No doubt you have experienced the dining decision dilemma. You know, the one where she says: “where do you want to go out to eat?”
And he says: “Oh anywhere is fine with, me. Where do you want to go?”
Her response: “Oh I am ok wherever we go.”
Him: “How about the barbecue out on old route 30?”
Her: (you know what’s coming!) “Oh – I don’t want to go there again. Besides I am really not in the mood for barbecue!”
And he simply does not know what to say or do next!
In my last blog, I introduced the idea proposed by John Gottman, that nearly 70% of the problems we experience as couples, are likely perpetual in nature. Whether it is a minor issue like where we go to eat, or a much larger issue like how to parent a rebellious child, these are problem areas that might cause conflict between us as husband and wife again and again.
What do we do?
First, we must change our goal. Rather than setting out to fix these problem areas, we must make it our goal to learn how to work together to manage them.
A case in point:
In my last blog, I mentioned that one of the areas were Zerrin and I have continued to struggle is in leadership and decision making. Numerous conflicts over the years have emerged from these areas. Sometimes we both want to lead; sometimes neither of us want to. Sometimes our decisions are just the opposite of what the other wants. Who decides then? Often times as the supposed leader of the home, I would decide on an issue only to find that Zerrin was disappointed or frustrated with my decision. What was I to do?
Thankfully, we knew the principles I wrote about in my book, The PLEDGE of a Lifetime which enabled us to talk through our conflict and learn more not only about what was happening and why, but discover more about each other. That drew us closer together.
Learning about “perpetual problems” helped us even further as we took an issue like who would lead, and worked out some ways where together we could manage it.
3 Ways To Help You Manage Perpetual Problems
1. When making decisions, we keep in mind that both of us are likely to have our own perspective.
Knowing this, we are careful to listen to and affirm the validity of each other’s thinking, rather than simply pushing forth our own agenda. This alone is very helpful in that it keeps conflict from heating up, and often enables us to quickly see that one option is better than the other.
2. In areas that pertain more to part of the household that one of us or the other was more familiar with, we let that person make any final decisions.
For example, Zerrin wanted to redecorate our living room. I thought it was just fine. It had served us well the last 20 years I thought, so why would we need to change it? Well, Zerrin got to decide! When it came to the idea of keeping the house warm, she let me decide to put in a wood-burning stove!
3. Playfully my wife came to me one day and announced: “this weekend you get to make all the decisions.” And I did!
It actually turned out to be quite a learning experience for both of us. I saw how often I shy away from making decisions out of fear of disappointing her or simply making the wrong decision. This proved to be a significant area where I needed to grow. Zerrin saw how quickly she resorts to making decisions when I hesitate – because my waivering makes her insecure. By choosing to let me lead, it gave her the opportunity to practice her faith in God more while giving me the chance to gain confidence in my abilities to decide.
These are just a few ways we have learned to manage one area that has now become less of a source of conflict as a result.
We all have “perpetual problems” in our marriages. Recognizing them for what they are, gives us the ability to address them appropriately – as an issue not so much to fix, but to manage.
Question: What are the perpetual problems in your marriage? And now that you have read this blog, what are some creative ways in which together you could manage them? You can leave a comment by clicking here.