It's not uncommon for professional couples to find themselves in gridlock these days. Not only are both parties facing the demands and stress of work, but they often also experience the stress that comes when they have different orientations towards their life at home - children, no children; be social, stay at home; go to church, be an atheist; spend or save.
Gridlock is a normal part of the fabric of being a couple, especially a two-professional couple where time is a premium and consistent dialogue about personal issues is not very common.
But dealing with gridlock does not have to mean "coping" with the impossible. Confronting gridlock is not about "solving a problem", it's about dialogue. Two-professional couples in healthy, conscious relationships can live with gridlock when they choose to understand the nature of gridlock and dialogue about the root cause of gridlock.
Gridlock is about having dreams that are not heard, respected or addressed by one's partner. Dreams can be hopes, visions, aspirations and wishes that define you and give purpose and meaning to your life. Dreams can be practical (make "x" amount of money); others are deeper (a spiritual journey).
Some of the dreams of couples I've coached include: a sense of freedom; justice; honor; having a sense of power; exploring one's creative side; being forgiven; having a sense of order; being more organized and productive; being able to relax; finishing a very important project; quietness; furthering one's education or ending a chapter of one' life.
To repeat, healthy conflict resolution requires dialogue. And for constructive and healthy dialogue to happen, two conditions are necessary. First, the one with the dream needs to express the meaning, the symbolism that the dream holds for him/her; the other needs to express the meaning, symbolism that causes him/her to reject their partner's dream.
For example, eating out on Sunday. For one, underneath "the meal" is a memory of feeling special when the family ate out on Sunday nights. For the other, the memory is that of wonderful home-cooked meals on Sunday.
So the issue of eating in or eating out is not really about eating at all. For both partners, it's about what's underneath the eating experience that brings them a feeling of contentment, warmth, emotional security, and feeling loved and cared for.
Where conflict and gridlock enter the scene, however, is when one partner cannot experience their own dream and then judges their partner's dream (your wanting to eat out on Sunday when I want to stay home) as bad, wrong, stupid, selfish, ill-thought-out or illogical - and then proceeds to disrespect their partner's dream.
Arguments, shouting, fighting, judging, resenting, or silent anger, silent treatment, or silent defensiveness result. In a word, gridlock. Not very pleasant.
- Do you have a dream with which your partner has "an issue?" What is meaningful to you about this dream? Why do you feel so strongly about it?
- Does your partner have a dream with which you have "an issue?" Why does your partner feel so strongly about it?
- What do you need from your partner with respect to how your they respond to your dream or vision?
- What is it your partner needs from you with respect to how he/she feels about his/her dream ?
- If you and your partner have difficulty honoring one another's dreams or visions, why is that?
- Do you ever try to make your partner feel "bad" or "wrong" about their dream? If so, why Ė and where did it get you?
- Is your relationship characterized more by a win-win or win-lose perspective when it comes to resolving conflict?
- What baby steps can you take to make conflict more of a win-win experience in your relationship?
Happy and fulfilled partners understand helping the other experience their dream is a shared goal. Wanting to know what their partner wants in their life is critical to a healthy relationship. Shared values means incorporating each other's goals into their definition of relationship. Happy and fulfilled partners discuss one another's dreams with mutual respect for, and acknowledgement of, one another's dreams.
In contrast, unhappy folks spend time negating, adversely judging, manipulating against and otherwise "tuning out" their partner's goals. Gridlock, emotional distance and tension ensue.
When one partner sees the other as the sole source of "the problem", this is a strong signal that they are wrestling with a hidden dream Ė and this dream itself is the root cause of the judgment of the other.
So to move forward toward an open, safe, trusting, conscious, honest and healthy relationship, it's critical to uncover the dream underneath the gridlock. To do that, you need to ask yourself some simple questions.
Where are you experiencing gridlock in your relationship?
What is the wish, want, dream underneath the gridlock?
Why is this dream meaningful for you?
Why do you feel so strongly about this issue?
What do you want/need from your partner?
Happy couples listen to their partner's dream story. It does not mean that one partner believes the other's dream can or should be actualized. However, it does mean that one can honor another's dream by hearing it without judgment or criticism, and can become part of the partner's dream in some way, shape or form.
Moving out of gridlock is not about engaging one-hundred percent in your partner's dream; it's about honoring that what you partner says is true for them and finding common ground where you can be supportive of their dream or vision.