We are all quite aware of the issues around dating. The questions, the not knowing, the nervousness, the unknown of whether he/she likes me and/or do we have a future together? But often. after some of these questions are answered and we find ourselves nicely secure with our partners, inevitably more issues, which cause just as much angst, confusion, anxiety and stress, will start to pop up.
I am specifically referring here to the other people in our lover, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse or fiancé’s life. I am talking about their mothers, brothers and sisters, that crazy aunt or uncle, their children from a previous relationship, and even their friends, this includes their drunken best buddy who treats women like objects. These unfortunately are people we cannot make go away despite us being the love of their life, and their life partner. We cannot tell our partner who they can and cannot be friends with.
We have to accept our partner and their whole package. It simply isn’t realistic nor fair for that matter to try to get our partner to rid these people from their lives. If our partner decides to do so that is his/her choice, but just like nit picking to try to change our partners, we need to learn to accept our partner for who they are, this includes the people in their lives.
In our culture with its emphasis on couple-hood, marriage, monogamy, finding our one soul mate and/or Mr./Ms. Right we can easily become fixated on the ideal of who and what this person should be, what he/she is supposed to look like, dress, act, how much money he/she should make, how this person should act, how they should clean, how well read they should be, who they should and should not be friends with and so on. The list is endless.
When we first meet or hook up with the person we ultimately decide we want to have a long term relationship with however, those ideals are often the farthest things from our mind. Initially we are caught up in the whirlwind of romance, passion, and excitement. We are getting to know the person, learning about them and in the process often learning about ourselves and sometimes even re-inventing ourselves to be a better us and/or to fit our mate.
We relish at our commonalities and smile at the way our newfound partner makes us feel. We get butterflies and are excited to spend all of our time with this person. At some point however, generally within the first year and half we start to discover things about our partners that we don’t necessarily like, that might not fit so neatly into the life we had imagined with them.
These things may or may not be deal-breakers. How we express ourselves and choose to address these issues can be detrimental to the next phase of the relationship.
What happens too often is that we start to nit-pick, nag, criticize, and even worse insult or humiliate our partner because they do not meet up to some standard we have in our head. If our partner still decides to stay in the relationship these can lead to anger, resentment, depression and more which are not only sex and libido killers but also are relationship killers. No one wants this for their relationship, but inevitably it happens all too often. The good thing is that it is totally avoidable.
One of the most important things in a successful relationship is acceptance. Our goal should be to always try to accept our partner as much as we can for who they already are, who they were when they came into the relationship and with the baggage they come with. Some compromise of course is okay, expected and part of being in a working relationship. We do need to meet our partners half way. But we need to limit the changes we expect our partner to make. Essentially we need to pick our battles.
The other important thing to remember is that using positive and affirmative words and language will always yield better results over nagging, nitpicking and/or criticizing. Focus on the positive things your partner brings to the relationship and to your life. And, your partner will melt like butter in your hands.
Sometimes, understandably, problems or issues that we have with our partners are too big or too glaring for us to let go. Focusing on the positive just won’t do. These are what I call deal-breakers. A deal breaker is something that you absolutely cannot deal with and will end the relationship. It generally stems from a behavior, or characteristic, which absolutely must change in order for you to feel that the relationship will work for you. Often times, the deal breaker is merely the straw that broke the camels back. There are only so many things you will tolerate. Other times it’s a major character flaw. In a deal breaker situation you can and definitely should express your concerns, and your feelings to your partner.
Always use as much positive and affirmative language as possible, and focus on your feelings. It is especially important that you own your own feelings as yours, as opposed to pointing the finger at your partner, and his/her behaviors. Blaming, nitpicking, and guilt tripping are more manipulative than effective. After you have stated your thoughts, let the cards fall where they may. Your partner may indicate that he/she wants to change, but whether or not they really do change is up to them ultimately. People will do what they do, and holding them to their word can be like pulling teeth, often causing more anger and resentment from the nagging and nitpicking you’ll be doing. If your partner has a difficult time accommodating your desire and need that which you believe to be a deal breaker you need to really rethink, “Can I live with this?” If you cannot then it is a deal breaker.
I definitely recommend not having too long a list of deal breakers. If you have more than two, this will feel like nit-picking, and this should also be a sign for you to really take a look at yourself, what your needs are, how important this relationship is to you, how important it is to have this person in your life, do you really love/accept this person for who they are and what other options do you have that you might not have looked at? For example, can you live separately and still be together? Sometimes thinking outside of the box a little, too, can help solve our problems.
Too long of a laundry list is heavy, and weighted and will add nothing more but burden and stress to your relationship, will undermine your partner's worth, may be a strong indicator of unrealistic expectations, and may ultimately destroy desire, passion, romance and/or sex in the relationship as well.
Mou is a sex therapist based in Los Angeles www.LASexTherapist.com
This is an excerpt from her book, Marriage Money and Porn, available on Amazon.