Barbara L. Green, LCSW



"What do you do about a man?"

"What do you do about a man who has insisted on a hot bowl of soup for lunch every day for 50 years, even in the middle of the summer?  This was the question my grandmother Anna posed to me 30 years ago when I was studying to become a therapist.  I don't remember my answer, but I do know my grandparents were married for 68 years and that on most days my grandfather Morris did get his bowl of soup.  I'm also certain that if Anna had known of my grandfather's "soup fixation" before marriage, she would have still said, "I do."

I imagine that when they met, Anna was attracted to Morris's determination.  She could not have predicted that hot soup for lunch would become an irritating facet of that determination.  But what if she could have predicted it?  What if you knew before you married that your partner's generous nature would mean that in year 10 of your relationship s/he would insist on taking money from your child's college fund to help a friend in need?  What if your glimpse into the future indicated that your ambitious partner became a financial success, but rarely wanted to spend time with family?

Every personality trait has positive and negative facets.  Is there a way to avoid those negative facets?  Sadly, I think the answer is no; there are too many variables.  My tendency to multi-task and sometimes seem unfocused affects Peter in different ways at different times.  He likes my enthusiasm and energy, but sometimes those qualities interfere with my ability to listen well.  Peter's tendency to be steady and reliable is often soothing for me, sometimes frustrating and occasionally aggravating enough that I have to work hard to remember all that I love about him.  Perhaps the best we can do is to accept that every endearing personality trait contains the seeds of a potential conflict.  It's okay to dislike something in your partner, It's okay to complain about it and it's even okay to try and change it.  But ultimately when you love someone you have to find ways to cope with all of that person, even the parts you don't like.  There are no easy answers to how this is done, for most of us it is a part of the life long process of learning to be in relationship.