Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What Do You Secretly Admire About Your Partner?

Our strengths and our weaknesses are often one in the same.  They're just flip sides of each other.  For example, you're prone to pessimism (something that's potentially a weakness and annoying to others) but you also benefit greatly from always having a Plan B (a strength). 
Photo Source- Crosswalk

In relationships, the
things that irritate us about our romantic partner are often associated with underlying strengths that person has.  This can play out in big and small ways. For example, I get frustrated with my spouse for not buying things when they're on sale.  However, because she's not focused on discounts, she's also not prone to buying things we don't need.
In some respects, we're initially attracted to ways our partners are different from us, but then we get irritated with those differences over time. You can read a research paper on this here.  (link is external)

You can help diffuse relationship tension and boost your closeness, if you recognize the strengths that accompany whatever drives you nuts about your partner. We frequently complain about what irritates but keep quiet about what we admire.  This post is your prompt to understand and express the positive side of your partner's "annoying" qualities.
What do you like about your partner but you've never (or rarely) told them?
To help further illustrate my point and stimulate your thinking, I'll give some more examples.
  • It annoys you that your partner rarely makes time for just the two of you.  They're always busy with friends or helping out neighbors or your adult children.  On the flip side, you admire their generosity and the fact that other people come to them for help.  Your spouse is popular because they're a fun person to spend time with.
  • Your partner sucks at using technology and is always asking you questions about how to do things on the computer or with other electronics.  On the flip side, they're not obsessed with technology or glued to their phone in the way many people are.
  • Your partner can be a narcissist but this can have it's advantages.  Their big ideas are sometimes good ones, and their approach of being entitled and dogmatic tends to be successful when it comes to sorting out customer service issues.  They have lifestyle expectations (e.g., they never want to stay in an ordinary hotel room, only a suite) and this is pretty fun.
  • In #2 of this article, my colleague Dr. Barb Markway writes about how her husband being messy and disorganized annoys her, but she also likes that he is more relaxed about most things than she is.
  • You think your partner is too permissive with your children but you love how patient and loving they are.
  • Your partner avoids discusses emotionally difficult topics and frequently stonewalls your attempts to discuss these, but they're also good at compartmentalizing problems and not letting things like financial stress affect the rest of your life.
  • Your partner is very fussy about how things are done, for example, they want the sheets folded a particular way.  However they're also very thorough and neat in how they approach things.
  • Your partner is a bit boring.  They're a creature of habit and haven't changed or evolved much since you first met.  However, they're also very stable.  You're able to make more changes yourself and try new things yourself because they bring such an element of stability to your shared life. 

If you have trouble thinking of your own ideas:
  • Think about what you used to like about your partner when you first got together but no longer value much.
  • Practice thinking about other people's relationships.  Sometimes it's easier to think of examples for other people than for yourself.
  • Make a list of what you find most annoying about your spouse/partner and consider what other people might say was positive about those qualities.  Try reframing negative words. For instance, you can think of "boring" as the negative version of "stable," as in my earlier example.
Wrapping Up
If you have relationship tension, recognizing the interconnected nature of your partner's strengths and weaknesses can help diffuse some of your frustration.  In addition, your partner may be more willing to moderate their behavior if you acknowledge that their ways of doing things have upsides as well as downsides.

  • About Author
Alice Boyes, Ph.D., translates principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social psychology into tips people can use in their everyday lives.

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