Commentary by Logan Everett
Read original column at the Current in Carmel.
Couples fight. This is not new information for most, but what do couples really fight about?
Answer? Absolutely nothing.
When it comes to conflict in relationships, there are two different types: solvable and perpetual
Solvable issues have a clear beginning and a clear, concrete, definitive ending. A solvable issue seems less discouraging, less painful and less intense than perpetual. Surprisingly, solvable issues account for only 31 percent of all conflict. Unfortunately, the other 69 percent of conflict is perpetual (unsolvable).
Perpetual issues make you feel shut out by your partner; you have the same conversation over and over, but make no progress; you become more set in your position and are unwilling to compromise; you each become enemies that causes you to become even less willing to compromise; you eventually move away from each other emotionally.
What conflicts are you dealing with? Are they solvable? Perpetual?
Research by Dr. John Gottman tells us there are four attributes that ultimately lead to relationship demise. These relationship busters are appropriately called “The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” They are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.
Almost every person and couple reading this list can relate to criticism and defensiveness. A husband says, “You’re not wearing that to dinner, are you?” The wife counter-attacks with a statement of, “Well at least this dress makes me feel pretty. You haven’t touched me in months!” This is the beginning of conflict and this will escalate and most likely ruin their dinner, but the couple isn’t truly hearing what the other is saying.
The husband sees how beautiful his wife looks and has been feeling inadequate and ashamed ever since he lost his job three months ago. His comment is really saying, “You look so great. I’m afraid you’re going to find something better.” The wife is actually saying, “I want to look good for you and I am so desperate for your love and affection.”
Couples fight. They are fighting for love. All we need to do is listen.