Let us assume a scenario, a couple sitting down at opposite ends of their sofa, and glaring at each other. Actually, this couple in their 40s had yet another fight. It is a continuation of something that started last night, but the reality was they had variations of the same row for the previous three years.
The complaints go on like “I have asked you to be kinder, but you speak to me with such contempt,” the husband says.
“But you are also doing things that upset me,” the wife counter-claimed. “What am I supposed to do?”
Shivani Sadhoo says, they are in gridlock and falling into three common mistakes made by couples with perpetual problems.
So what are these mistakes? Could knowing them transform your relationship? This is answered by India’s top marriage counselor Shivani Misri Sadhoo in this blog.
Mistake 1: “You change”
It is quite easy to have a long list of what your partner could do differently and a short list of your own. Probably yours is completely blank or full of hopeless ideas such as “give up.” Sadly, pointing out your partner’s shortcomings does not encourage change—merely defensiveness and counter-attack. Usually, it is encouraged that couples step into each other’s shoes and look at the world from there. However, once you reach gridlock, you are quite angry to make this leap of imagination.
Mistake 2: Protesting louder
If you cannot get through to your partner, you might wonder, why not raise the stakes? Probably they will finally understand and take you seriously. So, you shout louder, throw a bigger tantrum, or move from sniping to sarcasm and on to quite nasty name-calling. Other versions involve bringing in the opinions of other people to back you up and punishing your partner by refusing intimacy. Unfortunately, couples debate alternative narratives, forming a case against their partner.
Mistake 3: Flee and purse
At a certain point, one partner will check out. It might be walking away, internally shutting down, or people-pleasing (by which it means agreeing to anything for a quiet life but being filled with resentment or giving an empty apology to close down the argument). There are couples who simply beg their partners to stop. Not surprisingly, the other partner does not feel heard and fears nothing will ever transform. So they prevent the fleeing partner from leaving, following them to the next room or they rekindle the row a few moments later.
How to break the gridlock
Consider that both of you are correct. It is quite easy to fall into black-and-white concepts of right and wrong, win and defeat. Instead of this comparative approach, embrace something called contemplative thinking. In place of “yes but,” switch to “yes and,” which does not negate your spouse’s position. Once you accept that both are correct, you open up to creative solutions: “What can we do distinctly?”
Look deeper into the problem. Ask yourself, “What is this argument actually about?” If you both feel so strongly, it should be something important and that usually goes back to your childhood. So, tell each other what past trauma has been reactivated. If you require help with this, find a Gottman-trained therapist Shivani Misri Sadhoo.
Stay in the cauldron of conflict longer. It is natural to look to exit conflict as equally as possible but it takes some time to go through. Do not put pressure on yourselves. It will generally take several discussions, perhaps, over several days. So learn to feel more comfortable having uncertainty and agree to keep talking.
Become vulnerable with each other. In place of showing your armored exterior, speak about what you find hard. Remember to use “I” statements. For instance: “I feel anxious” instead of “You make me feel anxious.”
Look for similarities and build on those. It is helpful to remind each one of what you agree on. For instance: “We both want the best for the children” or “We are both feeling quite overwhelmed.” If you address the better part of your spouse rather than attack their flaws, it is simpler to build cooperation.
Going through. Once you stop pushing your specific solution, another way will slowly arise. If you are still stuck, it might be that you need to return to the earlier steps and do some more talking and plenty of listening. When you both feel really understood, you will be ready to march forward.