Emotional Gridlock

The underlying issue in couples*

Couples fight and it’s always going to be that way, it’s inevitable. It’s not the most fun thing to do with the love of our life. We would all prefer that we all get along and we live happily ever after. Unfortunately and fortunately that is not how it works. People can’t agree on everything especially when it’s truly important to who we are and how we act. Our sense of self or commonly know as our identity plays a huge role in our romantic relationships. We can’t always agree to disagree with our partner, because sometimes you only have one choice, you have to choose and you need to put aside the other choice. Sacrifices are needed in relationships and these tend to create lots of arguments in relationships.
Couples have conflicts on a regular basis and that is totally fine. What really matters is how you deal with them. It’s not rare to find partners in a battle on a specific subject which neither of them wants to be wrong about or wants to let go of their point of view of the situation. They are both emotionally attached to their perception of the situation and each contradicts the other ones. This is called emotional gridlock! The symptoms of this are the following:

  • Repetitive arguments
  • quickly get frustrated about a topic or argument
  • Feelings of being misunderstood
  • Thinking that we are entirely right and their entirely wrong
  • Not reflecting on what the other is saying, but of our next argument
  • Our only goal is to prove our point and be right
  • Ignoring the other person to hurt feelings
  • and the list goes on!

Most will say that there is missing or lacking communication, which is false. Partners understand each other very well in theses situations, as they’ve been repeating each other over and over again. Each of them could repeat by heart what their partner’s arguments word for word. They just don’t agree with them. This is where the emotional gridlock plays a huge role. If one of them had to agree with the other, they would have to change who they are as a person or their perspective of themselves, which affects their sense of self. In other words, it’s a battle of their integrity.
They are also avoiding at the same time making a decision about their situation. They are facing what we call a 2 choice dilemma: Having to choose between two opposing circumstances which obliges the loss of the advantages of the one that isn’t chosen. So we can understand why each partner is holding on to their end of the blanket.

How Do We Get Out of The Emotional Gridlock

This is where things get really hard for the couple and when at least one partner needs to have a strong 4 points of balance to get pass the dilemma that the couple is facing. It requires a lot of maturity, a capacity to self-confront, to accept half-truths, to avoid holding a grudge, to grow and change as a person. It’s important not to mistake this for a compromise or a lack of integrity, but a complete change in the dynamic of the couple. It only takes one partner to do it and that is why it’s actually so hard. It leaves the one that does change completely vulnerable, as they are openly admitting they didn’t have the entire truth and they are losing their choice in the dilemma. They went beyond their emotions and saw further than their own needs. They took a chance to grow as a person and they grasp it, even though it could have backfired on them.
Emotional gridlock is the battle of the wills of a couple, of each individual’s integrity and sense of self (identity). It takes a lot of courage for a person to come out of that in a way that they are not losing who they are, but becoming someone better.

Productive Conflicts
Romantic relationships have the capacity to bring the worse in people, but it also allows to bring the best in each partner as well. It’s undeniable that staying with the same person for a long time is going to bring challenges. Each individual has choices that they can make. One of them is showing the best of themselves and growing in the process or they can stay stuck in their emotional gridlock and remain unsatisfied in their relationship. The choice seems obvious, but actually growing and redefining who you are is one of the hardest things a person can achieve in their lives.

Other related articles:
The 4 Points of Balance Part 4

* Inspired by the book Intimacy and Desire from David Schnarch

There are 7 comments on this post

  1. Sexual Intimacy - sexcoupletherapy.com
    54 years ago

    […] sexuality. This will inevitably bring conflicts in our relationships, which brings us to the choice to go through or avoid it entirely.This is where intimacy comes into play in couples. People who don’t have a strong «4 points […]


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