Two Kinds of Relationship Conflict

Solvable ~ Perpetual

Marital conflict is an inevitable aspect of intimate relationships, transcending historical contexts and the evolving dynamics of gender roles. John Gottman’s pioneering research has been instrumental in understanding the nuances of marital discord, identifying two distinct types of conflict: solvable and perpetual. This lesson revisits Gottman’s theory through the lens of modern egalitarian relationships, examining how these conflicts manifest and can be navigated without the constraints of traditional gender expectations.


John Gottman, a preeminent researcher in the study of marriage and relational dynamics, has significantly contributed to our understanding of marital conflict. His research highlights two primary types of conflicts: solvable, which are resolvable with specific strategies, and perpetual, which are based on fundamental differences between partners that are not readily solvable. As society progresses towards more egalitarian principles in relationships, it becomes essential to revisit Gottman’s theory and explore its implications without the shadow of outdated gender roles.

Every marriage or intimate relationship is a union between two individuals who bring their own opinions, personality quirks, and values into the partnership. So it’s no wonder that even in very happy relationships the two partners must cope with a variety of marital issues. Some conflicts are just minor irritants or inconveniences, but other problems can seem overwhelmingly complex and intense. When they are overwhelmed, couples can feel mired in conflict or may distance themselves from each other as a protective device.

Although you may feel like your situation is unique, researchers, counselors, therapists, and coaches have found that all marital conflicts, ranging from mundane annoyances to all out wars, really fall into one of two categories: Either they can be resolved, or they are perpetual, which means they will be a part of your lives forever, in some form or another. Once you are able to identify and define your various disagreements, you’ll be able to customize your coping strategies, depending on which of these two types of conflict you’re having.

Solvable vs. Perpetual Conflicts:

Solvable conflicts, as defined by Gottman, are those situational disagreements that can be resolved through negotiation, compromise, and the implementation of practical solutions. These conflicts are often specific and situational, such as disagreements over household chores or financial decisions.

Perpetual conflicts, on the other hand, are rooted in enduring differences in personalities, values, or lifestyle needs. These conflicts represent deep-seated issues that may never be fully resolved but can be managed through mutual understanding and ongoing dialogue.

Perpetual Conflicts

Unfortunately, the majority (69% to be exact) of marital conflicts fall into this category. Whenever Gottman and his colleagues did four year follow ups of couples, they found that the couples were still arguing about precisely the same issues. It’s as if four minutes had passed rather than four years. They had donned new clothes, altered their hairstyles, and gained (or lost) a few pounds and wrinkles, but they were still having the same argument. Here are some typical Perpetual problems that the happy couples in Gottman’s studies were living with:

  • Meg wants to have a baby, but Donald says he’s not ready yet – and doesn’t know if he ever will be.
  • Walter wants sex far more frequently than Dana.
  • Chris is lax about housework and rarely does his share of the chores until Susan nags him, which makes him angry.
  • Tony wants to raise their children as Catholics. Jessica is Jewish and wants their children to follow her faith.
  • Angie thinks Ron is too critical of their son. But Ron thinks he has the right approach: Their son has to be taught the proper way to do things.

Despite their differences these couples remained very satisfied with their marriages because they had hit upon a way to deal with their unbudgeable problems so it didn’t overwhelm them. They’d learned to keep it in its place and to have a sense of humor about it. Despite what many marriage therapists will tell you, you don’t have to resolve all your major marital conflicts for your marriage to thrive.

The couples who accept that they will have perpetual problems, intuitively understand that differences and challenges are inevitably part of a relationship, much the way chronic physical ailments are inevitable as you get older. They are like a knee and hip injuries, chronic back pain, an irritable bowel, or arthritis in our joints. We may not love these problems, but we are able to cope with them, to avoid situations that
worsen them, and to develop strategies and routines that help us deal with them.

Psychologist Clan Wile said it best in his book “After the Honeymoon” – “When choosing a long-term partner… you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.” Marriages are successful to the degree that the problems you
choose are ones you can cope with.

