Friday, March 10, 2017

FAML 300 Week 10: Seeking to Understand

We all have dreams
We have read and discussed a lot about ways to stay emotionally connected with your spouse as well as how to handle differences and conflict. Through this post I want to think about dreams. In the book I have been referencing a lot by John Gottman, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” we learn about something he calls gridlock. Gottman teaches that all couples have differences that will never change, but “when partners can’t find a way to accommodate these perpetual disagreements” this is gridlock (chapter 11). These are the symptoms of Gottman’s gridlock:

  1.  You’ve had the same argument again and no resolution.
  2. The issue can’t be addressed with humor, empathy or affection.
  3. The issue is increasingly polarized.
  4. Compromise seems impossible, because it would mean giving up something important.

The issues stem from unfulfilled dreams

Gottman goes on to tell us that these kinds of issues in marriage usually stem from an unfulfilled dream. I think a lot of young and early marriages suffer from this kind of conflict because it is hard to always let your spouse know all that you expect or dream. Most of these issues are things that one or the other spouse feels gives purpose to life. Here are some of the dreams he listed:
  • A sense of freedom
  • Feeling at peace
  • Exploring who I am
  • Adventure
  • A spiritual journey
  • Justice
  • Honor
  • Consistency with my past values
  • Healing
  • Having a sense of power
  • Dealing with growing older
  • Exploring a creative side of myself
  • Getting over past hurts
  • Asking God for forgiveness
  • Exploring an old part of myself I have lost
  • Having a sense of order
  • Being productive 
  • Getting my priorities in order

I wanted to list quite a few so that you can get an idea of what these “dreams” are made of. I remember as a newly wed having these dreams become manifest as I had in my head the way things were suppose to be especially when it comes to spirituality. Thankfully my husband is an amazing communicator and we have been able to be very open about our thoughts and expectations. When children came along, we already had spoken about how we would teach them spiritually. We started from the beginning having a family night each week with a spiritual lesson, we would read scriptures each night, pray together over meals and in our comings and goings, we set a tradition of going to church every week and sitting together as a family. Our dreams have blended together as one. 

When children came along, we had already talked about family routines and traditions.
I guess this doesn’t show a kind of dream that is in conflict. So I will give you an imaginary example that I had those dreams and expectations I mentioned in the last paragraph, but in this imaginary example my husband was agnostic and wanted nothing to do with religion. This would be a point where I would feel stuck, not wanting to lose the dream I have by not doing those things that are important to me. Yet my husband might feel threatened by the control organized religion has had in his life. He might want to have our children grow up free to believe what they want and not be indoctrinated into a religion. This kind of issue would cause a grid lock.

An image of a pair of broken scissors on a table, paired with the words “Get It Together.”

Gottman shares that in these times we need to take turns listening to “the dream” in a non-judgmental way. If we can hear our spouse speak from their heart what their dream is we are on our way to finding a way to compromise. Gottmans says that when we are listening to our spouse’s dream that might be in opposition to our own, we need work on soothing ourselves and if it gets to be too much tell your spouse you need a break to calm down before continuing. When compromising you find areas you can negotiate and be flexible with, and also the areas that you cannot give up without “violating your basic needs or core values.”

If we can work through these dreams and expectations then we can work through conflict without it turning into an issue that will threaten your marriage.

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