The Happiest Lives Podcast

E12: How To Deepen Understanding So You Can Move Past Gridlock

July 21, 2023 Jill M. Lillard, MA LPC Season 2023 Episode 12
The Happiest Lives Podcast
E12: How To Deepen Understanding So You Can Move Past Gridlock
Show Notes Transcript

Do you have issues in your marriage where you don't see eye to eye? When the topic comes up, do you lock horns and get stuck in hurt? Nothing is wrong that you have a "problem." However, if you become gridlock over it,  you may decide, "It's better to deal with this on my own,"  a thought that ignites the cascade of distance, loneliness, and isolation.  Though the fighting has stopped, you are now separate lives.  There has to be another alternative to move forward and get unstuck. I tell you how here. 

Take this work and apply it in my cost-effective coaching group Clarity+Courage, where you will get live coaching, application tools, workshops, lessons, Scripture studies, and other tools that help you apply the concepts so you can create change. When you join, you get access to a whole vault of classes, tools, and coaching calls.

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You are listening to The Happiest Lives Podcast with Jill Lillard—episode number 12. 

Hey friends. All month long, we have been talking about Better Conversations. So, this week, we discuss How to Deepen Understanding, So You Can Move Past Gridlock. 

So every relationship is going to have a set of problems. While you can resolve some problems, other problems will be unsolvable. There is at least one issue in your marriage, in your relationship, where you don't see eye to eye. We call this an “unsolvable problem.” 

For me, it was such a relief to hear this early on in my marriage because it meant nothing was wrong with us. 

Because of our different families of origin, brains, personalities, and preferences, we wouldn’t see eye to eye on everything and we wouldn’t want all the same things.  So my job was not to try to change my husband or win “my side” for our relationship to improve, but it was to create space for the both of us and in the process, I would grow.

Isn’t it nice to know you don't keep encountering new problems in your relationship? Rather, your struggles are often repeated issues about the same thing. Now it may look differently and take on different forms, but at the heart of it, it's often about the same core issue.  

You are in gridlock when you get stuck in disagreement, and hurt ensues. 

In gridlock, we either go to war and fight or we end up turning away and dealing with things by myself. Living separate lives begins with the thought, “It's better to deal with this on my own,” which may seem like a win when you are no longer fighting. 

Have you had that thought before? You have a fight and you think, “You, know, it’s better to just deal with this on my own.” 

However, when you do that, even though the conflict may decrease, you start internalizing it and you have begun the cascade of distance, loneliness, and isolation. 

What is happening is, you are living as roommates living under the same roof.  This state of isolation in your relationship is where Gottman says affairs and divorces often occur. 

Not everyone in gridlock is not in this state of loneliness and isolation, but you may on the pathway to that if you start trying to deal with things on your own and you find yourself turning away from your partner more than you are turning toward them. 

So while dealing with it alone is going to reduce conflict, it may lead to this place of loneliness and isolation. 

We need a third alternative. We must learn how to turn toward the other and be willing to talk about the problem without getting stuck in hurt.

You must find a new way to think about the problem to do this. 

When I think about having a conversation, we want to define that very simply. A conversation between two people is this:

Person A has a thought or a feeling. They turn toward the other person, say something, or share something.

Person B hears the words, and they have a thought and a feeling about it.

And then, they react with facial expressions, words, or turning away. 

Then person A has a thought and feeling about person B’s words, which leads to words or actions. 

So it goes back and forth like a tennis match or round and round like a circle…. or a row of dominos.

What you are thinking and what you are making somebody else's words mean is super important to know. You may make it means something they they weren’t thinking. Or you may make it means something horrible that you have differences when you don’t have to.

When you process things in a way that makes you feel resistant, judgmental, threatened, scared, afraid, and anxious, the thought is probably not serving you.

In the case of gridlock,  the solution is not to suppress or give up on your desires and wants. I am not asking you to give in to the other person- always doing things their way to avoid conflict.

I've seen many people just give up on their dreams so they can live in peace and avoid conflict. I've had women come into my office in their 40s and 50s who have had enough. They have been very people-pleasing,  submissive, and compliant, not knowing what they wanted but just going along with the other person. And now, decades later, there is this wall of resentment because they don't feel like they have influence or a voice.

Once again, this is a more extreme example; you may find yourself in a milder version of this. Just notice when we are moving past gridlock, this is not what I am encouraging you to do as the alternative. 

It's important to know what you desire and what you want. So when I say the thoughts causing negative emotions aren’t serving you, I am not suggesting you block them out; instead, you get curious about all your thoughts and discover what you are thinking. 

