There are some arguments in a marriage that never seem to go away. They are a source of contention every time they are brought up, but the issue never goes away because it never gets solved. My husband and I have one such issue that has been debated over and over. We try to avoid it, but every Sunday during church, I can feel it creeping up. I’m confident it will even happen this Sunday, however, my mental preparation doesn’t soothe the aggravation away. At some point during our church meeting, my husband will lean over or hand me a note asking if we are going out to dinner. Somehow, this enrages me every single week. Even if dinner is sitting in a crock pot on the counter, he will ask, because he wants to go out to eat on Sundays just like he did with his family. He has fond memories of going out to dinner with his parents and grandparents after church, and he wants his family to share in the Sundays he enjoyed. However, my Sundays were spent at home with my family, as we shared a meal around our kitchen table. It was my favorite meal of the week, and I fondly remember sitting with all my siblings and playing games after we finished eating.
We both have great memories which we want our family to share in, but neither one of us can seem to break from our own traditions to see the other’s side. When we eat at home, he will pout, when we go out, I’m grumpy and dragging my feet. We are in gridlock.
In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman explains how to overcome this issue. He advises, “You don’t have to solve the problem to get past gridlock. Neither of you has to give in or lose. The goal is to be able to acknowledge and discuss the issue without hurting each other.” He suggests the way to navigate through gridlock is to search for the underlying dreams of your partner. This way you will see what their needs truly are, and you will help them realize their dreams, because after all, you want the one you love to achieve their dreams.
My husband and I have both communicated what our dreams are for Sunday afternoons, and why we feel the way we do. Since it is still a point of contention, we need to work on creating a plan or possibly a schedule that will enable both of us to be happy with some other arrangement, and we need to do it before Sunday, so I don’t have to be annoyed in the middle of service again!