Archive of ‘Adults’ category

Gridlock vs. Perpetual Problems in Couples

Did you know that 69% of problems are perpetual problems? What does that mean? According to a study by Gottman and Gottman, 69% of couples’ problems have no resolution and 31% of their problems are resolvable. Looking at your own relationship, do you find yourself arguing over the same issue over and over? With zero headway being made?  Just more hurt feelings and anger which can lead to a painful impasse. Gridlock. 

The goal is to move from gridlock to dialogue.

Problems that Lead to Gridlock

In counseling, the goal is to manage conflict rather than solving the problem because the majority of the time there is no solution. Even in the healthiest relationships, most conflicts are not resolved. The problems remain perpetual and couples learn how to live with them or become gridlocked. Another obstacle is simply a mismatch of conflict styles. One partner may be an avoider and the other a pursuer. We all know what this looks like.

Wife: “So you’re just going to let our son go to baseball practice after he failed English?” 

Husband” “Yes”

Wife: “So he gets a privilege? A reward? And You’re the hero again?”

Husband: “ He needs an outlet.” as the husband walks away to the bedroom.

Wife: “ If baseball was so important to him he would pass his classes….” as she follows her husband and continues, “We go through this every grading period since he was 10 years old…….

Husband: “I am not having this conversation again” and closes the door 

We can see where this is going. There is clearly a mismatch in conflict styles. There is clearly a long standing disagreement regarding grades and extracurricular activities. Couples can become entrenched in their respective positions. Refusing to engage in give and take. When in gridlock,  it is important to explore each other’s values in a position. 

“Why won’t he/she budge on ___?” 

And they may be surprised by the answer. There are reasons why certain values are important to us. And they often differ from our partner’s values. And that is ok. But have we explored why our partner finds certain values important? Can we put on their lens for a minute? Can we try and understand why they will not budge? And then can we compromise? Compromise does not always feel good. It can feel as though we are not winning or not being heard.

How to Unlock Gridlock

One of the hardest things to do is to come to some sort of acceptance of the problem. This can change the level of frustration. Without making some sort of peace with the problem, it can lead to emotional disengagement. The problem will remain gridlocked and couples will continue to hurt and vilify one another. 

The goal is not to solve the perpetual problem but to lay the groundwork for dialogue. Honor each other’s values. Turn the focus to exploration and understanding one another. Use your friendship to uncover emotions and underlying meanings regarding the perpetual problem. Compromise. We do not have to agree on the solution because there is not one. In most conflicts there is a conversation that should have been had. Using these strategies can avoid painful exchanges and icy silence. Wouldn’t it be nice for the couple in this scenario to be prepared for the next grading period? 

Written By: Jenny Cantu, LPC

Rebuilding Trust in Relationships

Trust forms the foundation of healthy relationships. Whether through infidelity or other forms of unmet expectations, a betrayal of trust can place an otherwise healthy relationship in jeopardy. The rebuilding of trust after a betrayal can be a daunting task, but couples who are committed to the process of healing may benefit from a renewed sense of connection when the effort has been put forth.

Increasing Understanding and Empathy

Both partners will undoubtedly have their own perspectives on the events surrounding the breach of trust. It’s important to first make sure the relevant details and facts are made clear to each partner. The offending partner should allow space for the betrayed partner to ask questions and also be able to listen to the concerns and feelings expressed by the betrayed partner. Once both sides have a clearer picture of the situation, it is then possible to begin the process of apologizing. A sincere apology from the offending partner should include the facts of the situation, convey a sense of understanding of the other partner’s perspective, and a willingness to take meaningful steps toward rebuilding trust. For the betrayed, it’s important to commit to actively listening, accept repair attempts, and consider if any of their own behavior has caused distress in the relationship prior to the offense.


Both partners must see value in the relationship before there can be motivation for embarking on the difficult journey of rebuilding trust. Commitment is formed when partners examine their emotional attachment to each other, show a desire to persist, and can envision long term goals for the relationship. Partners can show this commitment to each other by openly asking for what they need in the relationship, have consistent and honest communication, and express their feelings openly without fear of judgment. It may also be necessary to revisit the rules or boundaries of the relationship – what is acceptable or not acceptable behavior? What are each partner’s needs? Setting such boundaries can help to provide a sense of safety and control in an otherwise chaotic period in the relationship.

