Are You A Good Partner? Probably Not.

In an article in this month’s Psychology Today, Rebecca Webber writes that “At some point in every relationship it’s natural to ask whether your partner is the right one for you. But if that’s as far as you go, you’re missing the opportunity of your life.”

“Sooner or later, there comes a moment in all relationships when you lie in bed, roll over, look at the person next to you and think it’s all a dreadful mistake,” says Boston family therapist Terrence Real. It happens a few months to a few years in. “It’s an open secret of American culture that disillusionment exists. I go around the country speaking about ‘normal marital hatred.’ Not one person has ever asked what I mean by that. It’s extremely raw.”

What should you do when the initial attraction to you partner wears off? “I call it the first day of your real marriage,” Real says. It’s not a sign that you’ve chosen the wrong partner. It is the signal to grow as an individual — to take responsibility for your own frustrations.”

Finally, one other thing that caught my eye:

“Although there are no guarantees, there are stable personal characteristics that are generally good and generally bad for relationships. On the good side: sense of humor; even temper; willingness to overlook your flaws; sensitivity to you and what you care about; ability to express caring. On the maladaptive side: chronic lying; chronic worrying or neuroticism; emotional overreactivity; proneness to anger; propensity to harbor grudges; low self-esteem; poor impulse control; tendency to aggression; self-orientation rather than an other-orientation.”

Sound like anything you may have read before?

Read the entire article here and you’ll quickly see that it’s everything I try to teach myself. Accepting your partner. Being more patient and understanding. Taking responsibility for your own actions. Not getting too caught up by chemistry. Finding your own humility.

People who get these concepts can create a healthy relationship; people who don’t will find that long-term romance may not be in the cards.

Seriously. Do yourself a favor and commit this piece to memory.

Your thoughts, as always, are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    starthrower68

    A list of what we should be looking for in someone but more importantly, how we should behave ourselves….

  2. 2
    Evan Marc Katz

    I think the lack of reaction to this piece is telling.

    Have we ever seen any of this in the comments section?

    “Emotional overreactivity; proneness to anger; propensity to harbor grudges; low self-esteem; poor impulse control; tendency to aggression; self-orientation rather than an other-orientation.”

    Money quote: “Marriage is not about finding the right person. It’s about becoming the right person.”

    1. 2.1
      Caroline

      Thanks for this article Evan.

      It’s a bit like we are soldiers at base camp, and you are our sergeant having us unpack our equipment and think about what we’ll need for the next battle.

      The abovementioned maladaptive personal characteristics are readily displayed by my sister. When I’ve felt sad and frustrated that she and I aren’t close (& never have been as adults), my dad says that “it’s because you aren’t assertive”, or “start by asking forgiveness for hurting her feelings” (“Dad, I’ve done that the last five times but she doesn’t ever apologise for anything”),  while her husband says ” you haven’t had a chance to go out for some coffee, and talk”. So there I was in the hamster wheel of trying harder while she does nothing to change herself or the dynamic. My friends all said “she has major issues, and they are not about you”. How refreshing to have a psychologist’s recent opinion “Caroline, you are in an abusive relationship with a covert/victim narcissist”.

      I only came to this realisation after dating the most recent narcissist, and was struck by the parallels in the dynamic with him and my sister. The end result of both relationships was me feeling in pain, unloved, disconnected and alone.

      These very maladaptive traits were the things that became painfully obvious, and were utterly destructive and made any part of the relationship unsustainable. I was gratified to see some discernible progress on my path of personal growth, so there is an upside. I want to be better equipped for a healthy relationship, to bring more to it than I have before. It’s also reduced the time spent thinking “could I have done something else to avoid this endpoint?” since the last relationship ended.

      Oh BTW, in one of your Love U podcasts, I liked the point that you made that “with the right man you can do nothing wrong, and with the wrong man you can do nothing right”. It’s been freeing to understand the implications of that, and where boundary lines exist with regard to responsibility for behaviour and responses in a relationship between two people.

      Thank you again.

  3. 3
    Anita

    Right on the money, Evan!  We can’t control the external (outside of ourselves), only the internal (ourselves).  I guess it is easier to lay blame on others rather than take responsibility for our own actions.  I guess sometimes one does not want to look into the mirror because the TRUTH is painful to look at. 

  4. 4
    Angela

    For me i think there is an element of fear that some of the things mentioned in this article will be “discovered” in ME when i do finally let go with someone again, and this then creates that fear that he will leave!

    I think “finding your own humility” is a key phrase in this article.

    1. 4.1
      Mark

      You are healthy and insightful Angela … keep going the right relationship will evolve.

  5. 5
    Ray

    Evan@2

    I read an article years ago that did studies on newlyweds… then tracked which ones stayed together and which ones split.  The person doing the study was able to predict with 90% accuracy which ones would split… and those were the ones who didn’t fight well.  

    The message was the way people resolve conflict was the biggest factor in whether they stayed together or not…  All of the qualities you listed above greatly reduce the likelihood that a conflict will be resolved satisfactorily.  

