April 19, 2021

Unsolvable relationship problems

happy couple in the park


Ever wonder if your relationship problems are solvable? Or what to do if your relationship problems aren’t solvable?

In this podcast episode, Elizabeth Polinsky discusses which relationship problems are solvable, which one’s aren’t, and what to do about unsolvable relationship problems.



  • What problems in relationships are solvable
  • Which relationship problems are not solvable
  • What to do about unsolvable relationship problems 


1. A Personal Story:I remember a time when I went to a party with an ex-boyfriend. He was a night owl and I tend to have an early bedtime. I wanted to leave the party and he wanted to stay. This led to a fight, and we actually broke up a couple of months later. 

According to the Gottman Institute, 69% of relationship problems are unsolvable due to personality differences or life style preferences.”

Elizabeth Polinsky

2. Unsolvable Relationship ProblemsAccording to the Gottman Institute, 69% of relationship problems are unsolvable due to personality differences or life style preferences. This is the case in both “good” and “babd” marriages. Examples include:

  • bed time,
  • food preferences (meat eaters vs vegetarians)
  • introverts vs extroverts
  • expectations around cleanliness
  • financial preferences (when to save or spend)
  • sex drive

According to the Gottmans, good marriages use appreciation, acceptance, and a sense of humor when there are unsolvable problems. 

Young Couple on Woman during Winter

3. Solvable Relationship Problems

Solvable problems are situational and often short term. They require negotiation skills and compromise.

Having regular relationship meetings and finance meetings can help couples with the solvable problems by allowing you to try on different solutions or options.

Examples of solvable problems:

  • should we get a dog
  • dog potty training
  • some financial planning

4. Is your relationship problem solvable or unsolvable?One way to know that a problem is an unsolvable personality or lifestyle preference problem is when it is a perpetual stuck conversation. In these cases, it is more important to get to the heart of the matter and the underlying meaning you are making from the problem. For example, one of you is a vegetarian and the other is a meat eater, and whenever your partner eats meat your feelings are hurt because you think they don’t respect your preferences. The problem of being vegetarian versus a meat eater is unlikely to be solved. But the problem of feeling disrespected and hurt can be. ​When this is the case, you want to be vulnerable and share with your partner that your feelings are hurt and that you are worried they don’t respect you. This allows you as a couple to address the underlying emotional hurts in order to have greater connection. 

 Connection = sharing vulnerability + partner responsiveness”

Elizabeth Polinsky

Actions Steps:If you are mad, it might actually be because you feel hurt. The problem then is about the hurt emotions and that is what needs to be fixed not the content problem. People tend to feel stressed or neutral when there is an actual content problem that needs to be addressed. So tell your partner about the hurt feelings.

Liz’s Useful Links: 

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Thanks for Listening!


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    About Author

    Elizabeth Polinsky is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist (EFT) providing EFT marriage counseling in the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. She also provides EFT training and supervision to therapists looking to become certified in EFT Couple Therapy. As a military spouse, she has a special passion for working with military and veteran couples, and is also the host of The Communicate & Connect Podcast for Military Relationships.


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