Perpetual problems — every relationship has them, but not every couple knows how to work through them.
A perpetual problem endures because you and your partner fundamentally see the situation differently, according to Michelle Peterson, founder of the marriage blog #staymarried.
“It’s one of those things where you bring it up, you try to work it out, and it just stays in your relationship,” Peterson tells NBC News BETTER.
Peterson, 39, is the executive director of a nonprofit, and her husband Tony, 41, is a software designer. The couple live in Somers, Wisconsin, and have been happily married for 11 years with three young daughters.
Like any couple, the Petersons experience perpetual problems, but have learned how to live happily in spite of them. Here’s how.
In the past, Peterson would automatically assume certain situations were problems. Now, she says, she no longer makes those assumptions. Instead, she asks her husband what he thinks.
“I’m approaching him not like I already have the answer,” she says, “but [with], ‘Hey, what do you think about this? Does this feel like a problem to you?’”
For example, the couple recently moved into a new apartment that didn’t have a washer and dryer. Peterson wanted to buy their own appliances, but her husband saw things differently. Instead, he takes the family’s laundry to a laundromat once a week on his free time.
Since her husband doesn’t see it as a problem, Peterson decided not to push the issue.
“He needs to decide for himself he doesn’t want to go to the laundromat anymore,” she explains.
She says seeking to understand each other, rather than trying to solve perceived problems, has made the relationship stronger despite their fundamental differences.
“I don’t know any non-corny ways to say this,” Peterson says, “but we like each other.”
Recognize when you're at an impasse. If you are having the same fight over and over, there is probably a fundamental difference you simply can’t agree on.
Know when to take a break. Recognize that fighting and arguing won’t solve anything. If things get heated, ask your partner for a break, take 30 minutes, and revisit the issue with a clear head.
Get past “the curse of familiarity”. Don’t assume that because you’ve been with someone for a long time that you know and understand everything about them. Be curious and ask questions.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s important to take time each day to talk. This gives you an opportunity to get to know each other’s perspective.
Create space. Don’t assume that a situation is a problem that needs to be solved. Instead, talk to your partner to see how they feel about it. If they don’t see it as a problem, give them space to come to their own conclusion.