When Your Partner Isn't Perfect

What if my partner is flawed? Everyone asks this question at some point. Really, it's hard to avoid. After the romance is long over and the business of life settles in, we start to see things that annoy us. The way he eats peanut butter straight out of the jar, the way he snorts when he laughs, even the way he walks.

Ooh, it's so irritating. Once considered cute, these quirks are pushing you to the door. You want to call it quits unless someone changes.

The "flawed" partner is not to be confused with a bad partner. What is the difference between the two? Sure, there are partners who are hurtful—the angry, the self-destructive, the physically violent and abusive. A bad partner thinks you are the cause of all his suffering. He is depressed because of you. Granted, a bad relationship is a bad relationship, and you know when you are in one. So please, do yourself a favor and get out now.

Now, back to the "flawed." Let's start by example. You have a partner who is very forgetful. He forgets to pick up the kids. He forgets his doctor's appointment. And he forgets your lunch date. For goodness sake, he even forgot to pack his clothes for that important business trip—clothes that he neatly stacked on the bed but didn't put in the suitcase.

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How could he possibly love you if he forgets everything so easily? You are at your wits end and you're ready to leave unless he changes. Let's look at this from different points of view. From anger: He must be an idiot. This is such an important business trip and he plain forgot his clothes. If it weren't for you, he would have gotten fired by now. How could he be so thoughtless?

Now it's time to try another viewpoint, suggests Byron Katie in her book, I Need Your Love—Is That True?. From compassion: You noticed something very funny: your partner left his clothes neatly stacked on the bed. Well, you hand him the clothes. Without your goading, he feels pretty stupid on his own. Then again, he needs new clothes anyway.

It's easy to point the angry finger of blame and say: "he needs to change." But anger only clouds the real issues. Whether or not you end up leaving a relationship, it's better to make decisions when you can see clearly.

Depending on what kind of lens you are looking through, a flaw is a flaw only when you want it to be. Here's the important part: Instead of trying to work on your partner and change him, work on yourself first. You'll probably discover that his flaws are not so flawed. You'll also see that the person who needs to change is you.

So stop working on him and start working on you.

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