Opening up to each other and learning to listen to the underlying dreams, hopes, and aspirations of our partner can move us past gridlock to dialogue. Perpetual problems do not have to derail a marriage. Couples can be happy and satisfied even when they have differing feelings or ideas. The key is to end the hurt and avoidance that often comes with differences. Remember, you don’t have to solve unsolvable problems. You just have to listen as a good friend would.
Become a dream detective.
When a certain gridlocked issue or conflict arises, encourage the offended spouse to talk about the deeper meaning, expectation, goal, or dream that is underneath the issue. For example, my wife is overly jealous at parties. I like to meet new people, but my wife gets clingy and shy. What might be the fear, hope, expectation, or aspiration behind this issue?
Work on the gridlocked issue.
Set aside time where each spouse gets to speak without interruption while the other just listens. The speaker’s job is to talk honestly about your position and what it means to you. Describe the dream that’s fueling it. Be clear and honest about what you want and why it’s important. The listener’s job is to suspend judgment. Listen the way a friend would listen.
Soothe each other.
Discussing dreams and expectations that are in opposition can be stressful. You’ll accomplish nothing if either spouse gets flooded. Take breaks. Reassure each other. Be kind, gentle, and encouraging.
End the gridlock.
Understand that your purpose in dream detecting is not to solve the conflict. It will probably never go away completely. Instead, the goal is to “declaw” the issue. Try to remove the hurt so the problem stops being a source of pain. This is where the conflict can shift from gridlock to dialogue. The perpetual problem may not go away. For example, your wife may still be jealous and clingy at parties, but at least you both can become less hurt by the problem and learn to talk instead of attack each other.