In unstable marriages, perpetual problems like these eventually kill the relationship. Instead of coping with the problem effectively, the couple gets gridlocked over it. They have the same conversation about it over and over again. They just spin their wheels, resolving nothing. Because they make no headway, they feel increasingly hurt, frustrated, and rejected by each other. The four horsemen (contempt, criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling) become ever more present when they argue, while humor and affection become less so. They become all the more entrenched in their positions. Gradually they feel physiologically overwhelmed. They start a slow process of trying to isolate or enclose this problem area. But actually they have started becoming emotionally disengaged and physically disconnected from each other. They are on the course toward parallel lives and inevitable loneliness–the death knell of any marriage.

The Signs of Gridlock

If you’re not sure whether you’ve gridlocked over a perpetual problem or are coping well with it, this checklist will help.

The characteristics of a gridlocked problem are:

  • The conflict makes you feel rejected by your partner.
  • You keep talking about it but make no headway.
  • You become entrenched in your positions and are unwilling to budge.
  • When you discuss the subject, you end up feeling more frustrated and hurt.
  • Your conversations about the problem are devoid of humor, amusement, or affection.
  • You become even more unbudgeable over time, which leads you to vilify each other during these conversations.
  • This vilification makes you all the more rooted in your position and polarized, more extreme in your view, and all the less willing to compromise.
  • Eventually you disengage from each other emotionally.

If this sounds painfully familiar, take comfort in knowing that there is a way out of gridlock, no matter how entrenched in it you are. As you’ll see when we get to Principle 6, all you need is motivation and a willingness to explore the hidden issues that are really causing the gridlock. The key will be to uncover and share with each other the significant personal dreams you have for your life. I have found that unrequited dreams are at the core of every gridlocked conflict. In other words, the endless argument symbolizes some profound difference between you that needs to be addressed before you can put the problem in its place.

Solvable Problems

Solvable problems may sound relatively simple compared with unsolvable ones, but they can cause a great deal of pain between husband and wife. Just because a problem is solvable doesn’t mean it gets resolved. When a solvable problem causes excessive tension, it’s because the couple haven’t learned effective techniques for conquering it. They aren’t to blame–far too many of the conflict resolution ideas recommended by marriage manuals and therapists are not easy to master or apply.

Most of these strategies focus on validating your partner’s perspective and learning to be a good listener. There’s nothing wrong with this–except that it’s very hard for most people to do at any time, much less when they’re distressed. Gottman’s fifth principle for making marriage work tackles solvable problems head on. It offers an alternative approach to conflict resolution based on research into what goes right when emotionally intelligent couples handle a disagreement.

You will learn how to:

  1. Make sure your startup is soft rather than harsh
  2. Learn the effective use of repair attempts (including steps to correct wrong doing)
  3. Monitor your physiology during tense discussions for warning signs of flooding
  4. Learn how to compromise, (compassion and connection from self)
  5. Be more tolerant of each other’s imperfections (parts and exiles).

Following this advice will likely lead you to the understanding that solvable problems no longer have to interfere with your intimate relationship happiness.

Telling the Difference between a Solvable and Gridlocked Problem

If you and your spouse are entrenched in conflict, it may not be obvious which of the two types of disagreement you’re having, gridlocked or solvable. One way to identify solvable problems is that they seem less painful, gut-wrenching, or intense than perpetual, gridlocked ones. That’s because when you argue over a solvable problem, your focus is only on a short term particular dilemma or situation. There is no underlying conflict or long term differences fueling your dispute.

Below I’ve described various scenarios of marital conflict. For each one, mark whether you think it’s solvable or perpetual.

