Posted on: July 18th, 2012 by Tanya No Comments

We seem to have trouble in solving so many of our problems. Does this mean that we are poor match?

When we have relationship problems what we all naturally want to do is to solve them. We carry this expectation of ourselves and feel like failures if we do not succeed. The reality in the context of relationships, however, is that most problems are unsolvable. This might be surprising for many of us, but according to John Gottman only 31 % of couple’s major areas of disagreement are about resolvable problems, 69 % are about unresolvable issues.

Imagine another thirty years of struggling with the same problems from which you have been suffering from the beginning of the relationship. Each partner might think that they are poorly matched and might be better off to be married to someone else.

Dan Wile, in his book After the Honeymoon wrote that “choosing a partner is choosing a set of problems”. He noted that problems would be a part of any relationship, and that a particular person would have some set of problems no matter who that person married. Lets explore this reality a little….. Paul married Alice, and Alice gets loud at parties and Paul, who is shy, hates that. But if Paul had married Susan, he and Susan would have gotten into a fight before they even got to the party. That’s because Paul is always late and Susan hates to be kept waiting. She would feel taken for granted, which she is very sensitive about. Paul would see her complaining about this as her attempt to dominate him, which he is very sensitive about. If Paul had married Gail, they wouldn’t have even gone to the party because they would still be upset about an argument they had the day before about Paul’s not helping with the housework. To Gail, when Paul does not help she feels abandoned, which she is sensitive about, and to Paul, Gail’s complaining is an attempt at domination, which he is sensitive about. The same is true about Alice. If she had married Steve, she would have the opposite problem, because Steve gets drunk at parties and she would get so angry at his drinking that they would get into a fight about it. If she had married Lou, she and Lou would have enjoyed the party but then when they got home the trouble would begin when Lou wanted sex because he always wants sex when he wants to feel closer, but sex is something Alice only wants when she already feels close.

Wile also wrote: “…there is value, when choosing a long-term partner, in realizing that you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty, or fifty years.”

The reality is that successful couples are not defined by having common interests or common goals, by an ability to get along or an ability to communicate so that they have few arguments, nor by sexual compatibility. It is simply learning to communicate in a way that allows each to express what they feel and need in a way that is heard. In another words saying what you need to say and the feeling that it has gotten across. It is this simple process that makes common interests, friendship, having sex and doing things together enjoyable and worthwhile things to do.

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