TURNING NORMAL DIFFICULTIES INTO “PROBLEMS”
That we are certain to have difficulties in
relationships is so obvious it goes almost without
saying. When two different personalities come together to
try to accomplish anything there is bound to be some conflict
Difficulties are normal and predictable. It is when
they are mishandled that generic difficulties become
“problems”. Often, it is the “solution” imposed on a
difficulty that becomes the “problem.”
In marriage therapy, we see spouses reacting in ways
they consider appropriate in light of something the other
spouse is “doing wrong”. This can become a chain reaction
adding up to a serious impasse. Let’s see how this works.
John Doe earns, spends and invests his money without
consulting Jane. Since he earns most of the money, spends
and invests wisely, and considers himself the “brains” of the
family, he doesn’t see the “difficulty.” But Jane does.
She thinks John is hiding things from her. She resents
not being included. So, she begins snooping in John’s desk,
looking for receipts, statements, evidence. John notices
this, resents it and begins hiding things.
The resentment and suspicion grow and spill over into
other areas of their life. Now we have a impasse caused by a
series of mishandled difficulties. The applied solutions,
snooping and hiding, have become “the problem”.
Instead of snooping into John’s “private” affairs, Jane
should have requested more sharing. Instead of hiding things
from her, John should have addressed Jane’s desire to be
included. Action was taken at the wrong level.
Other ways of making a “difficulty” into a “problem”
include not taking action when action is needed (denial) or
taking action when no action is needed (over-reacting).
When a “solution” isn’t working, don’t apply it harder.
You might be creating a “problem”. Instead, get some new
tools. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a
nail. Some things don’t like to be pounded. Try screwing,
plying and wrenching. Apply warm oil and gentle, firm
pressure. When all else fails, ask nicely.