  • 1) Cliff and Lynn agree that it’s Cliff’s job to take out the kitchen trash every evening after dinner. But lately he’s been so distracted by a big deadline looming at work that he forgets. Either Lynn ends up throwing out the garbage herself or the trash just sits there. By morning the apartment smells like a city dump, and Lynn is angry and resentful.
  • 2) Elise wants to spend less time with Joel and more time with her friends. Joel says this makes him feel abandoned. Elise says that she needs time away from him. He seems very needy to her, and she’s feeling suffocated by him.
  • 3) Ingrid wishes that Gary would bring up things that are bothering him rather than sulking. But when he does try to tell her when he’s upset by some things that she’s done, she gets critical about how he has brought them up. She asks him not to mention so many at the same time. He says that since it’s so hard for him to discuss such things, he wants a reward when he does: Namely, he wants Amy to say she’s sorry instead of criticizing his style of communication.
  • 4) Helena gets together with her friends every Monday night. Jonathan wants her to take a ballroom dancing class together with him, but the only night the class is held is Monday Helena doesn’t want to give up her girls’ night out.
  • 5) Penny complains that Roger expects her to do all the work taking care of their newborn son. Roger says he’d like to do more, but because he works during the day, he isn’t as experienced as his wife at diapering, bathing, and the like. Whenever he does try to do something, like pick up the baby when he cries, Penny tells him he’s doing it wrong. This makes him angry and he ends up telling her to do it herself.
  • 6) Jim works full time while Thea is a stay-at-home mom. He wants her to be more organized about running the house–to clean it more, and to do a better job of planning the mornings so the kids get to school on time. He acts smug and superior to her and gives her the sense that the disorganization in their house is due to a character flaw she has. She feels attacked and gets defensive whenever he raises the subject. She says their house is supposed to be a home, not an army barracks, and that he needs to relax about these issues because his demands are unreasonable. They have been arguing about this for four years.
  • 7) Whenever Brian and Allyssa have a disagreement, he quickly raises his voice. Allyssa feels intense stress when he yells and tells him to stop. Brian says he doesn’t see anything wrong with yelling when he’s upset. Allyssa starts to cry and tells him she can’t take it. So they find themselves fighting over his yelling rather than whatever issue they disagreed about.
  • 8) Ever since their baby was born, Kurt has felt that Irene is squeezing him out of her life. She insists on doing all of the child care herself and doesn’t seem to have time for him anymore. She has been thinking a lot about her own childhood. (Her parents divorced when she was two and she was shuffled between relatives’ homes for years.) She tells Kurt she doesn’t want their son Brendan to feel abandoned by her, as she did by her own mother. But Kurt feels betrayed because one of the things he’s always loved about Irene is how nurturing and motherly she is toward him. Now that’s all being directed at the baby, and he feels cheated.
  • 9) Alex just inherited $5,000 from his great-aunt and wants to use it to buy home exercise equipment. But Sam thinks they should save it for a down payment on a house. Alex says the inheritance is really not enough to make a dent in a down payment, so why not use it for something they could enjoy right away? But Sam believes that every little bit adds up and that they have to save as much as they can all the time.
  • 10) Ernie thinks Bert is stingy about tipping waiters, cab drivers, and so on. This upsets them because part of their image of a strong, confident man is someone who’s generous. When they are disappointed with Bert, they get very contemptuous of him. Meanwhile, Bert believes that Ernie is too loose with their money, which makes him nervous. To him, money represents security and a sense of control over his life, so it’s hard to give any of it up.


  1. Solvable. Cliff has stopped taking out the garbage only recently and for a specific reason that’s not related in any deep way to his relationship with Lynn–namely, he’s under a lot of stress at work. This problem could be solved in any number of ways–from putting a sign on the refrigerator door to remind him, to reshuffling their domestic chores so that Lynn gets garbage detail for a while until Cliff’s work deadline passes.
  2. Perpetual. This problem suggests a core difference between Elise and Joel in their personalities and what they need from each other to feel close and connected. This difference is unlikely to change–they’ll need to adjust to it.
  3. Perpetual. Ingrid and Gary are engaged in a meta communication war. This means that they aren’t having difficulty communicating about a certain issue; they’re having difficulty communicating about how to communicate. This is not related to a specific situation but is present whenever they have a disagreement.
  4. Solvable. Helena and Jonathan can resolve this issue in a number of ways. Perhaps they could switch off weekly between dancing class and Helena’s girls’ night out. Or maybe her friends would be willing to switch the night. Or Jonathan could find another dancing class on another night or on the weekend. Or one of them could simply agree not to push it.
  5. Solvable. Roger just needs to spend more time with his son so he can get up to speed on his care. And Penny needs to back off and let Roger approach baby care his way. Because this issue isn’t related to deep-seated needs either of them has, it can be readily solved through compromise.
  6. Perpetual. This problem probably started out as a situational one about housecleaning and organization. Perhaps Jim and Thea have different tolerance levels for clutter, dirt, and how planned out one’s life should be. But because they haven’t found a compromise position about running their house, they have continued to argue about these differences. Thea has come to feel her husband doesn’t value or respect her role, while he feels that she’s not holding up her end of the marriage by keeping the household well organized. The argument has become about their mutual resentment rather than about housekeeping.
  7. Perpetual. Brian and Allyssa have different emotional styles. He tends to be volatile, meaning that he’s very passionate and “out there” with his emotions. Allyssa prefers to discuss issues quietly and rationally. When Brian starts yelling at her, she feels overwhelmed and quickly becomes flooded. Since emotional style is part of one’s personality neither of them is likely to change. But by becoming aware of and respecting each other’s emotional style, they can find an approach to conflict resolution they are both comfortable with.
  8. Perpetual. At the core Irene and Kurt have different emotional needs. The huge change in their marriage that was created by their child’s birth has thrown what they need from each other out of sync.
  9. Solvable. Alex and Sam may have different philosophies about savings. But their conflict over money doesn’t appear to be symbolic. Instead, it’s a straightforward difference of opinion about what to do with the inheritance. For that reason, they could probably find a straightforward compromise. Perhaps, for example, they could spend half of the amount on equipment and save the rest.
  10. Perpetual. Money has very different meanings to Bert and Ernie. Since the symbolic significance of money is usually rooted in childhood experiences, it’s unlikely that Bert will naturally transform into a big tipper or that Ernie will suddenly learn to love clipping coupons. But if they work together on this perpetual problem (and especially Ernie’s contempt for his roommate about this issue), it will cease to be a major sore spot in their friendship.

