The statement “I need you to fix my partner” comes up in couples counseling more than you might think. It is much easier for us to see faults in others than in ourselves. I have not seen a couple where one person was perfect, and the other was entirely flawed. Some couples are competitive and think more about “winning” or defending themselves than solving a problem (if they can even remember the initial problem they started arguing about). Couples therapy is not about fixing your partner, but about working as a three-person counselor and client team.
Gottman Method for Couples Therapy Findings
The Gottmans said when you choose to commit to a partner, you are choosing what problems you are willing to live with. Those who are engaged, newlywed, or in the early stages of a relationship often look past and easily dismiss concerns, only to become more annoying with time. That stack of dishes that continues to pile up may be acceptable when trying to win someone over but later become a source of stress. Science even tells us that our minds are wired to be less negative toward a partner when we first fall in love.
Through their relationship research, John and Julie Gottman have found that 69% of relationship problems are perpetual, while only 31% are solvable. What does this mean? It doesn’t mean that a couple has to accept that things are as they are and can’t get better. The Gottman method talks about managing perpetual problems rather than solving them. What is does mean is that perpetual problems can be worked on and dealt with but will never totally go away. For example, if someone doesn’t put up the toilet seat, that is likely solvable with a little practice and thought. An example trait that will likely never completely disappear is if someone is naturally conflict-avoidant and lets things build up.
The Importance of Compromise
Can I “fix” your partner? No. Can you and your partner work together to improve communication? Absolutely. For some couples, differences are just too much. Some commit together admittedly too soon, only to realize later that it was a mistake. While I never explicitly advocate for a divorce or separation, the question of whether you want to work on your differences or decide they are a deal-breaker is up to you. Just know that the idea of a perfect soul mate where all of your differences are solvable is not likely to exist. Sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side. It may be, or it may just require a realization that any relationship will have struggles, and being able to see faults in yourself as well is key to getting along with anyone.
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