almost two thirds of repetitive couple arguments are due toIt is a common enough scene.
Everything is going well, you and your partner are getting along just fine, until that one subject is broached. Suddenly, you’re in an argument. Again. In fact, you are in the same argument that the two of you have had a dozen times.
Welcome to gridlocked communication!
Research done by the Gottman Institute indicates that two thirds of couple arguments are due to...
Why is that? Because the argument is not actually about what you think it is. Underneath the positions you and your partner have staked out are larger, more powerful motivations: narratives you have constructed about who you are, and what that means to you to be that person; the influences of culture, religion, history and family; the desire to have certain needs met. These forces can make it very difficult to budge from your position, as it often feels like you would have to abandon everything else in order to do so.
Take, for example, the classic money argument. An unexpected gift of money arrives. One partner is fiscally conservative and believes that the money should be put into savings. The other is a bit more freewheeling and wants to spend the unexpected windfall to celebrate. Which one is being reasonable?
They both are.
The conservative may identify strongly as the provider for the family. Or perhaps they grew up in a household where money was scarce and the possibility of going hungry was a real fear. Conversely, their partner may feel that life is short and to be enjoyed in the moment. Perhaps they grew up in a household where accruing wealth was more highly valued than closeness, and they believe that spending the money on fun experiences is part of creating the family they want to live in.
This may sound terrible, and frustrating. You may be thinking that this relationship is doomed, or at least destined to have a lot of arguments. It doesn’t have to be.
You can't make your partner become a different person. You can’t change their history or their core beliefs, but you can change how you act toward them. What would happen if you gave in, just this one time? What would be the consequences? What would it mean about you? Spend some time thinking about what those underlying motivations are for you. Then, explore them with your partner. Instead of arguing your position, ask questions about theirs. Why do you think this is important? Is there a story behind this position? Listen to their answers and find the part that you can understand—even if you still don’t agree with it.
You may find, with greater understanding, there is more room for negotiation. Perhaps the next time this subject comes up, it’s a conversation and not an argument.