No matter how much you love your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, there are going to be days when you find yourself just not liking them very much. Maybe it’s something superficial, like his that ugly wool cap leftover from his college days that he insists on wearing even when it’s clearly past its prime. Sometimes it might seem more significant, like her habit of putting scrapes on the car with her sloppy way of navigating around those pesky parking-garage poles.
If you live and share a life with someone, you get to know them intimately—warts and all. Meanwhile, your lives are so intertwined that their mistakes impact you as well as them. It is one of the biggies that makes relationships challenging. It’s tempting to look at your friends’ partners—or even strangers on the street—and imagine that they never overspend on frivolous things, come home from work in a bad mood, say awkward things at dinner parties or forget to pick up milk at the grocery store. But that kind of thinking is not only counterproductive, and most likely erroneous. It’s easy for a stranger—or a friend you only see when they’re on their best behavior—to seem like they have it all together. In reality you have no idea what they or their relationships are like behind closed doors.
Simply put, when doing this you are focusing on the perceived perfections of others while comparing them to the imperfections of your partner.
Like so many areas of life, the importance of keeping things in perspective in this situation cannot be underestimated. Accepting that your partner has imperfections and makes mistakes is part of working to grow the relationship into a more mature one that can stand the test of time.
If you find yourself slipping into the negativity trap, practice skills that can help turn your perspective around. If it helps, pull out a notebook and list your favorite and not-so-favorite qualities your partner possesses. Chances are, there are a lot of good ones you’ve been downplaying or temporarily forgotten—maybe because of something challenging going on in your own life, or maybe just because you’ve been taking them for granted.
As you do this, consider the “not-so-favorite” qualities and try to figure out if they’re something you can do to address them—affectionately, if possible. If that old wool cap bothers you that much, you could (a) buy him a new one and see if that does the trick, or (b) remember that he used to wear it back when you first met, and you found it endearing then. If you’re distressed about the scrapes on the car, find a way of telling your partner how much it bothers you without being accusatory or demeaning. I’m sure you could even come up with a few helpful tips, such as parking in less-crowded areas of the lot…or at least avoiding the concrete poles.
Not all relationship conflicts are so easily solved—but not all of your partner’s personality quirks have to be treated as conflicts, either. After all, you have plenty of quirks of your own, another truth we conveniently forget from time to time. Taking the longer view of your partner and relationship while choosing to focus on the positive rather than the negative are priceless relationship skills. Chances are, you’ll find it well worth the effort.
If you find your complaints about your partner (or vice versa) turning into angry conflicts and need help breaking the pattern, please give us at a call at 949-393-8662 or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the OC Relationship Center are here to help you.