Monday, March 19, 2012

How Can I Live with My Partner's Flaws?

My friend N. was complaining to me about her husband.  She said, "When I met him, I knew he was 80% of what I was looking for, but sometimes the missing 20% is really hard to live without."  I shared that idea with a number of female friends.
Yesterday, one of them wrote me saying "Sometimes the missing 20% feels like 50%."

Is this a girl way of thinking?

I asked my husband, "What do men do when they don't get what they want in a relationship?  Do they quantify it?  Do they whine to their men friends, drink beer, have affairs, work more?"

"They start conversations," he said, stifling a giggle.  Then added that he wouldn't do that, but imagines there are men who do.

Whether it's 20%, 50% or whatever percent, the thing that is missing (thoughtfulness, conversation, attention, affection, shared values, shared activities, sex, fun, humour, health, creativity, whatever it is) is something we want.  Male, female, gay, straight, we all may experience some dissatisfaction with our current deeply loved, desperately needed, and most significant romantic partner.

The process is then 1) realizing that the person you chose doesn't have it in them to give, is unwilling to give it, or doesn't even understand that there is an "it"; 2) accepting that, yes, we knew going in; and 3) figuring out a way to give it to ourselves, live without it, or find it elsewhere.

And, yes, if possible, start a conversation.  You never know.


  1. I have found, the nature of compatibility is an ever fluctuating percentage. If we are lucky enough to find that 100% in a companion, a soul mate, if you will, how long can that perfection endure? We all have bad days. we have days when we are selfish and needy,and days when we feel not only is it better to receive than give, but it feels good to take.

    Perhaps the missing 20% is that quiet understanding and patience we try to have for both our own flaws and those of our loves.

    Perhaps it is within that 20% we find personal growth and our sense of adventure.

    After all, 80% is still an A, right?

  2. Also important to remember that we usually knew going in which of our needs would not be met (and we can appreciate how amazingly consistent our partners are in not meeting them). See Sept. 1 blog "What Did You Sign Up For?"

  3. I think I remember saying something like that but the percent was 70/30, and it's still true. I think it would be helpful to expand the male reaction you mention. Conversations about what? If they didn't notice to start a conversation before, ie. connect/"reach out" before, how is this comment relevant? Do I, once again, initiate?

    Personally, I'm really glad I'm in my late 50s and the kids are gone so I don't need much from him and can let a lot of this go. I can't image what it would be like to be around a guy who noticed and knew how to talk. I'm sure they are rare, gay or of another generation. The most helpful thing for us was to have his Asperger's diagnosed and for both of us to get up to speed on what that meant - how it impacted our (my) expectations. He simply cannot do certain things - the wiring isn't there, and the wiring's there for him to be easily overstimulated/whelmed by "stuff". One of the helpful pieces of info. was that he needs much less from me than I want to give. My giving was short circuiting him. What's helped me is understanding our limitations, having wonderful gal friends, and most important for me has been a sense of spirituality that is a day-to-day, living, breathing reality - something I can lean on and trust.

  4. As I grow older, no matter how much more I think I understand about life and relationships, it seems to me love will always be in some ways a mysterious thing.

    Re: living with your partner's flaws, to pass on a remark Alain used to quote:
    "I was looking for the perfect woman, and then I found her. The only problem was that she was looking for the perfect man."

  5. Nomi, writing from Israel, sent this:

    Of course,
    I am perfect.
    Being 100% myself,
    of course I deserve 100 from him.

    There comes a time,
    a sweet, humble moment,
    when I look in the mirror,
    and ask
    a more practical question:
    How can I be more
    of what he needs from me?
    How can I fill the spaces
    gouged in our bitten sphere
    by missed moments
    the times when I blanked,
    missed a beat,
    the times when I was the one
    who made both of us trip and fall?

    Better still,
    as we wrinkle together,
    cuddle our frail, imperfect frames
    softly into the worn familiar creases
    of this flawed, mistaking, comfortable love,
    Let us let go of visions.
    Let us celebrate the sheer longevity
    of our love itself.