“Them’s Fightin’ Words”
BY: Tray Tankersley, LAPC
My wife and I fight ALL THE TIME…perpetually (meaning this NEVER gets resolved)…
…about the air-conditioning system in her car…more specifically, about when to turn on and when to turn off the air. When I was younger, I read that starting your car while the air-condition was on put additional strain, wear and tear on the engine. So, for many, many years now, before I turn-off a vehicle, I turn-off
My wife HATES this! She wants to IMMEDIATELY feel the air blowing on her the instant the car is cranked. She yells. She complains. She asks why (over and over even though I have shared my reasoning dozens upon dozens of times). She huffs and puffs…and yet I still persist.
Am I just mean? Uncaring? Deaf? Stubborn? Yes. I am all these things.
And, at some deep level (maybe even a “core belief” level), I firmly believe that I am being a good steward of one our most important and expensive possessions.
So, my wife and I keep fighting…
Relationship guru John Gottman has researched love, relationships, marriage, conflicts for decades. His research tells him that 69% of relational conflict is about perpetual problems. 69%!!!!
Think about that - almost 7 out of every 10 conflicts you have with your spouse are about perpetual (read, UNSOLVABLE) issues! Lasting differences in personalities and needs contribute to perpetual problems.
So, when you think to yourself or say out loud, “We are never going to see this the same way” or “We are never going to be able to resolve this” you may be right!
With perpetual problems, the goal is not to get your partner to agree with you. The goal with perpetual problems is not to solve them, not get on the same page with your spouse or have him or her get on your page. The goal is affect (emotion) oriented.
The goal is to establish a dialogue about the problem that communicates acceptance of your spouse and to actively cope with the unresolvable problem, rather than allowing it to fall into the condition of gridlock - painful communication and exchanges marked by criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
…back to the air-conditioning
It’s one of those unbearably hot, humid Georgia summer days. Alicia and I are dripping in sweat. We get into our hot car and I crank it.
No air comes on (because, of course, I had turned the air-conditioning off when we last parked). Alicia complains verbally. She protests. She tells me I am “so weird” and OCD (she’s right). She (or I by now) have pressed the power button on the air-conditioning and we are experiencing warm air blowing on our faces while the compressor begins its work of cooling the air.
And we leave the parking lot AS FRIENDS because I know she is for me and for us. And she knows I am for her and for us. She does not make me compromise who I am and one of my core beliefs and I don’t make her compromise hers. We both possess a “positive sentiment” about our relationship, which makes this kind of communication possible…what about relationships in Negative Sentiment Override? That’s
a topic for another day and another blog!
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Legacy Strategy Blog
Legacy Strategy, Inc. is a private counseling practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.