What is the most frustrating thing about being in a relationship? Many couples might say it is facing a recurring issue that just won’t seem to be resolved. When a topic is brought up again and again, some couples quit working towards a solution and resort to blaming and other negative behaviors in fear that the discussion will turn out just like it did previously: unresolved. Instead of attacking each other, couple’s need to come up with a plan to attack the problem. If you follow these 4 steps with any difficult problem, you and your partner will be on the right path to your solution.

Step 1: Plan

Many times, couples argue through emotions, past hurts, and failed attempts to resolve the issues as opposed to actually focusing on the specific issue they are currently . This habit takes the focus off the problem that needs to be addressed which continues a cycle of unfinished business. The first step to stopping this cycle is clearly defining the problem and identifying each person’s role in keeping the problem alive. Before coming up with a plan you must take responsibility for your part in creating and/or maintaining the issue. Once you have identified how you contribute, you will be able to come up with realistic solutions.

Step 2: Communicate

After coming up with your own solutions, it is time to invite your partner into the discussion. While you may have some issues that you can come up with solutions for on your own, with recurring issues, it is  better if both people are a part of fixing the problem. Both parties should be clear on how the problem is defined, how they contribute to it, how the issue will be addressed in the future and what their roles will be in the solution. During this communication, each person should focus on their responsibility in the resolution and not their expectations of the other person.

Step 3: Execute

This is the time to put your all into the chosen plan. First, select your proposed fix for the issue. Then as a couple, decide how long you will be implementing the plan. It is important that you determine a check-in date for the proposed solution to evaluate the solution. Next, execute your plan with sincerity and commitment, but keep track of the pros and cons so that you can evaluate at the predetermined date.  Be careful, not to keep score here. Don’t make this about who’s trying harder, etc. Simply identify parts of the plan that you struggled with or ways you feel the problem could be handled better as well as the things you think worked well.

Step 4: Review

This is the last and most important phase of problem solving. This is where you and your partner discuss whether or not the plan worked, why or why not and how you will move forward. Start with the simple question of “is the problem resolved?” If the answer is yes, it is still important to review the pros and cons of the plan and discuss any adjustments that need to be made.  However, if the answer is no, then review the pros and cons you tracked, check your commitment level to the plan and develop new (or slightly tweaked) solutions based on what you discover. Also, take this time to decide whether the current solution needs to just be modified or completely scrapped for a new solution.

No matter what issue you are facing, if you can plan, communicate, execute, and review, you are many steps closer to a permanent solution. And even better than that is you and your partner have learned to go to war with the problem and not each other.

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