What if you can’t solve the problem of not being able to solve your problems?
Cars can’t even solve their own problems. If your car blows a gasket, it just stays blown, and your car stays dead by the side of the road until you repair it.
Our bodies, thank God, have a much better operating system. We have an immune system that attacks bacteria and viruses that attack us. Our bodies can recognize cells going out of control so that most cancers are stopped before they begin. And our tissues—even bone tissue—have ways of regrowing or healing when they are injured. Pretty cool stuff.
What about our relationships, though?
The good news is that most of us are good at solving problems most of the time. Yay! If you and I would like to go to bed at the same time so we can...you know...but you get sleepy two hours before I do, that’s a problem, but people can and do find ways to work that out. Lots of couples do, anyway.
So just the way our bodies solve problems, so do we in our relationships, and that’s what we call a self-healing mechanism. Part of it, anyway. The Stage 1 part, where you solve problems. The thing that cars just don’t have at all.
But here’s the thing. Let’s say that you and I can solve 80 percent of the problems that come up in our relationship. That sounds like a decent number. A grade of B, right? But...sigh...I wish it were that easy. If you and I are solving 80 percent of our problems, 20 percent are going unsolved, and since new problems are creeping in all the time—we get a dog and we’re still struggling to work out who walks Buster and when, and our younger son is turning out to be not much brighter in school than Buster and we can’t agree on what to do about him—the pile of unsolved and seemingly unsolvable problems grows.
So we’re pretty good at solving problems, but when we can’t solve them, we just stay stuck. Like a car. We can’t solve the problem of not being able to solve our problems. That’s the Stage 2 part, where you solve the problem of not being able to solve problems.
Most of us are not at Stage 2. We don’t have a complete self-healing mechanism. We can heal ourselves but when something goes wrong with our being able to heal ourselves, we can’t heal that.
And that’s what my life’s work’s been all about. And that’s why we wrote Why Couples Fight. What that book gives people is a complete self-healing mechanism for their relationships. So that when a relationship-rending difference comes up and our Stage 1 efforts fail—we fail in the struggle to solve our problem—we can succeed at Stage 2, knowing why we couldn’t solve the problem and knowing exactly what to do to repair the problem-solving process.
Now you see why it’s such a big deal when people start feeling disempowered while trying to work out a difference. Who’s going to walk the dog when no one wants to walk the dog is hard enough! But how to figure that out when you both start feeling disempowered while trying to work out your difference... And then finding you do things to re-empower yourselves... And then get in a cycle of disempowering each other and re-empowering yourselves... Then dealing with each other is freakin’ impossible!! That’s exactly why, most of the time, problem-solving fails.
But it’s easier to succeed at Stage 2 than you might imagine Identify and eliminate the power dynamics!: how to do that is all in Why Couples Fight. Then your full ability to solve your problems is unleashed and you’re ready and able to give yourselves the love you’ve always wanted!