Do you remember when you met your partner and fell in love? What did you love? Did you love his/her kindness? Or maybe their free spirit or humor? Maybe their work ethic? You name it! Have you ever heard the idea that portrays that the attributes of our partners that we fall in love with end up becoming the things that we don’t like about them? This is actually true. So let’s talk about why this happens and how we can understand it better.
One of the many attributes that I fell in love with (and still love) about my husband when we met was his ability to be logically minded. Both of us enjoy engaging in an intellectual conversation, and I value that he has a wonderful capacity to see things in a different way. Sometimes I get caught up in strong emotions that might cloud my perception (although sometimes my emotion aids in my perception too!). I value his ability to have a less emotional perspective – most of the time! Why? Well, because the other side of being logically minded is that he can, at times, struggle to see and understand the emotional aspect of a situation when it is needed. This is the other side of the coin that I find challenging, at times. And it is challenging for him as well because he desires to understand.
And I would guess that one of the things my husband initially loved about me was my sensitivity. He values my capacity for empathy, thoughtfulness, and caring, and I’m sure that he continues to love my sensitivity – most of the time! Here’s the thing: the sensitivity that my husband loves about me is probably sometimes also the bane of his existence (he has never expressed this to me, but I know it can be challenging for him). The other side of my sensitivity is that I can get hurt easily, draw the wrong conclusions about things said that hurt me, and I can hold on to hurt longer than is necessary which is not good for either one of us!
Do you know that dreaded question that always comes up in a job interview: “What are your strengths and weakness?” I tell people that they are one in the same, meaning that your strength is also your potential weakness. I prefer the word ‘challenge’ as opposed to weakness. It’s simply kinder.
“So, for me, my sensitivity is my strength and my challenge”
What’s important here is self-awareness. One of my mantras is “What you don’t own owns you,” meaning that if you recognize the other side of a trait, you can learn to keep it in check.
You might be attracted to someone who is confident, but the other side may be arrogance. Or you might be attracted to someone who is quiet and listens to you, but the other side might be that he or she is painfully shy and won’t want to join you at parties. You might be drawn to someone who is motivated, driven, and successful in a career, but the other side may be that he or she may work all the time and forget to give time to the relationship. You might be attracted to someone who’s neat and organized; the other side might be that he or she may be compulsive and controlling. You might appreciate someone who’s nice and helpful to others, but the other side may be that he or she doesn’t know how to say no. Someone who is nice may be easily taken advantage of by others. That doesn’t mean that the other side will always appear—partners may have the other side nicely contained!
If you’re only seeing the negative side of your partner’s traits, remember the positive, as well. That’s what you love! And, this is true for you as well. When I am working in therapy with someone, it often happens that they share all the negativity that they see within themselves. For example: I am a perfectionist, I am gullible, I am irresponsible, I am rigid, I am bossy, I am lazy, I am sarcastic, I am stingy, I am stubborn… The list goes on and on.
Let’s break each one down. Perfectionists can have integrity and do a good job. Gullible can be open-minded; irresponsible can know how to have playful fun; rigid can be organized; bossy can have great leadership; lazy can know how to relax; sarcastic can have a good sense of humor; stingy can know how to be financially responsible; and stubborn can get things done.
Whether you’re dating or married, examine and be aware of both sides of the coin of the traits in both you and your partner. Don’t be afraid of these characteristics. Simply be aware of them. And I can’t stress this enough: if you struggle with only seeing the negative side of a trait within you or your partner, look for the positive. It’s there!
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If you want to learn more about relationships – I wrote this for you “Ten Essential Things I’ve Learned About Marriage & Relationships” I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope you find it helpful. Let me know!
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Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
Photo Credit: Tammy McGary@flicker.comShare