Remember All Relationship Problems are Not Solvable.


There is a wide range of conflict in every relationship.

There is a wide range of conflict in every relationship.  Whether the conflict is a minor irritant or a real bone of contention, avoiding talking about the conflict will inevitably lead to emotional distance.

In the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, relationship expert John M. Gottman divides problems into two categories:  Solvable Problems and Perpetual Problems.

Solvable Problems are usually temporary and related to a daily function or need. They are stressful but can be worked out.

Example: “You forgot to pay the water bill.”

Perpetual Problems are usually related to your requirements. Requirements are core to who you are and what you want in life. They are rooted in your personality (one partner is an introvert and the other is an extrovert) and background (one was taught to be financially thrifty, the other is more free-spending).  


Every relationship has both solvable and unsolvable problems.

Example: One partner is more social and wants to go to parties and social occasions. The other requires quieter time at home.  Neither are not getting their needs met.  The social one feels under-stimulated and the introverted one feels drained from too much socializing.

What Solvable Problems are present in your relationship?






What Perpetual Problems are present in your relationship?






Categorizing problems in this way provides a helpful starting point for understanding how to begin to unravel dissention in your relationship.

Next, explore resources available to help improve communication in your relationship. Participating in couple’s counseling, attending a class or workshop, reading books or watching You Tube videos pertaining to relationship skills are all positive steps.


Tapping into resources to help improve communication is critical to a healthy relationship.

Additionally, here are some general truths about relationship conflict to bear in mind:

There are no absolutes. Whether the conflict is solvable or unsolvable there is no indisputable right or wrong.  There are only two subjective opinions born from different family histories, personalities and temperaments.

Negative emotions are part of every long-term relationship. Even though it can be challenging to listen to your partner’s negative emotions, it is essential. This is especially difficult to do if you were raised in a family that did make room for negative emotions.  However; if negative emotions are not permitted, closeness will fade, and the relationship bond will eventually break.


It is essential to listen to your partner’s negative emotions.

This will be especially difficult is you were raised in a family that did not make room for negative emotions.

Focus on partner’s positive traits.  When in conflict, focusing on your partner’s shortcomings will gas on the fire. Conversely, reminding yourself of your partner’s positive qualities will help quell negative feelings.

Feeling safe is key. Your partner’s ability to communicate will be severely hindered if she does not feel safe, appreciated and accepted.  Do your best to make sure your partner feels emotionally supported prior to discussing any potentially hot-button topics.

Mary Delaney is a writer and licensed psychotherapist.  Her areas of interest include Healing Childhood Emotional Neglect, Finding True Purpose, Relationships, and the Creative Personality.