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In our last blog post, we introduced a tough subject: Understanding Gridlock — And How You Can Make It Better.

Gridlock is all too common in romantic relationships. After all, 69% of problems in these relationships are what the Gottmans call “perpetual problems,” so it’s no surprise that some of them develop into gridlock.

Some of the most poignant and painful illustrations of gridlock involve couples that are gridlocked on really big issues, like whether or not to have children or whether to settle down on the east or west coast. These can be so hard because the solution is so difficult! However, I have seen couples come away with a renewed level of compassion and understanding for one another once they understand the back story and the underbelly of each other’s position.

Here at Core Values Counseling, we’re big fans of practical, real-life tools and strategies to make your relationship with your partner better. And often, that means giving couples some real-world context to help them understand the issue they’re facing.

In today’s post, we’re sharing some real-world examples of gridlock from our own practice. Maybe you’ll recognize a little of your own story in one of them.

One couple we’ve worked with struggled over where to settle down. One partner wanted to live on the west coast while his spouse preferred to be on the east coast. As we discovered during counseling, the “west coast” partner really needed to be close to his brother (who lived on the west coast). After being asked some compassionate, curious questions, he realized that he needed to feel that physical closeness of proximity to his brother because growing up, his parents weren’t really there for him, but his brother was. Once he was able to articulate this and share it with his partner, it completely changed their outlook on the conflict. And while it didn’t make the decision of where to move a lot easier, it gave his spouse some much-needed context and empathy for the underlying struggle.

Another story of gridlock has to do with a couple struggling over whether to have children. A woman and her partner came to us and explained that while they initially planned not to have children, the woman changed her mind after they’d gotten married. As it turns out, she was working for a company making products for children, and the more time she spent with kids testing products, the more she realized couldn’t live without her own children.

Other, less-monumental issues that can sometimes lead to gridlock include finances, disciplining kids, who does the dishes, etc. Any perpetual problem can become a gridlocked issue. But not every perpetual problem is necessarily gridlocked. As explained in our last blog post, we know it is truly gridlock when one or both partners experience feelings of isolation and deep hurt.

If you think you and your partner may be dealing with gridlock in your relationship, there is hope. The following resources can help:

  1. This checklist from the Gottmans for identifying and recognizing gridlock
  2. Understanding what the Gottmans call dreams within conflict 
  3. Professional counseling

Gridlock is a serious issue, and it’s often best addressed with help from a professional therapist. You can make progress on gridlocked conflict, but it needs to be something you revisit as life changes and the conflict evolves over time (as everything does).

If you’d like help from our experienced, dedicated team of therapists, please don’t wait. Get in touch today.

In the meantime, remember this: work to discover what you and your partner can be flexible about. Celebrate all the things you can agree about.

There is hope with gridlock, and there’s hope for your relationship, too.