Simply trying to do something to keep the peace or avoid conflict doesn't usually lead to deeper intimacy, and it doesn't lead to more of you being in the relationship.  You want to be loved for you, so you must show up authentically. You don’t want to be someone who is trying to manipulate the other person to like you or you’re always just trying to make everyone happy. 

Knowing who we are and what we want and desire is essential. I am not talking about being selfish, demanding, or self-centered. I am talking about making room for another person's perspective and honoring another person's desires and wants without losing yourself, your voice; putting parts of you on the table as well. 

When you make room for both of you at the table, your gridlock issues can lead to greater emotional intimacy in your relationship.

If you talk about a gridlocked issue, and things don't go well, you can turn away, and deal with it on your own, or you can learn how to turn toward and deepen understanding. This is the 3rd alternative. 

An example I like to give about a gridlocked issue is a couple I saw years ago who had an ongoing fight about buying a  boat. 

And so when they came in for therapy, things had not been well between them for a really long time. There was a lot of conflict and just a lot of loneliness in their relationship. They were really at a place where things had to change, or they would go their separate ways. 

An issue that had created a lot of hurt in the relationship was this issue about a boat. He wanted a boat; she didn't want a boat. They didn't have a boat, so by default, it felt like she was winning, and he was resenting her, and they just didn't feel connected anymore.

Though they thought the boat was the hot issue, it wasn't really about the boat but rather what the boat symbolized. This is true in your gridlocked problems too. That issue has some sort of symbolic meaning for each of you, and that's what you want to discover.

Before this couple could move to a compromise about the boat, they needed to find the hidden dream which was represented by the boat for each of them.

They needed to be able to talk about the boat without getting stuck in hurt.  

And took a little bit of coaching, but eventually, they could listen as the other shared their thoughts, feelings, and stories. 

As they talked, the wife discovered that he grew up in a home with few close family bonds, but he had a best friend who lived next door, and his friend’s family had a lake house and boat at Lake of the Ozarks. 

He would go there on the weekends with this family, where they made a lot of great memories on this boat. There was closeness and connection. And so the boat represented that shared experience and emotional intimacy.

For her, the boat was a threat to her core dream. She had grown up with a single mom who struggled to pay bills. She vowed she would never be in that situation again, so the boat threatened her desire for financial security. 

And so when this couple could see the other person's hidden dream and understand the story behind it, and when they were willing to find a way to honor each other's core needs represented by the boat, they were now ready to compromise.

I think compromise is making a “we decision” and you own it together. Its not one person’s decision.

It isn’t exactly what either of you wants; there is some give and take; however, there is a willingness and a desire to love and honor one another and so in that sense it is what you want. In this sense, there is an element of sacrifice, but you do it with the right attitude, so resentment and bitterness are not the aftermath. 

If he had gotten a boat without her support, the boat would not have met his core need because it represented close family bonds and connection, and if she didn’t share that with him or support his dream, he would have missed the point as he fought to get what he thought he wanted.

They ended up getting a boat, but they compromised on its size and fanciness.  It wasn’t a top-of-the-line boat, but it was a way to spend time on the lake as a family while still committing to building a savings account for three months of living expenses. 

Inside, Clarity+Courage, my online coaching group for Christian women who want to have better relationships, there is an entire month's course on How To Deepen Understanding And Move Past Gridlock.  In that course, you get worksheets and cheat sheets that are going to help you have a conversation with your husband so guys can discover the hidden dreams in your gridlocked issues.   

Now this is in addition to the coaching and worksheet workshop you get each month. So we can have live calls together where we talk about your actual problems. When you join Clarity+Courage, you can access a whole vault of concepts, application worksheets, and call replays.

To have a conversation to deepen understanding, you must be able to process your emotions and look at your thoughts even as you make space for someone else. If you get stuck in your feelings, I have many tools to help you inside my coaching group, including live coaching sessions. 

Learning to talk about your unsolvable issues will help you become your greatest selves- your beautiful identity as a couple and as two individuals. 

You may not share your partner's core dream, but you can still find ways to honor it. If they love hiking and you don't, you can honor their dream by supporting them in finding time to go hiking with friends.

Besides your gridlocked issues, hopefully, you can discover what are the things that you both want and come together over those things–but being able to come together and honor one another when there are differences is so very, very important. 

I hope you enjoyed the lesson today. I know you can find some ways to apply this to your relationship. And I look forward to talking to you again next week as we complete our series on Better Conversations.