What To Do When You And Your Partner Are Opposites (And It Causes Problems In Your Relationship)

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You can't change your partner — but you can work with his habits.

Do opposites attract?

When we meet and fall in love with someone, we often don't think about what might seem like minor differences. Many people believe that opposites attract, that they can work it out somehow.

Maybe one person in the relationship is an introvert while the other is an extrovert. Or one is a morning person while the other is a night owl.

At first, these differences seem minor but sometimes, they can later turn into major conflicts.

One of the more common issues is learning how to deal with a messy husband when you're more neat and organized.


RELATED: The Scientific Reason We Fall In Love With Our Polar Opposite


One of my clients, Vanessa, said during one of our Skype sessions, "I'm a naturally neat person and my husband, Derek, is very messy. I'm constantly picking up after him and I hate it. I've talked to him about it, letting him know that neatness is very important to me and that I feel crabby and overwhelmed when things are messy, but nothing changes. It makes me feel very uncared about, and I don't know what to do."

When I asked her when she first noticed his messiness, Vanessa said, "The first time he picked me up in his car. His car was a mess, and so was his apartment. I know that should have been a warning sign, but I was so attracted to him and we connected so deeply that I figured this would iron itself out."

"So you either thought this was no big deal or that it would change?" I followed up.

"Yes. But it's turned out to be a really big deal and it's not changing at all."

Over and over again, I frequently hear, "I can get him to change!"

And it's not just around messiness, but around many other issues such as drinking, drug use, smoking, anger, withdrawal, lack of affection, lack of sexuality, lying, food, weight, and health issues, lack of personal hygiene, money and debt issues and so on.

Many people enter relationships with a big, often unconscious, false belief: "I can get this person to change."

I tell people over and over again, "You get what you see. If you are not okay with the way the person is right now, then end the relationship before getting more deeply involved."

The person may or may not change, but you can't change them. And change is very unlikely unless the person is already on a path of personal growth and wants to heal the issue. If the issue is not perceived by them as a problem, then it is unlikely that change will occur, no matter how much the issue is a problem for you and no matter how much you love that person.

So, either accept it or leave.


RELATED: What To Do If You Want Your Partner To Change


What if you are already in the relationship, like Vanessa? Let's go back to her issue of a messy husband.

"What if you stopped taking this, personally?" I asked Vanessa. "After all, you knew about this before you married Derek, so it really has nothing to do with you. I know you believed that if you loved each other enough, he would change, but this isn't true."

"That would help me not feel so uncared about, but I would still have the issue itself that drives me crazy. What can I do to take care of myself with his messiness?" she asked me.

I gave Vanessa a couple of ideas on how to deal with a messy husband, based on what she had shared with me:

  1. Pick up one of his things and hide it: She could let Derek know that if she picks up something he has left lying around — other than in his own space such as his office — she will hide it for a week and extend it for longer if it keeps happening. She can make a game of it for herself and enjoy finding new hiding places.
  2. Hire help: She could find a way to earn enough money to pay for someone to come in every day to clean up.

The key is that both of these ideas are about what Vanessa could do for herself, rather than continuing to try to change Derek — which is never going to work. Each situation is going to require a unique, and sometimes very creative approach.

Vanessa decided to try the first one, since earning more money was not currently available to her. Derek laughed at her when she first told him, not believing that she would actually do this.

Then, the first time she did it, hiding his favorite jacket, he was furious. Vanessa stood her ground. The next day Derek tested her again, leaving his papers from work all over the table. Swallowing hard, since she knew he needed these papers and she knew he knew this, she hid the papers. He was, again, very angry.

From that day on, Derek never left anything that was important to him lying around. Vanessa still had to hide socks and underwear and other articles of clothing, which she ended up doing for a month at a time. Eventually, Derek missed his clothing enough that he started to pick them up.

By taking loving care of herself, rather than trying to change Derek, Vanessa was able to solve the problem for herself. Even if Derek hadn't started to pick things up, Vanessa would have been okay, since she enjoyed finding hiding places!

No matter what issue you and your husband are opposites on, finding ways to reinvent the circumstances for yourself — rather than trying to change your partner — is the way to go.


RELATED: Don't Change Your Partner, Change Your Perspective


Margaret Paul holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, workshop leader, educator, chaplain, consultant, and artist. Start learning to love yourself and heal your relationships with her free Inner Bonding course.

This article was originally published at Inner Bonding. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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