In my work with couples again and again, I hear each person discuss in great detail the flaws and problems of their partner. Seldom do I hear someone say, “You know this is what I have to work on in this relationship. This is where I take us off course.” Instead, I hear something like this:
Sally: “You never talk. It’s like I’m living alone!”
Hank: “I would talk if you weren’t nagging all the time. Did you ever think of that?”
Sally: “Well, if you did something around here, I wouldn’t have to nag. Did you ever think of that?”
…and on and on they go, with little, if any, resolution to many exquisitely described problems. Instead each partner holds steadfast to the idea that their partner is wrong and is obviously the problem. It’s as if they believe the world will come crashing down on them if they admit they too have flaws. In my experience, the opposite happens — the world opens up to them.
Once people are able to accept the idea that all of us have our “edges” (areas where we struggle relationally), then we can learn to work these edges rather than spending all of our energy denying we have any. Human beings are …HUMAN! We have our faults, foibles and imperfections. That’s the nature of being human. The sooner we can accept this and begin to get clear on what our specific edges are, the sooner we can begin to consciously work on changing them. It is perfectly okay to have edges, it is not okay to have them and not work on them.
People have this fantasy that “if only” their partner was kind or respectful or caring or _________ (fill in the blank), their relationship would be great. Chances are your partner is thinking the same thing about you –- if only you would…
Challenge: Take some time to think or journal on your edges (e.g. Do you struggle with your anger? Do you withdraw? Are you emotionally distant?). If you are not sure what your edges are, listen to your partner’s complaints about you. Chances are, what you’ve been defensive about for years is what you need to look at the most. Once you are clear on what your edges are, be forgiving of yourself, remember that we all have them and then commit to working on them everyday.