Is Your Partner More "Wrong" than "Right" For You
Have you ever been in a relationship where you felt like maybe you weren't "good enough" to be with the other person?
Have you ever been in a relationship where you suspected that maybe YOU were the "better person" of the two? Or where your friends and family members hinted (or told you outright) that you were "better than" your partner -- that he or she didn't deserve you?
This can be confusing; this can be painful. If you're in the first situation, you might feel self-doubt, insecurity, and even shame. If you're in the second situation, you may feel caught between a rock and a hard place -- constantly monitoring what you say and do, mindful of the "public perception" of your relationship. Maybe these comments are a little bit true, or maybe those people in the peanut gallery just don't get it!
Either way, it can feel really uncomfortable. It’s a deep, pesky itch on your peace of mind. Either way, it's not sustainable.
One of my clients, Louisa, told me this about the guy she was seeing:
“Before we met, I spent time every other weekend at the bookstore. But Gerald avoids books and reading like the plague. He doesn't seem to have the attention span for anything longer than a meme! He's smart -- just not ‘book smart’ like I am. He's great in so many other ways, but books and learning are important to me -- like values-level important! Is this going to work???”
I asked Louisa how Gerald got to be so smart, if not from books. What kind of knowledge or wisdom did he possess? And did they have interesting, stimulating conversations?
She admitted that much of his wisdom was experience-based and that while he wouldn't touch a book, he didn't seem to mind if she read or listened to books on their Sunday afternoon drives together – which sometimes prompted stimulating, in-depth conversations. While she longed for him to grab a book off her bookshelf or coffee table and ask her about it, he at least wasn't criticizing her or ridiculing her for being such a bookworm.
I'm glad she noted this. If "learning" or "wisdom" are the core value for Louisa, she doesn't have a values-based mismatch, she has a "path" mismatch. (And a path mismatch is easily overcome, my loves.) The roads or paths to education are many. Everyone's journey is different. I asked her if she could find ways to ask Gerald about the things that contributed to his body of knowledge and shaped his world views. Could she find value in his literary-less route to the perspectives he held and the applied knowledge he carried?
She nodded, blinking as she processed this, and agreed that she could give that a try.
My client Kevin had a similar problem with his new girlfriend Sara. And it was actually causing micro-aggressions in the form of passive-aggressive comments, icy sideways looks, and under-the-breath criticisms.
Sara was a neat-freak. She kept her house (which was "home base" for the relationship) excruciatingly tidy with not a thing out of place. "She could have a magazine photo shoot in there at any given time!" Kevin lamented. "Don't you dare leave a coffee cup or a Kleenex laying around! She lets me know that I leave messes behind -- and since it's her house and not mine, it's not just a cleanliness issue for her, it's a respect issue."
I got it. I have a family member who some might describe as "a little anal" about keeping things neat and clean. I both admire this trait and know how it feels to be a disappointment to the person for whom cleanliness is next to godliness!
Kevin, like Louisa, added that there was so much good about the relationship, he couldn't believe that this one thing was poised to sabotage the whole deal.
I asked him what would need to happen in order for him to make an effort to be tidier on a consistent basis. I also asked him what would need to happen for Sara to be more relaxed about her housekeeping standards.
He got quiet while he thought about it. He chewed his lip, looked around the room (as if the answer might be hiding in the corner!) and shook his head. "I've no idea," he said.
"Would you like to hear a few suggestions of things other people have tried?" I asked him.
He took a deep breath and nodded his head vigorously.
"You could set an alert on your phone to go off at a certain time each morning or evening to remind you to make a quick sweep of the house and look for anything you may have left behind -- dirty dishes, dirty socks, your toiletries, etc. Spend a few minutes rounding up all your stuff before you leave for work or before you go to bed. Don't announce that you're doing it; just do it and let her notice it."
"And," I added, "Chances are that when this happens on a regular basis, she'll instinctively relax a bit on her high standards of cleanliness. It may not happen instantly and you won't change her fundamental values around cleanliness, but she just might find a little more patience around this topic."
Kevin agreed to try it. He thought it would help. And even if it didn't, he would know he tried every tool he had to fix the problem -- and he would be able to assess the relationship from a place of confidence, generosity, and pride in himself.
