George James: Could Your Relationship Survive a “Shutdown”?


couple not talkingBy George James, LMFT

For over two weeks the government did not operate at full capacity due to a shutdown. After many attempts, congress reached a deal that reopened the government (which allowed many people to return to work and visit national parks & museums). Regardless of your political affiliation, this shutdown created many issues for many people across the country and across the world (from loss of wages, to tourism, to changes in the stock market). In looking at the interaction and relationship between Democrats and Republicans; the Senate, House of Representatives and the president the results are not always positive. The tension and conflict in their relationship made it difficult to reach a deal for more than two weeks.

We can learn from the relationship between the various parts of the government. I wonder could your relationship survive a “shutdown”? Does your relationship have frequent power struggles? Does your relationship experience many “shutdowns”? Are there times when you think you will not reach an agreement with your partner?

Here are some tips to avoid a relationship “shutdown”!

1) Power Struggles can Cause Disruption of Service to Your Relationship. – Most relationships will have a power struggle phase, where each person wants his or her way in the relationship. This is when each person wants things to happen on his or her terms and might believe that the other person gets his or her way most of the time. As a result, you dig your heels in and say you won’t give in. When you do this, your partner reacts and does the same thing. Instead of compromising and working it out, you find yourself at opposite corners as if you are in a boxing match. Sooner or later, the actual issue or conflict does not even matter anymore. You become consumed with getting your way instead of resolving the conflict. Power struggles can start with the silent treatment and eventually cause the destruction of your relationship.

2) I’m Starting with the Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson’s hit song, Man in the Mirror focuses on the message that change can only happen if we look at ourselves and then make the change. Relationship “shutdowns” happen because each person is looking at the other person’s faults. It is easy to find fault or problems in the other person, but we avoid looking at ourselves and how we contribute to the problem. If you want the relationship to work out and to resolve the conflict, it is essential that you take a look at yourself, then make that change as Michael said in his song.

3) Winning versus Having a Healthy Relationship – At the heart of whatever conflict you are experiencing, you want to win. Most people want to win to validate that they were right about their position on the issue. It is a self-centered approach to resolving conflict because winning becomes more important than the relationship. At the end of the day, which would you prefer, to win the argument/conflict or to come to a resolution and remain connected to your partner? If you choose winning, then you missed tip #2 or it is time to use tip #4.

4) Help from a Neutral Party – When you are in a relationship “shutdown”, you secretly hope the other person will give in. You believe so much in your perspective and what you want that you are unwilling to compromise. For some people, they might feel that they compromised or gave in on the last issue and are determined to not give in on this issue. This could be a sign that your relationship needs help. The easy choice is to get someone who you think see’s the issue the way you do, but that person most likely is biased and won’t give you the help you need. The best person you could get help from is someone that is a neutral party. This could be a therapist, faith leader or someone you both trust to tell you the truth.

If you are currently in a relationship “shutdown” and need some help resolving the conflict in your relationship, find a therapist and let him or her help you by being your neutral party.

George James is a Licensed Couple & Family Therapist
and CEO of George Talks, LLC,
Where Your Relationships Matter!
For more on this and other topics, please visit,
Twitter: @GeorgeTalksLLC
Email: [email protected]
View TED Talk here 



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