What is the number 1 relationship problem that all couples struggle with.
- Division of labor
- Parenting or
- In laws.
You guessed it!
It's a trick question.
The number 1 relationship problem that all couples struggle with is polarisation.
What is polarisation and what makes it the number 1 problem?
Polarisation occurs across all conflictful topics and themes – it's not about what the argument is about, more about how the argument is playing out. It's not about the content, but the process, which is what makes it a transcendent issue that all couples struggle with.
Polarisation is where couples take opposing positions on a topic and they stand in those positions rigidly whilst trying to rein in their partner to join them in their position – but they get stuck. This comes about when fighting about right and wrong or truth and reality.
Polarisation is the inability to hold complexity, that two seemingly opposing positions could not possibly exist at the same time. It occurs when you split ambivalence – one partner becomes the proponent of one part of the ambivalence, whilst the other partner the other thereby assuming opposing sides, and couples argue as if the other persons position can't possibly exist.
Standing so firmly and rigidly in one position only acts to reinforce polarisation – you want to dig your heels in further when you feel a force trying to move you out of your own position. If you want to loosen a polarised position, you need to acknowledge it. That is, recognising the existence of the opposing side – this is also known as validation.
As humans we have an illusion of objectivity, we see ourselves as impartial and unbiased, and the holder of what is reality or true.
Truth is, we live in subjective realities, which means what you see is different to what I see which is different to what the next person sees. It is possible that two seemingly opposing ideas can exist simultaneously. Being in relationship means navigating between subjective realities that are often at polar opposite ends.
If you're fighting to be “right” and hold onto your truth, you're fighting a losing battle. In relationship, when one person wins, the relationship loses. So, it becomes a question of whether you want to be right or get it (the relationship) right. Is your need to be “right” more important than your relationship with that person?
Relationships involve a level of acceptance, compromise and tolerance. Relationships require a level of differentiation – which is the ability to hold what is different. And when you're able to do this, when you're able to validate a different version of reality to your own, when you're able hold the complexity and ambivalence, that is when you create a space for the relationship to exist and grow.