Relationship Connection: Our marital stubbornness is keeping us stuck

Question

My husband and I are both stubborn, and have different perspectives on a lot of things. We seem to end up in stalemates where neither of us feels our desires or needs or opinions are being respected or included.  We try to work things out, but it seems that we just repeat the same things trying to convince the other, while getting more and more frustrated; we end up feeling like we have to basically betray ourselves to come to an agreement, and then feel resentful because we’re not really happy with the solution.

When we try to analyze how we could do things differently so this doesn’t continue to happen, it seems that one of us eventually comes to the conclusion: “You just think it’s all my fault.”  This phrase keeps coming up, even when each is trying to reassure the other that is not the case, and even trying to take responsibility for own contributions to the problem.

I’m tired of this cycle, tired of feeling like I constantly have to surrender, tired of feeling my husband resents me, and tired of this phrase – “you just think it’s all my fault” – popping up.

What do you think is going on, and how can we change this cycle for good?

Answer

Your question reminds me of the saying, “you can be right or you can be married.” Both of you are passionate individuals and more than likely have very compelling points of view on different topics. You might even win the occasional debate. However, your marriage loses every time you seek to win.

You noted that in your effort to have your partner hear your desires, needs, and opinions, you end up getting into more of an argument trying to convince instead of trying to connect. I want you to step back and watch what’s happening to the relationship as you fight to be heard. In your efforts to build connection through outlining your position, you actually alienate each other. It’s tragic, really, as you both want the same thing.

Try taking turns and working to really dig in to better understand why each partner feels so strongly about their position. Perhaps you won’t come to any resolution, but you will have done something more important by building a true connection with one another.

John Gottman found in his research with married couples that most couples will struggle to resolve a handful of issues in their marriage, but they can learn to dialogue about them without losing their connection. The key, he said, is to put aside solving the issue and instead focus on really understanding why this is so important for the other person.

When you discover an issue where you both end up on different sides, recognize that this is one of those times you could potentially lose your connection with each other if you keep plowing forward.

Commit to one another that you’re going to spend the time to really understand each other’s perspectives on this. Find out why this is so strong for each other.

See if there is a story behind it that drives the passion. Maybe ask what would happen if the way they wanted things to go didn’t happen.

Work to keep each other talking about it while the other listens.

Imagine how powerful it could be for the two of you to know that each of you will gladly invest time and focus on better understanding something that’s important to the other. My guess is that most of the issues you get stuck on aren’t urgent. Take the time you need to value and appreciate each other’s unique view of the world. Stay curious and open.

See if you can both view this as a journey of exploration that will never end. You can both be endlessly fascinating to another. You’ll certainly never run out of things to talk about on date night.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

 

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5 Comments

  • ladybugavenger October 12, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Agree to disagree

  • ladybugavenger October 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Stop trying to prove the other wrong and you right….it doesn’t matter…agree to disagree and laugh

  • Koolaid October 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    If it doesn’t work out, just turn to your spouse’s brother/sister/cousin or your own cousin.

  • Bobber October 15, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    They probably got married real young in the YSA ward, come to find out several years/kids later they really aren’t compatible at all.

  • joanna October 18, 2014 at 6:14 am

    I like these relationship Q/As that Geoff does. Interesting!

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