The 69%


It turns out that 69% of marital conflicts are perpetual. Yup. Sixty. Nine. Percent. This is true for even the most successful, happy marriages.

The first time I heard this statistic, I found it utterly discouraging to think that the vast majority of areas of friction between me and my husband would never go away, never be fixed. Ugh.

But then, thanks to John Gottman, I went through a radical reframing of the issue and actually started to feel relieved. Here’s my thinking: so long as I am trying to resolve these conflicts, I am in this stressed-out territory where I am trying to change him or change myself and failing. I run the risk of being critical or defensive.

But once I acknowledge that we are not going to see eye to eye about, say, keeping our mini-van clean, I can stop banging my head against a wall and start figuring out how to live with (and maybe even laugh at) our differences. I drive it 90% of the time, so I am the one who has to live with it most of the time anyway. So I clean it out more often than I would like but less often than he would prefer, and I make a big effort before we go on long trips. He, in turn, shows huge appreciation when I do clean the car and urges our kids to clean up after themselves.

Or another example. Yesterday, Reece said to me, “Looking at your desk makes me nervous.”
“What?” I said, prickling slightly, “I actually think it is pretty organized.”
He thought for a moment, chuckled, and said, “I don’t see any way this ends well for me,” and kept his opinions to himself.

We both laughed. Perpetual conflict acknowledged, but not escalated. Dr. Gottman would be proud.