Do Unresolvable Issues Mean Game Over?

How do you know the difference between solvable and unresolvable issues in your relationship? And does it mean that you're incompatible and should break up? Kia Handley and The Sugar Doctor talk about how to navigate conflict when you just can't agree.

[Full Transcript Below]


You can listen to the show live on Monday mornings from 9:30 am on ABC Newcastle at 1233AM or stream live here.

[Original recording on ABC website here]

Kia Handley is: Not a car! Presenter ABC Newcastle. Loves vintage, Eurovision & great stories.

You can also find the incredibly talented Kia Handley on ABC  Newcastle Mornings here, Twitter @kiahandley  Facebook kiahandleyjourno and on her podcasts: This Retro Life & Let’s Talk-  Rural Mental Health, PLUS even more amazing gems here.

Episode Transcript:

Kia: At twelve minutes to ten;

A lot of the time when we talk about your relationships on a Monday morning, we look at how to solve some of the problems that might arise in your life. But what happens when we have unresolvable issues? Can the relationship continue? Or is it [music] Game Over! Today we look at conflict that can’t be resolved, with Tara Whitewood from The Sugar Doctor, good morning

Tara: Good morning Kia

Kia: We’re pretty good at solving problems.

Tara: We are!

Kia: But, sometimes it just can’t happen.

Tara: Exactly right, sometimes you’re going to find that you come across something in your relationship that means you are so fundamentally incompatible that you think, “can we get through this”.

Kia: “Is this Game Over?”

Tara: “Can we make it through this?”

Which Types of Conflicts Cause Unresolvable Issues?

Kia: What do you see as unresolvable issues, because I feel like toilet seat up/ toilet seat down could be an unresolvable issue, but is it usually bigger than that?

[Read More: What are your Partner's most Annoying Habits, and How do You Deal?]

Tara: Yeah, I mean it varies from relationship to relationship so for some people toilet seat up toilet seat down is the hill they are willing to die on! [laughs]

It’s unresolvable and it matters that much to them. But it varies from relationship to relationship, the ones that would define us as being someone with as so incompatible that it’s a really big deal.

But the way that I define the sort of perpetual issues the things that go on, versus just a problem that you can solve is the solvable problem tends to be more situational. So it’s something that kind of comes up, it’s a problem or an issue maybe in the context of your life that you need to solve and move forward, where a perpetual conflict tends to be something that’s more around the way that you sort of, that what you believe or you value or the way that you do things.

Kia: So, it could be core values, anything from, I guess religion, to wanting to have children or not, to the way that you see money -?

Tara: Home life, money, love, what your definitions of all of those things are, could be your parenting style, could be the way that you communicate, sexuality, wealth views, habits-

Kia: So many things fall into that.

What is a Relationship Time Bomb?

Tara: It really just depends on the unique combination of the two people in the relationship as to which one of those issues become a perpetual conflict, or unresolvable issues, though I call it a time bomb-

Kia: [laughs]

Tara: You sort of know when it’s a big deal and it ticks away in the back ground and you know that any time that you tiptoe close to that conflict-

Kia: You have to back away with your hands in the air, pretty quickly-

Tara: Or it will explode.

Kia: Or, you’ll butt heads-

Tara: Yeah.

How do Unresolvable Issues Stem From Identity?

Kia: It’s not surprising when you list some of those things are why we get so stuck to it, because it really does come back to who we are as people individually.

Trying to bring back together as two people whether it’s a friendship, whether it’s bringing together families, whether it’s a couple, it’s not surprising that sometimes that could be really hard to challenge those core beliefs to ourselves.

Tara: And you are exactly right, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you said it comes back to how we see ourselves in the world. Often these unresolvable issues are something that are so fundamental to our identity that we feel like if we were to not believe that, or not do that thing in that way, that we wouldn’t be ourselves

What are the Signs of an Unresolvable Conflict?

Kia: What are the signs that you might be hear, that you might have unresolvable issues in your life with someone?

Tara: I think it’s- those issues that you know, that either you choose not to talk about them because you know that they would always evolve into conflict, so it’s the things that are hot buttons for you in that relationship. The things that make you think, you know, “maybe we can’t stay together” or “we just can’t solve it, when you get into that rut”, you know, “every time we talk about that thing, you’re going to say this and I’m going to say this”

Kia: Not going to talk for three days, yeah-

Tara: Going to get the cold shoulder and it’s just going to- and then you will pretend or sweep under the rug and move forward but it would never actually be addressed.

Kia: [laughs] And it all just keep coming up.

Tara: Yeah, it does.

Kia: And you fight about other things to fight about that.

Tara: Yes. It comes up, starts coming up in every argument, you know.

You might have toast crumbs on the bench and all of a sudden you’re talking about how you’re spending money and, or how you’re raising children, like that all starts to get rolled into each other, and what happens is that people get so dug into that position that rather than moving closer together the more you’re talk about it, the more you’re polarizing each other into your opposing positions.

