Children, no children. Be social, stay at home. Go to church, be an atheist. Spend large sums on a rental home, invest the money.
Gridlock is part of the fabric of being a couple, especially a two-professional couple where time is a premium and consistent dialogue about personal issues is not very common. However, ending gridlock does not have to mean “coping” with the impossible. Confronting gridlock is not about “solving a problem, it’s about dialogue. Two-professional couples in healthy, conscious relationships can live with gridlock when they choose to understand the nature of gridlock and dialogue about the root cause of gridlock.
Gridlock is, “having dreams that are not seen, heard, respected or addressed by one’s partner.” Dreams can be hopes, visions, aspirations and wishes that define you and give purpose and meaning to you life. Dreams can be practical (make “x” amount of money); others are deeper (a spiritual journey).
Some of the dreams of couples I’ve coached are: a sense of freedom; justice; honor; having a sense of power; exploring one’s creative side; being forgiven; having a sense of order; being more organized and productive; being able to relax; finishing a very important project; quietness; ending a chapter of one’s life.
To move toward constructive dialogue, two things must happen. The one with the dream needs to express the meaning, the symbolism that the dream holds for him/her; the other needs to express the meaning, symbolism that causes him/her to reject their partner’s dream.
For example, eating out on Sunday. For one, underneath “the meal” is a memory of feeling special when the family ate out on Sunday nights. For the other, the memory is that of wonderful home-cooked meals on Sunday. So, the issue of eating in or eating out is not about “eating.” For both partners, it’s about what’s underneath the “eating experience” that brings them a feeling of contentment, warmth, emotional security, and feeling loved and cared for.
Where conflict and gridlock enter the scene, however, is when one partner cannot experience their dream and then judges another’s dream (e.g., your wanting to eat out on Sundays when I want to stay home) as bad, wrong, stupid, silly, selfish, ill-thought-out, illogical, and then proceeds to disrespect their partner’s dream. Arguments, shouting, fighting, judging, resenting, or silent anger, silent treatment, or silent defensiveness result. In a word, gridlock.
Happy and fulfilled partners understand helping the other experience their dream is a shared goal of the relationship — wanting to know what their partner wants in their life. Shared values means incorporating each other’s goals into their definition of relationship. Happy and fulfilled partners discuss one another’s dreams with mutual respect for, and acknowledgement of, one another’s dreams.
Unhappy folks spend time negating, adversely judging, manipulating against and otherwise “tuning out” their partner’s goals. Gridlock, emotional distance and tension ensue. Moreover, when one sees one’s partner as the sole source of “the problem”, one knows one is wrestling with one’s own hidden dream. When one hears oneself saying, “He (or she) is this…” or “He (or she) is that..”, it’s a sign of one’s own hidden dream (i.e., the dream is the root cause of the judgment of the other).
To move forward toward an open, safe trusting, conscious and healthy relationship, it’s critical to uncover the dream underneath the gridlock.
So, some questions to consider:
Where are you experiencing gridlock in your relationship?
What is the wish, want, dream underneath the gridlock?
Why is this dream meaningful for you?
Why do you feel so strongly about this issue?
What do you want/need from your partner?
Happy couples listen to their partner’s dream story. It does not mean that one partner believes the other’s dream can or should be actualized. However, it does mean that one can honor another’s dream by hearing it without judgment or criticism, and can become part of the partner’s dream in some way, shape or form.
Moving out of gridlock is not about engaging one-hundred percent in your partner’s dream; it’s about honoring that what you partner says is true for them and finding common ground where you can.
So, with respect to your partner’s dreams, are you co-counsel or opposing counsel?
Peter Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a founding partner of SpiritHeart, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counseling and facilitating. With a practice based on the dynamic intersection of mind, body, emotion and spirit, Peter’s coaching approach focuses on personal, business, relational and spiritual coaching. He is a professional speaker and published author. (You can contact Peter directly: pvajda at spiritheart.net)