Assessing Your Marital Conflict Questionnarie

Now that you have a greater understanding of the differences between solvable and perpetual problems, it’s time to categorize your own issues in this way. By doing so you’ll know which strategies to use to cope with them. Below is a list of seventeen common causes of conflict in a marriage.

For each cause, discuss whether it is a perpetual (long term) problem in your marriage, a solvable (short term) problem for you, or not a current problem right now. If it is either a solvable or a perpetual problem, discuss the specific sub areas that you think are currently troublesome.

We are becoming emotionally distant.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • We have difficulty just simply talking to each other.
  • We are staying emotionally in touch with each other less.
  • I feel taken for granted.
  • I feel my spouse doesn’t know me right now.
  • My spouse is (or am) emotionally disengaged,
  • We spend less time together.

There is spillover of non marital stresses (such as job tension) into our marriage.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • We don’t always help each other reduce daily stresses.
  • We don’t talk about these stresses together.
  • We don’t talk together about stress in a helpful manner.
  • My spouse doesn’t listen with understanding about my stresses and worries.
  • My spouse takes job or other stresses out on me.
  • My spouse takes job or other stresses out on the children or others.

Our marriage is becoming non romantic and passionless; the fire is dying.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • My spouse has stopped being verbally affectionate.
  • My spouse expresses love or admiration less frequently.
  • We rarely touch each other.
  • My spouse (or I) have stopped feeling very romantic.
  • We rarely cuddle.
  • We have few tender or passionate moments.

We are having problems in our sex life.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • Sex is less frequent.
  • I (or my spouse) get less satisfaction from sex.
  • We have problems talking about sexual problems.
  • Each of us wants different things sexually.
  • Desire is less than it once was.
  • Our lovemaking feels less loving.

Our marriage is not dealing well with an important change (such as the birth of a child, a job loss, move, illness, or death of a loved one).

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • We have very different views on how to handle things.
  • This event has led my partner to be very distant.
  • This event has made us both irritable,
  • This event has led to a lot of fighting.
  • I’m worried about how this will all turn out
  • We are now taking very different positions.

Our marriage is not handling well a major issue about children, (This category includes whether to have a child.)

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • We have very different goals for our children.
  • We differ on what to discipline children for.
  • We differ on how to discipline our children.
  • We have issues on how to be close to our kids.
  • We are not talking about these problems well.
  • There is much tension and anger about these differences.

Our marriage is not handling well a major issue or event concerning in-laws or another relatives).

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • I feel unaccepted by my partner’s family.
  • I sometimes wonder which family my spouse is in.
  • I feel unaccepted by my own family
  • There is tension between us about what might happen.
  • This issue has generated a lot of irritability.
  • I worry about how this will turn out.

One of us is flirtatious outside the marriage, or may have had a recent affair, and or there is jealousy.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • This area is the source of a lot of hurt.
  • This is an area that creates insecurity, _ I can’t deal with the lies.
  • It is hard to reestablish trust.
  • There is a feeling of betrayal.
  • It’s hard to know how to heal over this.

