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What is gridlocking?

Regardless of the relationship, the conflict will be a part of the relationship. Three types of conflict can affect relationships:

  • Solvable problems: these conflicts are problems and issues that are situational. Solvable problems can be perpetual for some couples.
  • Perpetual problems: these are thought to be problems and issues that are unsolvable. These problems are rooted in personality differences and needs. These problems tend to reappear throughout the relationship.
  • Gridlocked perpetual problems: Perpetual problems that have gone unaddressed and are now uncomfortable. Arguments may feel like they go nowhere.

Sixty-nine percent of conflict in relationships is perpetual.

Most relationship problems are not solvable. Each relationship will have unsolvable problems, so the goal is not to find a relationship without them. The goal is to foster a relationship where unsolvable issues are manageable.

What is gridlocking?

Dr. John Gottman defines relationship grid locking as the failure or inability to recognize and acknowledge your partner’s most profound dreams and personal hopes. Most gridlocked conflicts, or unsolvable problems, are believed to stem from unfulfilled dreams. These conflicts may symbolize differences between each partner’s personality, goals, and lifestyle preferences.

Common gridlocks

Common gridlocks in relationships include:

  • Feeling free
  • Feeling lost
  • Exploring who we are
  • Traveling
  • Exploring needs
  • Compromising values
  • Managing selfishness vs. selflessness
  • Dealing with anxieties and insecurities
  • Having a sense of autonomy

How do gridlocks affect us?

When we can compromise our needs and values and communicate our dreams, hopes, and needs in a relationship; we can address these perpetual issues as they come up while maintaining a happy relationship. When we are not able to do that, we become gridlocked. This can make us feel stuck, frustrated, resentful, and withdrawn in relationships.

How do we overcome gridlocks?

Overcoming gridlocks in relationships starts at the beginning. It involves identifying the underlying unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Uncovering these underlying unfulfilled hopes and dreams can be uncomfortable if we/the relationship are emotionally damaged. To do this, we need to feel safe in our relationships. We can do this by:

  • Understanding our own needs and boundaries
  • Getting to know your partner’s world
  • Fostering fondness and admiration
  • Creating shared meaning

Understanding our Partner’s Boundaries, Needs, and Dreams

Understanding our partner’s boundaries, needs, and wants starts with open communication. While this can be uncomfortable, it is essential to recognize these conversations are not about winning, losing, or giving in. These conversations are about working through issues without hurting one another.

Building Love Maps and Creating Shared Meaning

Building love maps with your partner can help uncover each partner’s unfulfilled needs, dreams, and hopes. Building love maps means getting to know the ins and outs of your partner’s world and storing it in the part of your brain where you keep all the relevant information about one another.

  • What is your partner’s favorite movie?
  • What was your partner wearing on your first date?
  • Who are your partner’s closest friends?

Next, create shared meaning through daily love rituals, goals, and realizing dreams.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.