The Relationship Conundrum

A few months ago I wrote that everyone in a committed intimate relationship annoys their partner in differing ways to differing degrees. Annoyance is a natural, common thread. Forget the “committed intimate” adjectives, people in relationships eventually end up annoying one another.

There are two contrasting approaches to this reality. 1) Change the person’s behaviors. Continually remind them to turn off the lights, teach them to listen more patiently, insist that they drive just like you. Or 2) Accept their differences. Come to grips with the fact that they’re most likely never going to change and that some of their behaviors are probably always going to be annoying.

I’m an educator so I’m predisposed to believe in the power of reason and the potential for change. But my experience muddies the water. For example, I’ve nagged Fifteen about turning off the lights in our house for years to zero effect. I finally threw in the towel a year or so ago, so now I just turn them off myself. A person complains that her partner doesn’t fully appreciate her Herculean efforts to work, take care of the house, and co-raise the children. Similarly, he feels she doesn’t fully appreciate his contributions to the family’s well-being. They’re playing the most dangerous of relationship games, the no-win “I’m out appreciating you” competition.

I vacillate between one and two depending on the conflict and the day, but if I had to choose, I believe “accepting their differences” mode holds more promise for minimizing interpersonal conflict.

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