We all have a tendency to get caught up in negativity. Even when we have a lot of great things going for us, we still focus on the few things that are frustrating or inconvenient. While this is a natural tendency, it's a dangerous one if left unchecked, and is especially dangerous when it comes to romantic relationships. We date and marry knowing that our partners are imperfect (as are we) and choose to love them in spite of those things, as focusing on their flaws only leads to stagnation and frustration.
Dating vs. Marriage
There is a definite difference in how you cope with the flaws of another in dating vs. in marriage. Marriage is a commitment in which you’ve vowed to love that person in spite of their flaws. Upon getting married, you should have an adequate understanding of those person’s flaws, and an acceptance that those will be things you have to take in stride as you build your life together. Dating is the time when you learn about those flaws, and whether or not they are things you can accept in the long term.
Upon getting married, you should have an adequate understanding of those person’s flaws, and an acceptance that those will be things you have to take in stride as you build your life together.
Certain flaws can and should be non-negotiables: patterns of abuse, disrespect, unkindness, etc. These are definite red flags that should make you think long and hard about a sustainable future with this person. The kind of flaws I’m referencing are often more trivial, or just byproducts of our inherently self-centered natures. Intentionally drawing distinctions between “red flag” flaws and general idiosyncrasies is important to do during the dating process, and can help you better accept and help your partner with flaws that may not be deal breakers, but can certainly be unpleasant to deal with on a daily basis.
The French author Balzac says, “It’s easier to be a lover than a husband, because it’s easier to say witty things occasionally than to be witty every day.” Balzac is correct, as it “is easier to be at your best occasionally than to be at your best all the time.” The fact of the matter is that the more time you spend with someone, the more aware of their flaws you will become. While these flaws can often be annoying, being aware of them is not necessarily a bad thing. Turning a blind eye or pretending like these flaws don’t bother you will neither set your relationship up for success nor make either of you into better people.
Knowing the flaws of your partner and being honest about how they affect you will allow you to not only help your significant other better themselves, but it will also allow you to appropriately deal with some of the more frustrating aspects of your partner’s personality. Again, there is a distinction here between minor annoyances and major personality defects, and each of them needs to be dealt with appropriately. Separating the major flaws from the minor ones will allow you to handle things that don’t really matter much in the long term, and gently approach the things that do.
Separating the major flaws from the minor ones will allow you to handle things that don’t really matter much in the long term, and gently approach the things that do.
Folding socks a different way and loading the bowls on the bottom of the dishwasher rather than the top may be minor annoyances, but they are not major character flaws. Loving and respectful partners can easily address these issues through communication and compromise. One person overlooking this or the other person working to correct it is actually making you into better, more loving, and tolerant spouses who value the opinion of the other and actively work to behave in a more pleasing way to your partner.
Other flaws, however, may not be so minor. The need for control, a constant longing for more materialistic goods, or an extreme concern with how others view your relationship are more serious personality flaws that may not be red flags but are some of the issues that crop up in daily life together that present challenges. These bigger personality flaws must be broached lovingly in order to truly help the other work through their issues and grow into a better partner and a better person.
Bigger personality flaws must be broached lovingly in order to truly help the other work through their issues and grow into a better partner and a better person.
Instead of letting frustration and resentment build up, couples who are willing to discuss some of the more difficult aspects of each other’s personalities are able to grow in patience and understanding for one another while also bettering themselves.
Dwelling on the Good
It’s easy to notice the annoying or displeasing things our partners do, and for women, in particular, to allow those things to build up. Whether we realize it or not, we often keep a running tally of the things that bother us, and we let those annoyances to spill out during a big fight or more serious situation. Fixating on flaws only allows resentment to build, and rather than dwelling on the things we don’t like, we must learn to acknowledge and appreciate the many good and virtuous aspects of our partners. Instead of keeping a running tally of flaws and annoyances, we should be keeping a running tally of all the good qualities and kind acts that our partners exhibit.
Instead of keeping a running tally of flaws and annoyances, we should be keeping a running tally of all the good qualities and kind acts that our partners exhibit.
In doing so, we develop a reservoir of positive things to draw out during trying times. In moments of great trial when emotions are heightened, it can be easy to focus on the negative and stressful qualities our partners bring to the table. However, if we actively spend time taking note of the wonderful qualities of our partner as we experience them, it will be easier to be reminded of them when we least want to be.
Being in a relationship allows you to see your partner in a different way than anyone else sees them, and this means seeing both the positive and the negative in sharper focus. We have the unique gift of seeing the best that our partner has to offer, and we are lucky enough to get insight into the depths of their soul unlike that of any other person.
Those who love have been granted the special privilege of seeing with incredible intensity the beauty of the one they love.
The philosopher Alice Von Hildebrand says that “those who love have been granted the special privilege of seeing with incredible intensity the beauty of the one they love.” Because of this, it's especially important that we look for and appreciate not only the qualities that everyone gets to see, but also the ones only we get to see.
Seeing the best of who our partners are, and seeing the potential of all they can become, will help them to grow into an even better individual who is built up through our love. Keeping these qualities in mind reminds us, especially in times of difficulty, why we have chosen to love the person we are with, and why we want to pursue a lifetime together.