Yet another client, Lin, was facing a similar but more concerning problem: She had started seeing Kai last fall, met his 3 best friends around the holidays, and discovered that They. Were. Awful.
"Boorish. Juvenile. Obnoxious. Tiresome," is how she described them. “They think they’re funny, but they’re not.” She was horrified that the man she was falling for had such apparently terrible taste in friends. "Am I overreacting?" she asked me. "Should I not be making such a big deal of it?!?"
This one is a little trickier. There's this saying about how we are the cumulative influence of the 5 people we're closest to and spend the most time with. The concept is that we should choose our friends wisely because we absorb their attitudes and beliefs (just as they absorb ours). If, collectively, they set the bar high, we rise. And, if you’re surrounded by a bunch of jerks, chances are, you’re a jerk too! This is the perspective behind mastermind groups: surround yourself with like-minded people who will lift you up, support you, and inform you in the ways that will further your growth and development.
Lin wasn't crazy to be concerned that Kai seemed to have no filter for picking friends.
"I see a couple of options and opportunities here," I told her.
“It's not uncommon for women to be slightly more discerning about relationships -- and for 20-something men (as Kai is) to have carry-over friendships from college or early workplaces. These will not necessarily be sustained, lifelong friendships. So, we can cut him a little bit of slack here. These may be his friends in this particular phase or chapter of his life.”
Lin can also make a concerted effort to introduce Kai to her friends -- and their significant others. Through this exposure, Kai may start to experience the value of "elevated friendships" where conversations are richer and connections are deeper. When a couple has couple friends they can talk to and have experiences with, it creates a sort of glue in the relationship.
"So, before you do that," I told her, "Take some time to think about where you see this relationship going. If you adore just about everything else about Kai and you're compatible in the ways that are meaningful to you both, then it just may be worth the time and effort to expose him to your crowd."
"The other thing I would take a look at," I added, "Is Kai's family. Have you met them? Are they ‘good people?’ What traits and characteristics does he get from them? They have been and will likely continue to be an influence in his life -- and one that can well counteract or balance out the negative traits of his guy friends."
Lin exhaled with relief. "Ok," she nodded. "I haven't met his family yet because they live out of town. And there's so much promise in this relationship, I don't want to chuck it over this one thing. I'll do what you said."
I reminded her that as she and Kai continued to get closer, he would likely spend less time with his guy friends and she would likely spend a little less time with her girlfriends -- and this would happen naturally without either one of them meaning for it to. While they would hopefully make an effort to continue to nurture those outside friendships, this shift happens organically as a couple builds a life together.
What my clients continually remind me of is this: We are all right for each other in so many ways. And yes, we are wrong for each other in some pretty glaring ways as well. Sometimes, in spite of those areas where we rub each other the wrong way, we can admit we've found a pretty wonderful person!
Every single one of us has faults and flaws that will inevitably come up in a relationship and make us a little less "desirable" than the image we portrayed at first meet. But these can be navigated with mutual empathy, patience, and respect.
Maybe Louisa will surprise Gerald by taking an active interest in his hobbies and interests since he doesn’t share her love of books.
Maybe Kevin will surprise Sara by doing a major house cleaning at his place and inviting her over!
Maybe Lin will surprise Kai by agreeing to tolerate his ridiculous friends on special occasions like his birthday.
Look for ways your significant other might be "good enough" -- and for ways you can raise your game to be "good enough" for them as well. And, if you haven't yet met someone wonderful you'd like to be in a romantic relationship with (and you would just dream of having the types of problems my clients had! lol) well, I can help with that. Let's talk about how date coaching OR matchmaking can solve that problem. Make 2020 your year for love -- and your year to be "good enough!"
About Suzanna Mathews
Suzanna is a writer-turned-media personality-turned-educator-turned-entrepreneur who's passionate about helping single men and women to experience love and social connection. As a dating coach and matchmaker she is responsible for creating mindset tools, social strategies, and digital strategies that help her clients elevate dating and deepen connections. When she isn't working, you'll find Suzanna listening to EDM music and trying new recipes.