How many times you caught yourself thinking: “We have been married for years, and I am so sick of arguing about the same thing!!!” Chances are, you have been arguing about “the same thing” more than once or twice. It is almost inevitable to have an issue in a relationship which is the focal point of occasional discontent.
Going back to my childhood I remember observing my parents argue about the “same thing” over and over again. My mother was repeatedly infuriated with my father for leaving “everything” in a “total mess.” My father repeatedly lost it over my mother’s spending. As a kid I remember thinking: “Here we go again! Decades of marriage taught them nothing. God – please help me be a faster learner in my relationships!”
The truth is – when we come together, we bring with us not only our occasional baggage, but also our personality, values, habits, and ideas about how the world should be. These values, ideas, and habits are numerous, covering all the areas of our lives. Expecting for all of “your stuff” to fit with all the stuff of your partner is expecting the impossible. Friction is inevitable and something will have to give.
When this “mismatch” of habits, ideas or behaviors occurs on issues that are not of particular importance to you, you can just let it slide. This would hardly be the “unsolvable.” But what if the “mismatched” issues are the ones that are deeply important to both of you, and where reaching an agreement or compromise seems rather unlikely. Examples of this type of issues could be finances, sex, social involvement, children, etc.
The way we know what issue is a hot button for us is by our emotional response. The greater the response the more important the issue might be. Aconflict around these issues, if not resolved, feels like a major obstruction to the flow of our relationships. Sometimes dealing with these core relationship issues, one might feel like a salmon swimming upstream, increasingly exhausted and drained. We might be looking back onto the years we spent with our partner astonished that the same issue remains unresolved for all that time! So what can be done? What should be done? What must be done?
The honest truth is that you have been motivated to do anything and everything possible to resolve this issue for quite a while. Numerous arguments and resolution attempts later the issue remains. What can be done? Nothing. Nothing can be done. This is the unsolvable in your relationship. It is what it is, as they say. It hasn’t changed so far, which makes it highly unlikely to change in the future, and if you choose to hold your breath, well, don’t.
So, what should be done? Actually, you just did half of what should be done – you realized that this issue is here to stay. The second half is to contemplate your relationship. What is the bottom line in the checkbook of your relationship? Does it bring you more fun, joy, excitement, pleasure in life than not? Do you feel happier in it than you think you would be without it?
We all know there are no perfect relationships and in each and every relationship you sacrifice some things. We might be giving up some of our time, freedom, opportunities for other relationships, etc. We also know that a potential reward of intimate relationship is worth the sacrifice. We are earning for the love, connection, mutual enrichment, adventure, and expansion. It is important to consider whether this relationship meets our needs on most of other issues that are important to us, and whether it makes our life more satisfying overall.
Finally, we have to decide on what must be done. The beauty of it is that there are only two options available. None of the options are easy, and both of them have the potential to make your life and your relationships fuller, deeper, and more empowered.
The first option is to just say no, and leave. If, after weighing all the pros and cons of your current intimate relationship you arrive to the conclusion that there is not enough of the positive to outweigh the negative – it might be a wise choice. Despite the potential pain involved in breaking the bonds, the promise of something better and sweeter in the future might be worth it.
The second obvious option is to stay in your current relationship, while accepting this particular issue as an unchangeable and a given in your union. It means – deciding to make this issue into a non-issue in your relationship. Since we can’t change “it” and every time we try we only makes it worse for us, than it is not worth the time, effort, and our mood to even notice this particular issue – period. We can make a deliberate choice of assuming this issue will always be present as an issue. As a consequence, we can make appropriate adjustments in our life to manage this “condition” within our relationship and refuse to let it impact our wellbeing. The key word here is “accepting.” Acceptance as in of itself is letting things be as they are. It is a non-doing, which can do wonderful things for our happiness.