Unpleasant fights have occurred between us.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • There are more fights now.
  • Fights seem to come out of nowhere,
  • Anger and irritability have crept into our marriage.
  • We get into muddles where we are hurting each other.
  • I don’t feel very respected lately.
  • I feel criticized.

We have differences in our basic goals and values or desired lifestyle.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • Differences have arisen in life goals,
  • Differences have arisen about important beliefs.
  • Differences have arisen on leisure time interests.
  • We seem to want different things out of life.
  • We are growing in different directions.
  • I don’t much like who I am with my partner.

Very disturbing events (for example, violence, drugs, an affair) have occurred within our marriage.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • There is a problem with alcohol or drugs.
  • This is turning into a marriage I hadn’t bargained for.
  • Our marriage “contract” is changing,
  • I find some of what my partner wants upsetting or repulsive.
  • I am now feeling somewhat disappointed by this marriage.

We are not working well as a team.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • We used to share more of the family’s workload.
  • We seem to be pulling in opposite directions.
  • My spouse does not fairly share in housework or child care,
  • My spouse is not carrying his or her weight financially.
  • I feel alone managing this family.
  • My spouse is not being very considerate

We are having trouble sharing power and influence.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • I don’t feel influential in decisions we make.
  • My spouse has become more domineering.
  • I have become more demanding.
  • My spouse has become passive.
  • My spouse is “spacey,” not a strong force in our marriage,
  • I am starting to care a lot more about who is running things.

We are having trouble handling financial issues well.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • One of us doesn’t bring in enough money.
  • We have differences about how to spend money,
  • We are stressed about finances.
  • My spouse is financially more interested in self than in us,
  • We are not united in managing our finances.
  • There is not enough financial planning

We are not having much fun together these days.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • We don’t seem to have much time for fun,
  • We try but don’t seem to enjoy our times together very much.
  • We are too stressed for fun.
  • Work takes up all our time these days.
  • Our interests are so different, there are no fun things we like to do together.
  • We plan fun things to do, but they never happen.

We are not feeling close about spiritual issues these days.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • We do not share the same beliefs.
  • We do not agree about religious ideas and values.
  • We differ about the specific church, mosque, or synagogue.
  • We do not communicate well about spiritual issues.
  • We have issues about spiritual growth and change.
  • We have spiritual issues involving family or children.

We are having conflict(s) about being a part of and building community together.

  • Pepretual
  • Solvable
  • Currently not a problem

Discuss any of the specific items below that are problems within this general area:

  • We feel differently about being involved with friends and other people or groups.
  • We don’t care to the same degree about the institutions that build community.
  • We have different opinions about putting time into the institutions of community (political party, school, hospital, church, mosque, synagogue, agencies, and the like).
  • We disagree about doing projects or working for charity.
  • We disagree about doing other good deeds for others.
  • We have different views about whether to take a leadership role in the service of our community.

Scoring: For each of the seventeen general areas that cause you problems, count up the number of specific bones of contention that you’ve checked. If you’ve checked more than two, then this is an area of significant conflict in your marriage.

For solvable problems, you’ll find advice in the lesson about principle 5. But if some of your problems are perpetual, follow the advice in the lesson about principle 6 as well. No doubt you’ll find that your marriage, like most, is coping with both types of problems.

The Egalitarian Perspective

In modern egalitarian relationships, the focus shifts from gender-prescribed roles to a partnership founded on equal footing, shared responsibilities, and mutual respect. This perspective acknowledges that both partners contribute diverse strengths and viewpoints to the relationship, and it emphasizes the importance of collaboration and fairness in managing conflicts.

The Key to All Conflict Resolution

In the chapters ahead you will find specific techniques that will help you to manage your marital troubles, whether perpetual or solvable. But first, some overall advice. The basis for coping effectively with either kind of problem is the same: communicating basic acceptance of your partner’s personality Human nature dictates that it is virtually impossible to accept advice from someone unless you feel that that person understands you. So the bottom-line rule is that, before you ask your partner to change the way he or she drives, eats, or makes love, you must make your partner feel that you are understanding.

If either (or both) of you feels judged, misunderstood, or rejected by the other, you will not be able to manage the problems in your marriage. This holds for big problems and small ones. You may discover that your partner is more conciliatory during arguments than you realized once you know what to listen for.

