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What You Love to Hate about Your Partner


To the average person, it may seem that the physical/mental/emotional components that make up the majority of the world’s romantic relationships are completely random, unexplained, and entirely reliant upon the helpless process we call “falling in love.” For a relationship therapist on the other hand, after seeing couple after couple for issues involving communication, trust, finances, sex, parenting, etc., the recipe that creates particular bonds and attachments among people is soon revealed as something much more logical (perhaps, even intentional) in nature.

We may think we are falling for others for very specific and obvious reasons; for all the things we could ever want in a partner and for everything we just generally consider a “good match” to be. We think-up and write-out our love checklists, complete with our preferences for appearance, success, goals, and other ideal partner-traits and this helps us to believe that our love connections will be “satisfaction-guaranteed.”

The truth, however, is that our core attraction to others often has nothing to do with any desire that makes it on to that checklist. Surprised? That’s understandable. After all, you’ve put so much thought, time, and energy into figuring out who you want to share your life with---it’s only fair that your hard work should pay off, right?

Before getting too discouraged, the purpose here is not to discredit all of those wonderful traits you’ve sought out/found in your partner. This should of course be celebrated as you’ve done your part to secure “a good one.” The real purpose here is to instead call attention to the very odd and yet very real fact that what the deepest core of us is most attracted to in our partners actually turns out to be the exact same thing we despise about them…

Our truest feelings of attraction to our partners are based much more in our needs than in our desires. Unfortunately, we tend to be more conscious and in tune with our wants than we are with our needs and it is for this reason that our love checklists end up falling short in preparing us for our romantic experiences the way we expect them to. Luckily, nature/instinct has our backs when it comes to what we need and, like in so many other areas of life, it sets forth a purposeful and necessary balance that ultimately helps us (just unfortunately in very specific ways we happen to be oblivious to).

To better explain, consider for a moment these very common couple dynamics: Selfless/Selfish, Outgoing/Reserved, Worried/Laid-back, and Safe-player/Risk-taker. Couples made up of seemingly-opposing traits like these often end up in my office with complaints of “not feeling on the same page” and wondering “how they ever ended up together in the first place.”

Ironically, what I’ve found in my work with such dynamics is that the problems shared by my couples are actually, themselves, the answers; the core reasons for their deep-rooted misunderstood connections.

So let’s break this down:

-It makes sense that a Selfless Personality Type (always putting others first and self, last) would never actively and consciously seek out a partner who is solo-minded, self-involved, lacking social conscientiousness, etc. and yet, still often finds itself connected to a more selfish personality. The Selfish Personality Type (big on individuality and self-care priorities) would be just as unlikely to actively and consciously seek out a partner who thrives on care-taking, advice-giving, etc. and yet, somehow still finds itself connected to a selfless personality.