Kia: I think that a lot of us would’ve ended relationships because of this, no matter what type of relationships they were, we would’ve ended up relationships because it’s like “they just don’t see this the same as I do, and it’s just not going to work”.

Does it Have to Mean Game Over?

Kia:  Is it Game Over every time?

Tara: I absolutely don’t think so, and I think that this kind of approach that we take of trying to logic the other person, I call it logic them into submission you know-

Kia: My way is more right because-

Tara: Yeah, and to try continuously sort of provide more evidence and more proof and more understanding for them. You know every time you talk about it, what you actually do is trying to make that other person be you. And I think, it’s-

Kia: You don’t want to date yourself really-

Tara: No you don’t want to date yourself and it’s not only- well it’s disrespectful, it’s disrespectful and you’re not really valuing the other person.

[Read More: Why Being Right is So Wrong]

Kia: And you’d be so cranky if they would try to change your core values.

Tara: Yeah, well you probably are because you’re probably doing that, and at the same time you’re both in that doing that to each other. And then, and the other part of that is, I think it’s disrespectful to not allow someone to be themselves. And it’s also there’s really, it’s kind of plays into this attitude that we have, that we can have everything the way that we want it. If only we try hard enough, work hard enough...

Kia: x, y, z...

Tara: Everything will fall into- you know, “if only my partner believed this then we would be perfect and we would live happily ever after”. And it’s just, it’s never the case.

What if We Agree About Everything?

Tara:  You will, if you are a person who values growth and learning, you will have unresolvable issues in your relationship. I’m more concerned if you don’t.

Kia: Because it means that someone doesn’t care?

Tara: I think that it means that someone isn’t clear on the way they stand on things, that maybe they are a little bit floppy, a little bit mushy. Maybe they are a little bit, they might call themselves easy going but maybe they just don’t really have their own opinions on things.

So maybe they are a little bit passive about it and they are someone who doesn’t like to rock the boat or address differences, so what that means is they just don’t.

Getting Creative About Problem Solving

Kia: Alright so if we don’t want it to be game over and we do everything else about this person, we do really want to have in our lives, how do we get creative about not solving an unresolvable problem, but living with it, and finding that common ground to say, “right, we’re both different on this but it’s okay because we’re going to be alright”.

Tara: Yeah, I mean like you’ve said earlier, can be about really creative, it’s about being accepting and committing to being different people.

So saying, you know, you have a different opinion on this and I’m committed to our relationship and so we’re going to find a way to make that work.

For example: Introvert / Extrovert Conflict

One of the issues that I see a lot in the couples that I work with is that conflict around, it’s kind of an introvert-extrovert conflict or level of being social.

So one partner wants to spend a lot of time with other people, and then the other partner wants to spend a lot of time at home, without other people, and often there is a conflict around that. The key is not to make to mean anything, you know, it’s just a different way of being into the world, not to make to mean that “you don’t want to come out with friends, therefore you’re not fun or you think that I am this”.

Kia: So for using that example are we picking, it’s like, “right, out of these four social events I’ve planned, this is the one that for me is the most important that you are at because x, y, z”.

Tara: Exactly.

Kia: So you can have time off the other three, but I’d really appreciate you being at this one.

Tara: Exactly right, now there is no trying like, I don’t like compromise, I don’t like the word compromise, because to me that means, we meet somewhere in the middle and neither of us is happy [laughs]

Kia: [laughs]

Tara: It’s rather saying, like you’ve said, you know,  I am comfortable with once a month frequency of going and doing social thing with your friends or family or colleagues, you pick the one that matters the most for you and then I’ll make sure that I’m there.

And I’m not going to be there resentfully, I’m not going to be stop about it and make everyone else’s evening unpleasant, I’m going to show up and I’m going to try and I’m going to have a good time.

And on the other side, you know, having a partner who says like, look, I really feel like going out but tonight let’s stay at home, and do whatever it is that you want to do.

So finding those solutions, where you’re both getting some of what you want some of the time.

It's About Valuing Difference

Kia: It’s about valuing difference.

Tara: Yeah.

Kia: And supporting, I think it’s important to have that life away from the couple as well.

Tara: And to really get to know the person that you’re living with, you know?

We say that we know our partners and- but we think that we know best for them, I mean

we’re trying then mold them into the person that we wish that they were. But saying “you know what, you don’t want to go out with friends this time, that’s cool, I’m going to spend time with these people, because that’s how I feel energized and then we’re going to spend some really quality time together at home”.

Kia: Tara, great to chat about this, I know a lot of people are like having those light bulbs moments right now so [laughs] it’s always good to just throw out issues on a Monday morning.

Tara: Yeah, pleasure.

Kia: From The Sugar Doctor, that is Tara Whitewood our regular relationship coach here on a Monday morning.