    Another book, “Emotional Intelligence” predicts that people who are the most successful in life tend to exhibit an ability to delay gratification and exhibit a tendency towards empathy.  It is alot harder to stay mad at someone once you’ve assessed the situation from their point of view.

       
            

    1. 5.1
      Caroline

      Ray

      It’s an interesting phrase you used ‘fight well’. This was something I subconsciously came to put on the top of my list for desired attributes in a partner.

      In my family, there was a lot of invalidating of feelings, attempts at belittling and discrediting, triangulating and and emotional blackmail. The worst was being shouted down by the controlling person, and feeling trampled on. Add to that silent treatment, and you get the dysfunctional picture. Nothing could be respectfully discussed or resolved, and therefore no intimacy or growth was possible, only pain, and more pain. This was love to me. This was my normal.

      I have been determined to experience better in my intimate relationships. I want something that brings life, and adds value to my life.

      The more I read and discover about healthy relationship dynamics, the more it is impressed on me that I must have, as a basic necessity,  the willingness and skills to ‘fight well’.

      I am working on the skills part. I love (& attract) strong, extroverted men with a quick intellect, but I’m tired of having them use that verbal dexterity against me. I need time to process what’s said, and to consider what I’ll say.

  6. 6
    Michelle

    I’ve worked very hard over the years since my separation and divorce to work on these:  “Emotional overreactivity; proneness to anger; propensity to harbor grudges; low self-esteem; poor impulse control; tendency to aggression; self-orientation rather than an other-orientation”.  It’s now time to apply what I’ve learned.

    As a woman who is in the beginning stages of a real relationship, probably for the first time in my life, this article is exactly what I’ve been working on.  Checking MY expectations carefully.  And I’ll tell you, when I’m brutally honest with myself about that, I find it’s MY expectations that cause MY unhappiness.  I look forward to continuing on the journey with my new man.

    1. 6.1
      Tanya

      I’m right there with you Michelle. I’ve been with a really wonderful guy for a year now. I find myself having to constantly weigh my expectations against reality. I’m 34 and have not been in a real relationship before this one. That’s a lot of years for expectations and hopes to build up. I get upset and angry when things aren’t going the way that I think they should, and then I feel awful afterward. I can see that I have a great guy who tries to make me happy. He understands that most of my unhappiness is coming from within and there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s tough stuff to work through. 

  7. 7
    CK @ GodMenandMoney.com

    @ Evan…yes. the lack of comments is very telling. 

    Can the choir say…”ouch”…lol.  

  8. 8
    jbv

    It is an interesting article because it is helping me realize why I didn’t feel like the relationship I in was working.  I am realizing that I had a role in it (communication) but the self-orientation, impulse control, etc were some serious issues of my partner.

  9. 9
    Trenia

    Thanks for sharing this article. It was so refreshing in the sense that it takes some of the pressure off to be perfect. It’s difficult to look in the mirror and focus on your own faults and what you can bring to a relationship. But the real challenge is to get to the real things you should be focusing on in the midst of all the other things women are told they need to change about themselves to meet a man: lose weight, dress sexier, be a better cook, the list is endless and quite frankly exhausting.

    I am definitely guilty of some of those behaviors and plan on working on them, but I don’t want women to think that you need to have all of these issues worked out before meeting the right person.  

  10. 10
    The InBetweener

    “There is no such thing as two people meant for each other,” says Michelle Givertz. “It’s a matter of adjusting and adapting.”


    These are somewhat sophisticated concepts for the average human being to digest as most humans are selfish when it comes to investing themselves into a relationship I think. 

    However, I do concur with the article.  

    1. 10.1
      Mark

      Good to know you have risen above the average human being. Bravo! 

  11. 11
    BC

    I simply have nothing to add.  There’s a lot of truth there, sure.  Common adult sense also makes it pretty darn apparent that every minute of every day of an enduring relationship is not going to be constant thrills and nonstop romance, right?  As I’ve said before, I’ve been in my current relationship for years, and although I’m not interested in marriage as its of no importance to me, I still take my relationship very seriously and don’t just throw in the towel if things aren’t as perfect as they were on day one.  Some days its way more perfect, quite honestly.  Ebb and flow…normal, good, *real* life.  I will admit that I am 100% thoroughly spoiled rotten though…and that works for me!  😉

  12. 12
    sharon

    I’ve lived with my friend for 7 years and while we have similar passions and interests, she’s neatfreak I’m a slob, she’s type A and I’m laidback. We bicker about how to discipline our cats and who’s doing the dishes and have faced serious health problems and each others crazy family drama. It’s probably one of the most fulfilling relationships in my life. We refer to ourselves as platonic life partners because it’s pretty much true.

    I know how to work for a relationship. I know there are days I feel smothered and I can be resentful. The more I read this blog the more I’m struck with how my relationship fulfills most of the definitions of a marriage. The only thing I’m missing in my current relationship is chemistry and attraction.

    It’s going to take a pretty sexy bastards to wanna leave.
     

    1. 12.1
      Mark

      This is the most honest post I’ve ever read.

  13. 13
    Tanya

    Great post – spot on. I believe that we find what we look for: treat someone like the “right” partner, and that’s what they become. Look for fault, and you’ll find plenty. The problem is, most of us don’t have enough personal insight to understand the source of our own issues that shape our expectations. It’s easier to point the finger of blame at someone else, rather than yourself.

