We hope that you had an incredible 4th of July! On Monday, we promised to show you some ways to determine whether or not you’ve arrived at gridlock in any of your perpetual relationship problems, and to give you a few ways to start communicating about them. In the spirit of fairness and decency, we will deliver on that promise today!

Our research has allowed us to determine 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 as can be, entirely 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.
  • In an infuriating catch-22, the reverse also manages to occur: 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.

If any of this sounds painfully familiar, you can take comfort in knowing that there is a way out of gridlock, no matter how entrenched in it you feel. As Dr. Gottman explains in The 7 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. We have found in our research that 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. 
Look forward to tomorrow’s posting for skills we have developed to help you in overcoming gridlock in your relationship!

More in The Archives
Managing Conflict: Recognizing Gridlock
Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.