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Managing Conflict: Recognizing Gridlock

By using this simple checklist, you can determine whether or not you have reached total gridlock in any of those infuriatingly repetitive problems you may have in your relationship.

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The Aftermath of a Fight

Here are some ways to determine whether or not you’ve arrived at gridlock in any of your perpetual relationship problems and a few ways to start communicating about them.

There is a series of characteristics common to gridlocked problems. By using this simple checklist, you can determine whether or not you have reached total gridlock in any of those infuriatingly repetitive problems you may have in your relationship:

  • The conflict leaves you feeling rejected by your partner.
  • No matter how much you talk about it, you feel thwarted. Despite your best attempts, you are making absolutely no headway in the problem area.
  • You become so impossibly entrenched in your positions that neither you nor your partner plan to budge.
  • Anytime the subject comes up, you invariably feel frustrated and hurt.
  • Your conversations about the problem are unpleasant, devoid of humor, amusement, or expressions of affection.
  • Your inability to budge increases with the passage of time, leading the two of you to vilify each other when this conflict arises.
  • As you vilify each other, your inability to budge and polarization in your views increases, and your chances of reaching a compromise plummet.
  • Upon traversing this delightful territory, the two of you end up in the land of total emotional disengagement.

There is a way out of gridlock, no matter how entrenched in it you feel. As Dr. John Gottman explains in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, all you need is the motivation and willingness to explore the hidden issues that are really causing the gridlock. The key will be to uncover and share with each other the significant personal dreams you have for your life. Unrequited dreams are at the core of every gridlocked conflict. In other words, the endless argument symbolizes some profound difference between the two of you that needs to be addressed, before you can put the problem in its place by openly communicating about it.

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Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

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