Problems We Manage vs Problems We Solve
One of the things I’ve come to realize as a married person and therapist helping married people in committed relationships is, there are problems we manage and problems we solve. This realization often brings relief to couples who repeatedly struggle with the same issues. I strongly encourage you to sit down with your partner and identify the problems you have to manage in your relationship and the problems that you’ve solved over the years. Sex, kids, inlaws and money are usually high on the problems to manage list. Take the first one for example, rarely do two people have the same level of sexual desire, which translates into one person wanting it and one person not – a common theme of couples arguments. What a relief it is to recognize this as a problem to be managed. Yes, I know you would rather I tell you how to solve it – but we’ll save that exploration for a later date.
So what about problems that you solve? Cars breaking down, the furnace needing replacement, changing child care providers, the colour to paint the walls in the new house and how to handle the holidays are all examples of problems couples solve in relationship.
I encourage you to write down and be proud of the problems you’ve solved in your relationship. This provides much needed encouragement when you face challenging issues and your confidence waines. You might also draw on the strategies you used to solve those problems, to help you find solutions again.
At any rate, recognizing the problems that are not solvable, but rather manageable and expecting them to arise periodically brings a sense of security to your relationship rather than that sense of doom that surrounds ongoing struggles over the same issues.
All relationships have problems – that’s the way it is. It doesn’t mean that your relationship is not good or that it’s doomed to failure. I hope you find the same relief that couples in my office have found when they come to understand their problems in this context.
If you have any questions or comments please send me an email and please do let me know how your “problem inventory” goes.
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