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Is Great Couples Communication All It's Hyped Up To Be?

Been to the grocery store lately? One of the primary sources for your weekly programming is the checkout aisle. I do mean programming. You may not realize it but you are being programmed by the media all the time and may not even realize it. In every magazine display you will nearly always find some tabloid displaying THE TOP TEN WAYS TO PERFECTLY COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PARTNER, or something to that effect.

Communication is overrated! It's a fact. What percentage of conflict in a relationship ought to be solvable? Can you feel the trick question coming on? ;-) 

The average response to the question is 90%. Wow, my hat's off to the media. They've done a magnificent job of convincing you to believe in something that does not occur anywhere in healthy relationships.

Drum roll please... the correct answer is 31%. That's right, 31% of relationship conflict is resolvable. So, if you've been expecting more than that, I can almost assure you that you've felt like your relationship is letting you down, big-time!

The good news is that it's likely you've been doing far better than you imagined. Congratulations!

Here are some examples of solvable issues:

  • Housework

  • Travel plans

  • Home repairs

  • Financial concerns

  • In-laws

  • Social life

  • Health

  • Recreational activities

You may be wondering what makes up the other 69% percent. These are issues which come up over and over again throughout the course of any healthy relationship. Some of these may sound familiar to you. Have you and your partner ever fought over:

  • Tidiness?

  • Emotional expressiveness?

  • Together time vs. time alone?

  • Differences in religious perspectives?

  • Lifestyle issues?

  • Promptness?

  • Sexual frequency?

  • Disciplining children?

These are just a few of many perpetual issues that happy couples face over the course of their relationship together.

Let's look inside a perpetual problem. What are the internal ingredients to a problem with no direct resolution? Glad you asked! Unsolvable issues reflect differences in three particular areas:

  1. Personality

  2. Core needs/values

  3. Philosophy of life

The average stable relationship will have 10-12 ongoing issues which will periodically surface. Let's go for an example.

Joy is the life of a party. 10 people at a party sounds boring to her. Add 40 more and now we're talking! She's like a rechargeable battery who plugs into the social element as though it's a wall outlet. Throughout the evening, her energy goes up and up. Let's look over for a moment, at her husband, Rob. If Rob is at party of 50, he may try to hang on the coattails of his wife Joy. He may melt down into a small puddle or simply pull a person or two off to the side and chat with the one or two individuals for the entire evening.

After the party Rob may be frustrated with Joy for not paying much attention to him. On the contrary, she may be frustrated with him being such a "party dud." What's really going on is that Joy is simply an extravert and Rob is an introvert. He enjoys small groups or alone time to rejuvenate and she powers up by plugging into people.

Does this mean that Joy doesn't care for Rob, since she didn't stay by his side the entire evening? Is Rob being rude to Joy by not participating more in the party? Periodically they may feel that way, but when they discuss it they realize that what is going on is that they each are built differently. Their personalities are different. This may be one of things which attracted them together in the first place.

The goal then becomes to be able to figure out which struggles are solvable and which are not. Many times a disagreement includes a solvable component alongside pieces you'll fight to the death over. It makes sense doesn't it? Your personalities and core values are part of every conversation you have with your partner, right? How could it be any other way? The more challenging goal then is to decide which part of an argument reflects personality and core values and what parts are negotiable towards a solution.

If you and your partner can solve 31% of your conflict then you're in the top 1% of couples and doing fantastic! If you can honor and respect one another for the other 69%, which involves affirming those beautifully unique individual qualities and idiosyncrasies you each bring to the relationship, well... that's simply Heaven-on-Earth!


Dave Turo-Shields (email)
Veteran Psychotherapist, Trainer & Life Coach

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~~ Frank Pittman


Ask Dave!


Hi Dave,
"I have been diagnosed with having a major depression since April. I have Graves disease which is deemed to have a role in my depression, but I just can't seem to feel better. The thyroid is in remission so now I don't think that has anything to do with this.

I guess my question is how do I get myself back (I used to be very outgoing and happy-go-lucky) and also how long does it take."




Having multiple problems/diseases certainly complicates things when it comes to depression recovery.

I've worked with several clients who struggled with thyroid problems in addition to depression. 

I've learned to be very cautious in my approach here.  Why?  Because after reading much of the newer research on thyroid issues I am beginning to believe that thyroid hormone levels can be very individual in nature.  Our thyroid tests only test within a certain range.  You're considered "normal " if you fall into this range.  But, what if you don't FEEL normal?  

There's a growing body of evidence which reflects that  YOUR perfect level of thyroid hormone may not fall within the average range.  If it does not, then you will continue to experience symptoms associated with hyper or hypo thyroid.  Unfortunately, many doctors will look only at the lab results, say you're normal and then tell you that you are suffering from depression.  

I'm not saying you are not depressed.  You certainly have serious symptoms of depression.  Since you do not report suffering from chronic, long-term depression and you have a thyroid condition I strongly encourage you to learn more about the new information on thyroid conditions, then seek a second doctor opinion in this particular area.  You can begin your search here at the two best thyroid sites on the net:

Mary Shomon's Thyroid Site

Dr. Lowe's Thyroid Site


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