Making Time and Space for Emotions

It’s important to recognize that both partners may feel very strong emotions during this time. Sadness, anger, fear, frustration can manifest throughout the process of healing. Rather than try to hide or contain such feelings, both partners should allow the other space to express them in a healthy manner while also validating these feelings. During these difficult times, the other party can consider this an opportunity to show empathy by acknowledging these feelings and letting their partner know that it’s okay to feel a certain way or if they share that feeling.  

Reigniting the Connection

When both partners have established their commitment to each other, it can help to envision the relationship moving forward as a completely new and separate one. Use this time of heightened awareness to define common future goals in both the short and long term. Try new activities or reflect on any particularly joyous memories from the past in order to ignite a new spark. Focusing on the future and making new positive memories brings new hope to the relationship and strengthens the foundation of trust.

In Summary

Rebuilding trust after a breach is possible but requires hard work from both parties. With patience, time, and effort, couples may overcome such obstacles and ultimately find a strengthened connection with one another. While it is certainly possible for some couples to rebuild on their own, others may find that attending a couples counseling session with a therapist as a neutral third party can help them navigate the rough waters at every stage of the process so that each partner may make the best decision for themselves. If both partners are not yet ready to take the step toward commitment, individual therapy is a great option for gaining insight into what may be the best path forward.

Cultivating Connection with Bids for Connection

In relationships, both verbal and nonverbal communication play a role in how well you connect with and feel seen by your partner. What you say, how you say it, and how your body language supports your words all matter. When couples are in conflict, things like tone, responses, and eye contact can help them move through their conflict or add fuel to the fire and make them feel more disconnected.

Bids for Connection

One way to support healthy dialogue and build connection is to be attuned to your partner’s “bids for connection.” This term was coined by Dr. John and Julie Gottman, leading researchers in the field of love and relationships. A bid is “an invitation to connect” (Gottman & Gottman, p. 3); it is an attempt for positive connection from you or your partner. This can be verbal or nonverbal and come in the form of feelings, observations, opinions, invitations, physical gestures, or questions.

Responding to Bids

How bids are made is just as important as how they are received. When a partner initiates a moment of connection, the other partner can respond in one of three ways (Gottman & Gottman, p. 5). Let’s use an example to illustrate the differences. If your partner says, “I was thinking we should try that new restaurant in our neighborhood this weekend.” You could respond by;

Turning Toward – “Oh yes, I know which one you are talking about; sounds good.”

This involves being present and responding to your partner. It does not mean you have to agree, but you show interest and help your partner feel seen.

Turning Away – “. . . <silence>.”

No response is given; when you turn away, you completely ignore or miss the bid. This is like ghosting the bid.

Turning Against – “Why would we do that? That’s a terrible idea.”

When we turn against, we reject a bid, shutting down the conversation and likely causing anger.

When you turn toward the bid, you accumulate moments of connectivity. Whenever you turn away or against it, a withdrawal is made from your love bank. Turning toward helps nurture your relationship and offset those times when you are in conflict. Many couples feel challenged by the lack of time to focus on their relationship. They have competing priorities and endless to-do lists, and the thought of spending time on the relationship feels daunting. Meaningful connection can come in small moments, and opportunities present themselves several times throughout the day. Consider a kiss goodbye, quick text or phone call during lunch, greeting your partner with a hug, using eye contact, sharing a laugh, etc.

Reflecting on Connection

According to Gottman’s research, how well couples recognize and respond to bids can determine the health and longevity of relationships. Couples who report happy and satisfying relationships turn toward each other 86% of the time (The Gottman Institute). The key to cultivating connection is bringing awareness to these moments of connection. As you go into this week, think about the interactions with your partner and reflect or write down what you notice.

When was the last time you tried to make a bid for a connection? What did you do? How was it received?

When was the last time your partner tried to make a bid? How did you respond?


Gottman, J., & Schwartz Gottman, J. (2022). The Love Prescription. Random House USA. 

Written By: Janet Mize, LMFT

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