Every relationship has its ups and downs. The longer we are in a relationship, the more it is common for us to start to feel like our partner has flaws or faults that create tension. But what many people do not realize is that these “faults” can sometimes be related to the very same things that we love about our partners, and that rather than finding them distressing, it may be something we need to appreciate.
Let’s talk about how this might manifest:
Jack and Jill (not real people) have been married for 10 years. Jack, who is more relaxed, is finding that he is often frustrated with how stressed and overwhelmed his wife gets when there are events coming up. Jill is a planner and organizer. She needs to make sure that everything is in place, and gets anxious when things are too open ended and free flowing. So she labors over the details in a way that Jack finds irrational and upsetting, especially since it takes her away from quality time with him and makes her a bit more irritable. He may even wonder if he should have married someone more relaxed, like he is.
But what Jack doesn’t realize is that his love and attraction for his partner are directly related to these exact same qualities. They’ve enjoyed incredible vacations because she planned them. They have better relationships with their mutual friends because she took the lead. He’s able to be more relaxed because she’s been taking some of planning off of his shoulders. Were it not for these qualities of hers, he wouldn’t be as happy, and he wouldn’t have been as in love with her in the first place.
Here’s another example:
Jane and John are having problems. Jane was initially attracted to John because of how much John reminded her of her father. He was a provider, a strong person, physically fit and someone that she felt could protect her. But now Jane is frustrated. Their lives are busy, and yet John still goes to the gym 4x per week. John isn’t cruel or abusive, but he can be very physically imposing, and likes to be in control. John also has a gun for protection, something that Jane is uncomfortable with, and he sometimes has thoughts that are misogynistic.
But what Jane doesn’t realize is that these are often the same qualities. Men that see themselves are “providers,” – something that she desired in a mate and was attracted to – often do have some qualities that are also misogynistic. Someone that sees themselves as a protector may be more prone to believing they need to have a firearm. Someone that is physically fit only stays physically fit by exercising. Jane wants the same qualities that he has, but only wants the positive side of them, and is upset that there is a negative side to these same attractions.
Both of these are examples of ways that our partner’s differences are the things that we’re both attracted to and frustrated by. As relationships progress, we tend to start to lean more towards frustrated, because we have a tendency in long term relationships to focus on the negative.
But it’s critical to remind ourselves that these are directly related to our attractions. It is also important to remember to learn to appreciate those differences as well. Jack, in the first example, has stopped appreciating these things even though his wife is still carrying a load for him. Jane does still value someone that makes her feel safe and cared for, and needs to better understand that – while those qualities may have drawbacks – he is still meeting the needs that she desires.
Learning to appreciate our partners for their differences, even when there are components of those differences that can feel frustrating at times, is critical for maintaining the love and attraction that you have. It’s important to also take a step back to better understand yourself in this process, and recognize how your attraction play a role in who you chose as a partner and how they act.
If you’re in a relationship on Long Island and feel like you could use help and guidance better understanding yourself and your partner, contact us today for Long Island couples counseling.