In “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” John M. Gottman states in chapter 8 that there are two kinds of problems in marriage, perpetual and solvable. Of those two kinds of problems, Gottman has found that 69% are perpetual problems. Perpetual means that these particular problems “will be a part of your lives forever in some form or another.” How is this helpful? Does this mean we are doomed for failure if we find we have perpetuating problems? No, as I understand what Gottman is saying, as we come to recognize a reoccurring problem in our marriage, we can use coping tools and learn to handle these reoccurring problems in a way that won’t destroy our marriage.
|Two kinds of problems: Solvable and Perpetual|
I am a very slow and careful person. I am sure my husband could see that a little bit before we got married, but the full weight of my slow, careful decision making probably hit later after marriage life was in full swing. This is under the perpetual problems that won’t just go away after a certain event or decision. This is something that will reoccur every time we have to make important and even non-important decision throughout the day. I am sure it sometimes irks my husband that I just can’t go a little faster. We can work through this as he practices patience, and perhaps plans for the extra amount of time; and I practice being more aware of time constraints. This is something we will continually work on, but because we have built a strong foundation of love, acceptance, and friendship, I know it is not going to destroy our marriage. As I stated in another post, humor always helps to ease tension that may arise out of these kind of irritations.
|We can get along because we have a foundation of love, acceptance, and friendship.|
This leads me to what H. Wallace Goddard said in “Drawing Heaven into your Marriage,” in chapter six on Consecration. He shares that “the more [we] turn [our] lives over to God, the better [our] lives become.” As we turn our lives over to God, or consecrate our lives and our marriage, we will be more willing to bear the problems and weaknesses that happen in marriage. In marriage, God “invite[s us] to dedicate our lives, our talents, our weekends, and our weaknesses to the sacred enterprise of sanctifying our marriage” (page 98).
I would say that the weaknesses we all have are what generally cause the perpetual problems in marriage, because those are the traits and aspects of life that we struggle with the most. But if we turn ourselves over to God, we will blessed with patience and forgiveness. We will love each other in spite of those weaknesses.
President James E. Faust said, “We need to recognize and acknowledge angry feelings. It will take humility to do this, but if we will get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for a feeling of forgiveness, He will help us. The Lord requires us “to forgive all men” for our own good because “hatred retards spiritual growth.” Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our heart” (April 2007, The Healing Power of Forgiveness).
If we take that quote and apply it to any weakness we have, “We need to recognize and acknowledge weaknesses. … Get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for … forgiveness, [and] help.” We can make our perpetual problems an area of strength through Heavenly Father’s help, because he can “make weak things [or marriages] become strong” (Ether 12:27).
Here are some keys John Gottman came up with to help managing when conflict does arise in your marriage:
- Negative emotions are important. Gottmans says it is important to listen to your spouse, even if it hurts to listen to the anger or sadness. He says, "Negative emotions hold important information about how to love each other better.
- No one is right. We need to realize that we all have our opinions about things and neither one of us is absolutely right. One spouse may like to squeeze the tooth paste in a systematic way, while the other spouse may just squeeze in the middle. Neither is wrong and they both get tooth paste. Our spouse doesn't need us to criticize them on how they do things just because we feel our way is better.
- Acceptance is crucial. Gottman says, "It is virtually impossible for people to heed advice unless they believe the other person understands, respects, and accepts them for who they are." All of us flourish and become better when we know we are accepted for who we are. We feel more ready to change and take advice when we know we are respected and accepted.
- Focus on Fondness and admiration. Gottman gives the exmple of a older couples that have remained happily married for a long time and have "learned to view their partner's shortcomings and oddities as amusing parts of the whole package."
Marriage can be so much more to us if we will let go the petty picking, and instead be forgiving. In our spouse we can have our most dear and trusted friend.