Do you think it’s better to let a long-standing issue drop when things go quiet, or see things through to the end?
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Full episode script
Today’s question: Do you think it’s better to let a long-standing issue drop when things go quiet, or see things through to the end?
The Gottman Institute, which studies relationships and the science of happy (and unhappy) couples, has a thing called “perpetual issues.” These are issues that have also been referred to as cyclical conflicts — conflicts that arise from things that will never go away. They may shift, they may change, and they will usually, well, cycle, but they don’t go away.
In marriage relationships, these are things that could be a slob and a neatnik being married. It could be an introvert and an extrovert falling for each other. It could be any one of a number of things that are just fundamentally going to create conflict.
What really interests me about these, however, is twofold. As Christine Carter put it in the Greater Good Magazine from Berkeley,
“Cyclical conflicts can actually create intimacy: You’ve worked together to improve a problem, and that feels good. So the question is: Can you arrive at a workable solution, knowing that you will continue to revisit this throughout your time together?”
Yet when, over the longer term, you can’t work together, than cyclical issues become wounding problems – they generate frustration and hurt, and they never really make any headway. Rather than creating intimacy, they create more conflict.
While this is all research that has more to do with romantic relationships, I think it applies in many places where long-standing conflict and long-standing issues can be found. When something is long-standing, we have a tendency to either hold on, flex, or let go. If you drop an issue, but don’t let it go, then it will eventually resurface. And seeing something through to the end doesn’t always mean the issue is over with.
So when faced with that choice, how do you think about the problem?
I’m curious what you think. Find the discussion under musetopics on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
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