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Choosing One Gridlocked Issue and One Solvable Issue

Choosing One Gridlocked Issue and One Solvable Issue


Remember: All couples have perpetual problems. The BIG, HEAVY ISSUES in their relationship that keep causing them a lot of pain and hurt are very likely to be GRIDLOCKED PERPETUAL ISSUES. When couples are gridlocked on an issue, they basically feel betrayed, disrespected, hurt, frustrated, and as if they never get anywhere with this problem. The danger of gridlock perpetual issues is that they can propel a couple down the cascade of loneliness and distance, where they end up leading parallel lives and are emotionally estranged. 


A large event—such as violence or an extra-relationship affair—is going to be a gridlocked perpetual issue. If there is a personal problem such as chronic illness or depression. This, too, is likely to create perpetual issues. 


RULE: If one person thinks it is a perpetual problem, then it is.


Perpetual problems are either (1) fundamental differences in your personalities that repeatedly create conflict or (2) fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs, needs that are basic to your own identity, to who you are as a person. Perpetual problems are issues you have had for a long time that keep arising. The issue is GRIDLOCKED if it keeps causing you lots of hurt, pain, and a feeling of rejection.




Step 1: Perpetual Problems


Following is a list of some possible examples of perpetual problems. Look over each item. Individually, select one AND ONLY ONE perpetual problem that has become gridlocked in your relationship that you wish to discuss with your partner, and put a check next to the item number. After that, proceed to the list of solvable problems.


Gottman Perpetual Problems List

  • Differences in neatness and organization. One person is neat and organized, and the other is sloppy and disorganized.
  • Differences in wanting time together versus time apart and alone. One person wants more time alone than the other, who wants more time together.
  • Differences in optimal sexual frequency. One person wants more sex than the other.
  • Differences in preferred lovemaking style. There are differences in what each person wants from lovemaking. For example, one sees intimacy as a precondition to making love, while the other sees lovemaking as a path to intimacy.
  • Differences in handling finances. One person is much more financially conservativeand perhaps a worrier, while the other wants to spend money more freely and has a philosophy of living more for the moment.
  • Differences with respect to kin. One person wants more independence from kin, while the other wants more closeness.
  • Differences in how to approach household chores. For example, one person wants equal division of labor, while the other does not.
  • Differences in how to raise and discipline children. One person is more involved with the children than the other.
  • Differences in how to raise and discipline children. One person is stricter with the children than another.
  • Differences in how to raise and discipline children. One person wants more gentleness and understanding with the children than the other.
  • Differences in punctuality. One person is habitually late, and to the other it is important to be on time.
  • Differences in preferred activity level. One person prefers active physical recreation, while the other is more passive and sedentary.
  • Differences in being people-oriented. One person is more extroverted and gregarious than the other.
  • Differences in preferred influence. One person prefers to be more dominant in decision making than the other.
  • Differences in ambition and the importance of work. One person is far more ambitious and oriented to work and success than the other.
  • Differences with respect to religion. One person values religious values more than the other.
  • Differences with respect to drugs and alcohol. One person is far more tolerant of drugs and alcohol than the other.
  • Differences in independence. One person feels a greater need to be independent than the other.
  • Differences in excitement. One person feels a greater need to have life be exciting or adventurous than the other.
  • Differences in values. There are major differences in what we value in life.
  • Differences in relationship fidelity. There are major differences in what it means to be sexually loyal to one another.
  • Others: You supply them here:


Step 2: Solvable Problems


This form contains a list of categories in which many couples have disagreements. Look over this list that follows and identify a solvable problem. It will probably be a small issue within a category. It may also refer to a particular situation. It must have a concrete, tangible, easily defined solution. Jot down a few notes, describing it next to the category list.


Example: Money and Finances


Description: My partner wants to save money for a long vacation this summer, and I want to spend some of our savings on weekend dates and take a shorter vacation this summer.


Possible categories for a solvable problem:

  • Money and finances
  • Diet and food issues
  • In-laws and kin
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Household chores
  • Recreation and having fun
  • Friends
  • Children (having children, raising children)
  • Issues of power and respect
  • Balancing career and family
  • Handling stresses
  • Other: (please specify)


Step 3:Selecting Your Gridlocked Perpetual Problem and Your Solvable Problem

Now return to the perpetual problems list. Discuss the item you each chose, and pick only one item you will discuss later. It doesn’t matter whose item you choose, as it will only be used as a means of learning a new conflict-management skill. Write your selected gridlocked perpetual problem below.


Then read aloud the solvable problems you each identified, and choose which one you’ll work on, write them down.

Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Wondering how to this can be applied, modified, or adapted to your polyamorous, swinging, kink/ BDSM, or otherwise interesting relationship? Feel free to reach out to us here.