Week 10: Seek to Understand

This week we learned about gridlock (no not the kind that happens when you are stuck in traffic), gridlock in a relationship. So what is gridlock then? Gridlock is when you are unable to accommodate irreconcilable differences. So how do you know if you are in a gridlock with your spouse? Dr Gottman states that “you will know when you are in gridlock if

  1. You have the same argument again and again with no resolution
  2. Neither of you can address the issue with humor, empathy, or affection
  3. The issue is becoming increasing polarizing as time goes on
  4. Compromise seems impossible because it would mean selling out-giving up something important and care to your beliefs, values, or sense of self” (Gottman 1999,p.237)

Just like when you are in a gridlock traffic jam, you are unable to move on from the problem that is affecting your relationship. Sometimes these problems are your spouse’s or your hopes and dreams that are not being fulfilled in your relationship, sometimes these problems are bigger ones such as how you are going to raise your children. Whatever the problem is, you must make sure that you do not gridlock yourself. So the bug question is how do you fight gridlock?

What if I told you that you did not have to overcome gridlock to have a happy marriage? Now you’re reading this thinking that I am crazy, how can one have a happy marriage if you cannot move passed a disagreement? Well the answer to that question is you do not need to move passed the issue; you just have to learn how to handle the gridlock. Dr. Gottman states “the goal is to be able to acknowledge and discuss the issue without hurting each other.” (Gottman 1999,p.237)

So how do you go about getting around gridlock without hurting the other person’s feelings? Dr. Gottman has 4 steps to help.

Step 1- Explore the dream

In this step you want your spouse to be able to understand why your dream is important to you. You will want to explain your dream to your spouse and why you feel strongly about the issue.

Step 2- Soothe

When you are discussing your dreams with each other, make sure you are paying attention to how you are each reacting to the conversation.

Step 3- Reach a temporary compromise

Here is where you want to make sure that you both understand where each other stands on the issue, but the purpose is not to solve the conflict. In this step you want to make the issue harmless to your marriage. You want to be able to understand that the problem is there, and it will probably never go away. This step you will also want to make sure you have negotiable and non-negotiable ideas for your issue.

Step 4- Say thank you

Though your issue is probably not resolved and it may take many discussions to resolve it, you want to make sure that you always come back to a place of love, gratitude and positivity. (Gottman 1999,p.250-259)

After reading this chapter, I can see why so many marriages have problems. I can see how my friends relationships, get stuck in gridlock and they are unable to find their way out. I can also see how easily it is to get stuck in a gridlock, and not be able to come to a conclusion because you are unsure of how to handle the problem that wont go away. Gridlock is a very trick situation in any marriage, and I am hopeful that in the future, that if my husband and I ever get stuck in a gridlocked issue, that we will come back to this knowledge and be able to move passed the issue without any hurt feelings.


Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Crown.


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