Do you and your partner continually argue about the same old unresolved issues?

By Liz Paul, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

I often see clients who are tired and frustrated because they and their partner have the same fights about the same issues over and over again.  For years.

There’s never any resolution on these issues… just regular re-hashing of old slights, insults and behaviours. Usually when one partner is triggered, or has had a few drinks, and feels the need to either stir the pot or to try to finally get the apology or concession they think they deserve.

These revolving issues are known as ‘gridlocked perpetual problems’.  They are problems that have been mis-handled by both of you in the past and remain unresolved.  They are uncomfortable to discuss, and you feel like you are just spinning the wheels when they are raised.  This leads to painful exchanges or icy silence… possibly followed by contempt, criticism and defensiveness.

The good news is that gridlocked perpetual problems do not need to be a blight on your relationship, and in fact by addressing these issues you could make your marriage stronger.  Here’s a process which could help you do that:

  1. Work out the underlying reason as to why the issue is so important to you.
  2. Explain this reason to your partner without criticism or blame. And then have your partner do the same.
  3. Then determine the parts of the issue on which you agree, and the parts on which you are polar opposites.
  4. On the parts you and your partner disagree, discuss how far each of you will compromise.
  5. If there is now little left to argue about, both of you apologise for being stubborn, then agree to forgive and forget.
  6. If there are still parts unresolved and on which neither of you will yield, agree to disagree on those parts. Accept that some problems are unsolvable, then both of you apologise for being stubborn, and then agree to forgive and forget.

You probably won’t get all of this done in a single discussion, and that’s fine.  Because while you are moving through this process you will be de-escalating it step-by-step.  And that wi­­ll make the future discussions a lot easier, less stressful, and less likely to erupt into another frustrating fight.

What are the issues for which most people seek assistance?

  • Relationship break-ups
  • Constantly fighting with your partner
  • Loss of intimacy with your partner
  • Communication problems with your partner or child
  • Difficulty parenting toddlers or teens
  • Pre-marriage counselling
  • A child misbehaving
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Family counselling
  • Wanting to separate from their partner amicably
  • Helping the children cope after a relationship break-up
  • Trouble staying in relationships
  • HSC stress for students and their families
  • Relationship commitment issues
  • Problems at work
  • Couple counselling
  • Difficulties with step-children
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Problems with in-laws
  • Substance addiction
  • Facing major life changes
  • Making new life choices
  • Relationship counselling