  14. 14
    maria

    I think this article is fantastic!! It is very helpful to me. It all comes down to the basics we learned in kindergarten! Thank you, Evan! 🙂

  15. 15
    Donna

    Very meaningful article, and thank you for sharing it.  I’ve already forwarded it to several friends…one in a new relationship, one about to give up on her marriage, and one to the new love interest in my own life.  Thanks !

  16. 16
    Goldie

    I agree, but only to a point. IMO, communication and compatibility are important. My ex and I tried for years. In the end, we were living separate lives — separate finances, separate bedrooms, separate friends, interests, hobbies, separate everything. We pretty much stopped fighting at that point, because there’s nothing to fight about with a complete stranger, even if he’s living in your house. You just don’t care enough to argue about anything. BTW it’s very easy to stay together for as long as you want with these arrangements. All you have to do is do nothing. Wake up, take kids to school, go to work, come home, make dinner, eat, sleep, repeat every day until death occurs. We could’ve easily made it to our 50th anniversary like that. But, what’s the point? Life is short and you won’t get another, why do this to yourself and your partner? I started thinking about moving out when I realized that I’d started to look forward to his being out of the house — going out with the boys, weekend trips, etc. Like, I was counting days till the next time he’ll be gone. I hadn’t counted on ever finding a better relationship when I moved out. I wasn’t even sure if better relationships really existed, or they all sucked like ours did. It just got to the point when living on your own was better than living together.
     
    Another thing that I disagree with the article on is, sure, taking personal responsibility for communication issues and not blaming everything on the other side is a great thing. But take it too far and you’ll be blaming everything on yourself, including things you have no control over. You’ll still have communication issues in your relationship, except you’ll be a basket case on top of that. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere. There has to be a point at which you say: I’ve tried, I’ve done all I could, but my partner doesn’t want to communicate the way I do, or doesn’t want to work on our relationship, I’m washing my hands off it as there is nothing more I can do on my own to resurrect this relationship. That’s it, I’m done.

    1. 16.1
      ali

      I agree with #16 Goldie. The article is fantastic for reminding you to work on your relationship and look at how you can make changes for the better. If you are in a decent relationship with someone that you share core values with, it’s an important reminder. 
      However, there is a danger in going too far the other way. I stayed for years with a partner that I wasn’t happy with. I hated myself for judging him and not respecting him. I kept thinking that I should be nicer, I should give him more time. Years later, we were we were living separate lives.  

  17. 17
    Roxanna

    Evan,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now. When I first came across your website, I’ve felt like a kid at a candy store: you’re so much more than the average dating/relationships/matchmaking couches. You go against the very grain of the American culture that promotes immediate gratification, the sense of entitlement to the “best of the best”, the never-ending, constitutionally-justified “pursuit of happiness” — that is the very reason for the 50% divorce rate in America. I came from a Easter European country where marriage was not a Cindirella’s dream of a prince on a white horse but a continuous effort of compromise, forgiveness, kindness and appreciation. This article is such a great confirmation about what you’ve been teaching all along. Many, MANY thanks for the posting.

  18. 18
    Ellen

    Once again, Goldie has articulated it very well. Me, personally, I stopped reading advice in magazines, self help lit (except metaphysical which I adore) years ago for the reasons Goldie describes: They too often put the entire onus on the reader, cause that’s the target market. & don’t take conditions like narcissism, addictions, etc. into account which are game changers. A marriage, relationship can only work if both put effort in it. Listen, Evan is the rare exception. Here’s a truism, NOT a generalization based on 58 yrs. living~ Women tend to be the emotional caretaker in relationships, so when the woman throws in the towel, the relationship is just doomed!
     
     And I think people agonize too much over failure. I feel God himself broke up my first marriage and approved of my throwing in the towel on my second. Like everything else in the West, people seem to brag endlessly about their happy unions, be strangely competitive about it all. There are very, very important lessons to be learned from so~called defeat my friends. For me, in the end, God alone exists and the rest is illusion. As George Harrison said and Im paraphrasing, ” when you strip everything away, there is only God.”

  19. 19
    Raymond Bork

    How about rolling over in bed, looking at your partner and thinking,”Am I a disappointment, what can I do to to make living with me an experience that makes you happy”?

    1. 19.1
      Kelly

      Exactly!  I LOVE this reply… thanks Raymond.

  20. 20
    Teresa

    This article assumes that both individuals in the relationship/marriage have no excessive baggage and are mentally healthly.  I read many articles and books with similar advice when I was trying to save my marriage.  In my case my ex h had numerous personal issues that precluded any chance of our having a healthy relationship.  We were living separate lives he was more than happy to continue that way indefinitely but I wanted more so I chose to end the marriage.  
    People seem to think that you just wake up one day and say I am not happy I think I will get a divorce NOT!  My divorce was the most excruciatingly painful event of my life bar none.  But staying in a marriage of convenience would have been even more painful in the long run.
    That’s why it’s best to take as much time as possible before getting married.

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