevitable part of intimately loving and living with someone else. If we can develop strategies to cope with these problems, then we can live with it. The difference is that in an unstable marriage, these perpetual problems kill the marriage because instead of coping with the problem, the couple just “gets gridlocked over it.” Signs of gridlock include feeling rejected by your partner, having the same conversation over and over but no headway is made, you both are completely entrenched within your own positions, and the conversations about these things are devoid of humor or affection, and eventually you engage from one another emotionally.
The fifth principle for making marriage work is to tackle any problem that is solvable; this is addressed in the next chapter. Not every problem is long-term and perpetual, and to be able to tackle a solvable problem is important. Pages 134- 148 has questions and talks about assessing if the problems you and your spouse are facing is perpetual or solvable. This is an important section, and I urge you all to get the book and read this section yourselves.
The ending to the chapter sums up a few basic things about conflict resolution. The basic rule is this: seek to understand (and I would add love and embrace) your partner’s personality. If you are biting, sarcastic and mean, and make your partner feel judged, misunderstood or rejected, you will not be able to work together to solve any conflict. The other piece of advice that Dr. Gottman imparts is this: “Another important lesson I have learned is that in all arguments, both solvable and perpetual, no one is ever right. There is no absolute reality in marital conflict, only two subjective realities.”
The chapter ends with an exercise to walk through your last argument with your spouse.