New to the Christian Power Couple’s Challenge: Conflict Management Edition? Learn more about it HERE.

Today’s Easy Relationship Task: Learn to accept and respect fundamental differences that have created on-going problems.

How to love on this task:

  • Learn the 3 big mistakes most couples do that makes it so hard to have peace in their relationship.
  • Read through the concept of perpetual problems.
  • Complete the assessment to get clear on your differences and how they are affecting your relationship.
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    Every relationship is a cross-cultural experience.
    - John Gottman

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

When I think about The Serenity Prayer and what it means to have peace in your relationship, I think about these words.

Grant Me Serenity
“I’m asking for access to have a quality of calm and inner peace. I must be open to receive the peace that I am asking for, no matter what else is going on around me…”
to Accept
“I’m going to use my inner peace to increase my willingness to welcome and embrace…”
Things I cannot change
“…the on-going issues in my relationship that I can’t fix..”

3 mistakes that make it hard to have Peace

Let’s get clear about why your wish for a peaceful, easy-going relationship may not line up with your actions. It’s the 3 big mistakes most couples do that makes it so hard to feel peace in their relationship.

1. Baggage

One or both partners who have experienced epic-fail relationships may develop a touch of post (after) traumatic (trauma)stress (anxiety), which could totally sabotage the current relationship. Couples also make the mistake of not identifying and challenging their own triggers. Triggers can be sounds, things that are said or not said, the way you’re touched, or things you see that spark fear, trust issues, anger, rage, and sheer pandemonium when your partner unknowingly crosses the line.

Side note: That’s why I’m a firm believer that you should be healthy and whole before getting into a new relationship.

At times, triggers can surface sporadically even when you’ve taken the steps to recover from past hurt. Still, they are a great indicator of remaining baggage when you do face conflict. Definitely do the work to clean that up, but this is beyond the scope of this series.

2. Zero tolerance for a less-than-perfect relationship

It just gnaws at their nerves. It’s a bit of a fairy-tale syndrome (especially we ladies have) from watching too many Disney movies. Or maybe seeing how daddy did things at home, a bit of the Oedipal complex, and desiring the carbon copy in a spouse. The opposite can be true to: because you didn’t watch a father at all, you’ve dreamed up the epitome of a “real” husband. Either way, partners who place unrealistic expectations on their partner have little chance of having peace in their relationship.

3. One (or both) has a “righting reflex”.

In some way, we’ve trained ourselves to believe that everything that feels bad is a sign that something is broken, and we need to fix. Then, if we can’t fix it, we threaten to forget it. But most times, it’s not broken. It’s just misunderstood differences.

Perpetual Problems

Think about the last argument you had with your partner and ask yourself, “Was that something that we could actually fix?” If the answer is “Not really.” or “I honestly don’t know.” or “Yeah, if he would get his shiz-nizzle together.”, then you may be dealing with something you can’t change. Or at least not yet.

What if I told you that the secret to becoming a successful couple is in knowing how to choose your battles? Not that surprised, right? I’m bringing this up (I know you’ve heard it before) because it really is worth repeating because Heaven knows I wish somebody would have told me in the way I’m about to tell you.

#1. You can’t be fighting about Evvvveeerrreee-thang!

Even if you ARE right and even if you do have a valid point, I need you to have several seats. Ain’t nobody got to tell me twice how getting wrapped up in trying to prove a point can become excruciatingly exhausting. Fussing about even a valid point can be frustrating, takes away too much time from the things you really wanna be doing, and eventually leads you to point #2.

#2 You can’t avoid Evvvveeerrreee-thang just to keep the peace.

Avoidance leads to bigger problems like eventually feeling completely disconnected, unheard, and lonely. It’s a mistake I made because I didn’t believe I had any other options and ya girl was too tired of fussing, especially about the same ole thang. When I tell you that every breath (arguing vs. avoidance; AKA him vs. me)was leading down a tunnel of nowhereness and eventually our love life was in the toilet–it wasn’t until after I was divorced and gone before I learned that there’s actually a 3rd option (inserts V8 forehead bop)- One I now happily teach to my couples:

#3 Solve your solvable problems.

Okay, did you know that already? When I first heard this concept, I was too done–partly discouraged, but more so I had this huge “aha” sigh of relief. I guess because misery loves company, and I realized that most couples are fighting about problems not worth the effort and attention we give them. Why you ask?

Because 69% of Relationship Problems Are. Not. Solvable.

A Gottman research study, administered to more than 3,000 couples, revealed that 69% of the time, when couples were asked to talk about an area of continuing disagreement, what they discussed was a perpetual, never-ending, issue.

Perpetual problems have to do with fundamental differences between partners, differences in personality or needs that are fundamental to their core definitions of self.

The Gottman Institute, 2014

Gina & Bobby

Say, for example, Gina married Bobby, and Bobby doesn’t go anywhere unless Gina initiates nor does he like to be left home alone, and Gina, who is MISS I.N.D.E.P.E.N.D.E.N.T., hates that. But if Gina had married Gary (everybody thought they’d make it because they had the same initials), she and Gary would have gotten into a fight before they ever left the house. That’s because Gina is always late, and Gary hates to be kept waiting. He would feel like Gina is self-centered and only wants to be on time when she has to go to work (and if she can make it to work on time, why the heck can’t she make more effort for him?) Gina would see Gary’s complaining as a way to control her, which is a very touchy subject for her.

If Gina had married Robert, nobody would be going anymore because they would be still upset about an argument they had last night about Robert leaving the dryer door open. That’s because Robert doesn’t help much with household chores, and when he does, it’s a half job. To Gina, when Robert doesn’t help, she feels abandoned–another sensitive area. Robert is sick of the complaining and believes its a motherly way to dominate him into submission.

The same is true for Bobby. If he married Reba, he would have the opposite problem, because if he and Reba go out, she gets drunk at parties and he gets so angry at her drinking that they get into it. When she wasn’t drinking, they both sat at home, bored to tears. Bobby would eventually try to make a move of affection around 9:00 p.m., and Reba plays possum. She believed that the only time Bobby wanted to touch her was for sex and she felt used.

The moral of this story? Even if you do replace boo-thang today and pick up a new boo tomorrow, You guessed it:

New boo, New Problems.

That’s why you need the serenity to accept the problems and the partner that you can’t fix.

Before I give my grown-woman, unconditional love, woo-woo “acceptance” speech, take a woo-sah and let me be completely transparent: I know it can be hard to have serenity, especially when your differences are creating massive problems. But like anything else, Serenity is a Choice.