What do you dream about? What dreams do you have for your family? Well this is a great question to help you and your spouse learn about each other. In Dr. John and Julie Gottman’s work, they say that often when partners fight it is because their is a dream within the conflict that they need to tell the other partner.

According to the Gottman’s research, 69% of what we fight about can’t be solved. Therefore, we only manage conflict. One way the master’s of marriage, according to the Gottman’s, discuss conflict is to discover the dream or unmet need within the conflict. The disaster’s of marriage, according to the Gottman’s, don’t take the time to look within the conflict to see the core need or dream that is hidden. Sometimes, if probed your partner might explain why it is important to go to a particular place or take a specific job. The conflict may be to take a specific job to prove to themselves that they could reach that goal. It might silence the people who told them growing up, they couldn’t do it. But it might mean the partner will have to step up and take the kids to school or help with homework.

Perhaps the dream is to buy a boat. The family can’t afford it right now. Hidden in that dream might mean freedom the partner would experience on the water. Maybe that is the only time they feel at peace and truly free. Maybe they grew up near the ocean and want to remember the feelings of being on the water and memories with their family. Perhaps, during this conflict the partner could explain why it is important to them to do these things even if it isn’t practical.

Once we can look inside the conflict and see the other person’s need or dream, although it might not be possible to take the job or buy the boat, we can then compromise. I help partners come up with ideas of things they can do. What if they rent a boat for a weekend? Would that be a compromise. That way the aren’t putting their family at jeopardy but they are supporting a dream of their partner. What if they create a schedule of who, does what, and when if their spouse took a job that required them to be away from home more?

Often the conflict is masking a hidden dream that has significance to a partner. Talking about conflict doesn’t have to result in agreement, but it helps if it promotes understanding. What are your dreams?

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