I was all ready to rotate topics each week to cover everything from babies to relationships, but then the husband decided to weigh in on the previous post. He was worried people would see our solution as a loophole and not a true fix - like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.
But here’s the thing. There are some problems that need surgery, a cast, and 6 weeks physical therapy…and others that just need a Band-Aid. Or as Dr. John Gottman puts it, some problems are solvable, and others are perpetual.
For my husband and I, who washes the dishes is a solvable problem. There aren’t any hidden meanings or mixed messages tied to it. Gender roles are not an issue, and he doesn’t have any traumatic childhood memories involving stuck-on grease. We just don’t like doing them. For us, the Band-Aid solution of swapping out our old travel mugs for dishwasher safe ones works. In our house, it is a straightforward, solvable problem.
So what’s a perpetual one?
*Out of kindness to my spouse, this one is not about him*
Many moons ago, in a land far away from here, I was having a typical fight over where to eat with my then boyfriend. We’ve all had it, right? “You pick,” “No, you pick,” “Fine, I’ll pick.” So I did.
Dinner was fine. Or so I thought. The whole way home he moped. Legit pouted. What’s a girl to do but ask the one question you so don’t want to ask at the end of a long day – “What’s wrong?”
“I really could have gone for a chicken parmesan sandwich.”
Yeah, that happened.
I don’t remember all of the details, but I know we fought. Long and hard. Over a freaking sandwich.
Because for us, it was so much more than a chicken parmesan sandwich. This was not a solvable problem. This was not one that could be fixed by picking a restaurant out of a hat or taking turns choosing one each weekend. This problem was perpetual. It had deep, thorny, twisted roots. The sandwich was just the tip of the iceberg; there was a big fat mess we couldn’t see under the water that was getting ready to bring us down.
How in the world do you fight about something that has little to nothing to do with the thing you are fighting about? Even that sentence is confusing. I didn’t promise it would be easy, just possible. Here it is -> The way to handle a perpetual problem is to figure out the meaning behind it. This takes some time and patience, and you’ve got to be able to fight fair.
What was the meaning here? For me, it was about his indecision. I wanted him to choose a restaurant. Choose a career. Choose me. Because if he didn’t make the choice, I would. And when it didn’t meet his expectations, it was my fault.
Hot damn, I was tired of shouldering all that blame.
To be honest, I don’t know his side of it. We stopped caring about each other long before I cared enough to ask.
All the Band-Aids in the world aren’t going to heal the wounds caused by a perpetual problem. You need to figure out what it means to each of you and then try to make some small changes to improve things. Sometimes just understanding where your partner is coming from makes all the difference.
Think about the issues in your own relationship. Do they need Band-Aids or something more?