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Dec. 7, 2018 / 9:42 PM GMT
By Julie Compton
Perpetual problems — every relationship has them, but not every couple knows how to work through them.
A perpetual problem endures because you and your partner fundamentally see the situation differently, according to Michelle Peterson, founder of the marriage blog #staymarried.
“It’s one of those things where you bring it up, you try to work it out, and it just stays in your relationship,” Peterson tells NBC News BETTER.
Peterson, 39, is the executive director of a nonprofit, and her husband Tony, 41, is a software designer. The couple live in Somers, Wisconsin, and have been happily married for 11 years with three young daughters.
Like any couple, the Petersons experience perpetual problems, but have learned how to live happily in spite of them. Here’s how.
They recognize when their relationship is in gridlock
If you and your partner can’t see a disagreement eye to eye no matter how much you talk about it, you’re probably experiencing gridlock, Peterson says.
“I said the same thing over and over again, and he’s still not budging — that is a symptom of gridlock,” she says.
In the past, Peterson often failed to recognize when her relationship was in gridlock, believing she could change her husband’s perspective or behavior, she says.
“What’s really happening is you’re at an impasse altogether, because you’re dealing with something that fundamentally you’re not agreeing on,” she explains.
When they hit gridlock, the couple takes a break
If a perpetual problem in your relationship turns into gridlock, Peterson says, it’s important to understand that fighting isn’t going to solve anything.
If an argument gets heated, Peterson says, she and her husband take a break.
The rule is simple: When one partner asks for a break during an argument, the other must honor it, she explains. After about 30 minutes, she says, they’ll calmly revisit the issue.
“Usually, you can be more clear headed and understanding once you’ve been able to temper down your emotions,” Peterson says.
Get past “the curse of familiarity”
When the couple realized they needed a third-person perspective, they began seeing a marriage counselor in 2015. Peterson was surprised to hear her husband tell the therapist things she never knew.
“He shared things that were so insightful to me that I never considered asking about,” she says.
Peterson says the “curse of familiarity” had prevented her from asking questions that would have helped her understand him better.
“You’re with somebody long enough, you think you know them, and so you forget to dig a little bit or to ask better questions, or to get curious about each other,” she says.