We’ve covered strategies to deal with everyday marital conflict in other articles, but there are times when couples appear to be deadlocked on some important issue. The argument may spill out into other issues, and the couple may feel and express negativity, contempt and sadness toward one another.
According to research by Dr. John Gottman, these distressed couples are “gridlocked” and are facing perpetual, recurring issues. It may be coming out as arguments about how to spend their time or money. However, the arguing couple may be experiencing something deeper–conflicting values and dreams for their future. Basically, behind each position is someone with a dream for his or life as an individual and as a couple. When those dreams and values conflict, people tend to dig in their heels.
Gottman has used a strategy in his research with distressed couples called the “dreams-within-conflict” intervention, which helps the couples to examine together the underlying histories, philosophies, and life dreams of each person/position. The goal is for spouses to see the dreams behind their spouse’s position, and to find a way to honor one another’s dreams within the conflict. (1)
So, if you’re butting heads on the same topics again and again, it may be time for you to look at little deeper. Talk about your dreams for the future and how they can be compatible.
Think about frequent arguments you and your spouse may have. A compassionate approach toward one another may help you find a successful resolution, or at least a compromise. Do you and your spouse have similar goals and dreams? If so, that may bode well for your future. If not, look for more common ground and shared goals to work toward together.
(1) The Marriage Clinic, by John Gottman, www.gottman.com