It’s probably easiest to acknowledge this truth if you think about it from your own perspective. Say you want your spouse’s advice on handling a disagreement you’re having with your boss. If your spouse immediately begins criticizing you and insisting that your boss is right, you’re wrong, and what’s the matter with you for picking a fight with your boss anyway, you’d probably regret having brought it up. Most likely you’d get defensive, angry, offended, hurt, or any combination of these. And yet your spouse might honestly say, “But I was only trying to help.” There’s a big difference between “You are such a lousy driver. Would you please slow down before you kill us?” and “I know how much you enjoy driving fast. But it makes me really nervous when you go over the speed limit. Could you please slow down?”

Maybe that second approach takes a bit longer. But that extra time is worth it since it is the only approach that works. It’s just a fact that people can change only if they feel that they are basically liked and accepted as they are. When people feel criticized, disliked, and unappreciated they are unable to change. Instead, they feel under siege and dig in to protect themselves.

Adults could learn something in this regard from research into child development. We now know that the key to instilling in children a positive self-image and effective social skills is to communicate to them that we understand their feelings. Children grow and change optimally when we acknowledge their emotions (“That doggie scared you,” “You’re crying because you’re sad right now,” “You sound very angry. Let’s talk about it”) rather than be little or punish them for their feelings (“It’s silly to be afraid of such a little dog,” “Big boys don’t cry,” “No angry bears allowed in this house–go to your room till you calm down”).

When you let a child know that his or her feelings are okay to have, you are also communicating that the child himself or herself is acceptable even when sad or crabby or scared. This helps the child to feel good about himself or herself, which makes positive growth and change possible. The same is true for adults. In order to improve a marriage, we need to feel accepted by our spouse.

Another important lesson I have learned is that in all arguments, both solvable and perpetual, no one is ever right. There is no absolute reality in marital conflict, only two subjective realities. The following exercise will, I hope, help you come to see that by walking you through an analysis of the last argument you had–of either type.

Application of Gottman’s Theory in Egalitarian Relationships

In applying Gottman’s theory to egalitarian relationships, it is crucial to adopt strategies that align with the principles of equality and mutual respect.

  1. Addressing Solvable Conflicts:
  • Communication: Partners should engage in open and honest dialogue, expressing their needs and listening to each other’s perspectives without judgment.
  • Flexibility: Adopting a flexible approach to problem-solving allows for creative solutions that consider both partners’ inputs equally.
  • Collaboration: Working together to find common ground reinforces the partnership’s balanced nature and can lead to more sustainable resolutions.

  1. Managing Perpetual Conflicts:
  • Acceptance: Recognizing and accepting differences between partners is vital. Instead of attempting to change one another, partners should strive to understand and respect each other’s viewpoints.
  • Adaptation: Couples can adapt by establishing boundaries and developing strategies to cope with their differences constructively.
  • Support: Providing emotional support to each other, especially during disagreements, fosters a nurturing environment where perpetual conflicts can be handled with care and empathy.

Implications for Life Coaching:

Relationship life coaches play a pivotal role in guiding couples toward healthier conflict management strategies within the framework of egalitarian relationships. Coaches can assist individuals and couples in:

  • Developing communication skills that eschew traditional power dynamics.
  • Fostering a collaborative environment where both partners’ voices are equally heard and valued.
  • Creating a relationship culture that celebrates differences as strengths rather than sources of contention.


Gottman’s theory of marital conflict remains a valuable tool in understanding and addressing the challenges couples face. By applying this theory within the context of egalitarian relationships, couples can cultivate a balanced and respectful partnership. Embracing both solvable and perpetual conflicts as opportunities for growth and deeper connection is essential in the journey toward a harmonious and fulfilling relationship.

In the spirit of fostering egalitarian relationships, this educational piece has refrained from reinforcing outdated gender stereotypes, focusing instead on the principles of equality, mutual respect, and partnership that underpin modern intimate connections.


  1. Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Crown Publishers.
  2. Gottman, J. M. (1994). What Predicts Divorce? The Relationship Between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  3. Knudson-Martin, C., & Mahoney, A. R. (2009). Couples, Gender, and Power: Creating Change in Intimate Relationships. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
  4. Coontz, S. (2005). Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage. New York: Viking.

(Note: The article presented here is a synthesized version, suitable for a broad audience, encapsulating complex concepts into a more accessible format. The full-length article would delve deeper into each section, providing a more comprehensive exploration of the topic.)