December 2017




Are Your Relationship Problems Solvable or Unsolvable?

By: Lori Ann Davis

All relationships experience some sort of conflict from time to time. This can range from simple quarrels to nasty arguments.

All couples, even the happiest couples, have disagreements. The absence of conflict does not necessarily equate to a healthy relationship. It is how you manage your conflicts that is important. When you learn to deal with conflicts, you can grow closer and your relationship can become stronger.

I was at the radio station, WGIVCharlotte, this weekend taping my Ask Lori segment. We discussed conflicts in relationships and the idea of solvable vs unsolvable issues. That conversation sparked the idea for this blog.

When thinking about conflict in relationships, we first want to decide if the problem is solvable or unsolvable. Couples can get into a pattern of having the same argument over and over again without ever resolving it. This can lead to emotionally distancing ourselves from the relationship.

Solvable problems usually relate our needs. We all have different needs for our life to work in a way that makes us happy. Our needs and our partners may not match which can cause conflict. Needs are generally situational and may revolve around things like money, child-rearing, running the household, sex, etc. These needs are negotiable and there are many possible ways to solve these types of conflicts.

On the other hand, unsolvable problems are generally related to your requirements. We all have non-negotiable requirements that must be met in order for us to be happy in our relationships. Frequently couples are not even aware of these requirements, but they are still there affecting our relationship. They can be confused with needs as they both can feel very stressful when they are not met. For example, who pays the bills or does the majority of the childcare is a need and a solution can be negotiated. If a couple argues about whether or not to have children that is usually a requirement, at least for the person who wants children. If there is a disagreement on this, it is generally an unsolvable problem.

The question then comes up for couples, what if we have unsolvable problems? Does that mean we cannot stay together? If you discover that you have unsolvable problems, you do have other choices besides leaving the relationship.

  • You can stay in the relationship and be unhappy. Couples make this decision sometimes because they have children together and do not want to divorce. Usually this decision only lasts so long as most of us want and expect to be happy in our relationships.
  • You can decide to end the relationship, which is a common alternative if you look at our current divorce rate.
  • You can decide to let go of the problem. This is an option and couples choose this one when they feel like the relationship is more important than the problem. For instance, you could decide that the life you have with your partner is worth giving up your requirement to have children. This is not an easy thing to do as requirements are core to the life we want, but sometimes it is the right choice.
  • It is possible to compromise and each give up some of what you want, although not always possible. For instance, in the example of having children, a compromise is not possible. In some instances, a compromise can happen but you might need the help of a professional coach in order to arrive at an option that truly works for both of you.

The next time you have a conflict in your relationship, take a step back and decide if it is a solvable or unsolvable problem. If it is solvable, then your goal is to discuss the need in order to negotiate a solution. If you need help doing so or if the problem is an unsolvable one, it might be time to seek help.

Copyright © 2017 by Lori Ann Davis and the Relationship Coaching Institute. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.

Lori Ann Davis, MA, CRS, empowers singles and couples to live richer, fuller, happier lives by helping them create unstoppable relationships. Lori is a Certified Relationship Specialist with over 25 years experience. For more information visit:

Ask Our Coaches

Is our sex life "spicy" enough?

Dear Coaches,

My husband and I have been together for almost 10 years and our sex life is pretty routine. I know we're not having sex as often as we used to and we don't get very adventurous like when we were younger. Is this just a part of growing older together? I don't know if this is normal or do we need to try harder to "spice" things up? He seems content when I try to bring it up, but I feel like something is missing.

Dr. Wendy Lyon

Dr. Wendy responds...

Thanks so much for reaching out for support. Just because it’s “normal” and common for many couples to be less sexual and adventurous after years of marriage doesn’t mean you have to settle for less than you want. If you feel like something is missing, you’re right!

For starters, I recommend getting a copy of David and Darlene Steele’s book “Radical Marriage.” Read it together and come up with your own ways to “spice” things up in your marriage. It does take effort to re-ignite the spark, it can be great fun and you both deserve it. You and your husband could benefit from the support of a relationship coach who can help you navigate this next stage in your marriage, so you can go from hum-drum to sizzling and spicy again!

Dr. Wendy Lyon |

The opinions stated are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the staff, members, or leadership of Relationship Coaching Institute.

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your question here and it will be forwarded to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.


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