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Marriage: Traits that Made Your Mate Great Become Traits that Grate

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Author: Jeff Herring

Article source: Used with author's permission.

Have you ever wondered what attracts us to potential partners?

The dictionary defines complementary as "one of two parts that complete each other" or "mutually providing each other's needs."

One of the first questions I ask couples when they come in for counseling is, "What first attracted you to each other?"

Typical responses are that it was the other person's looks or sense of humor.

Once we get past the superficial attractions, what usually comes up is a complementary characteristic, something that might be missing in oneself.

An example might be of someone who grew up in a family with little physical affection who is attracted to someone is is very affectionate physically.

Somehow, what we tend to look for in a partner are characteristics that we lack. We seem to be drawn to a sense of completion.

While this can paint a nice picture of teamwork, the process eventually begins to break down. Inevitably, what happens is that things that were once attractive become the same things that cause irritation down the line.

The physical affection that was once so attractive is now smothering. What was once a wonderful sense of humor is now seen as an inability to take things seriously.

Bob and Mary

Let's take for example a fic tional couple we'll call Bob and Mary. Mary was attracted to Bob's leadership and planning abilities. Bob was attracted to Mary's spontaneity and vision for the future.

Now in business together, they have wonderfully complementary skills: Mary's ability to dream and create, coupled with Bob's practical skills: However, Bob sees Mary as a dreamer who never follows through. And Mary sees Bob as a cynic who nags her.

The reality is that both of them are a little bit right and a little bit wrong. Each strength brings with it an inherent weakness. They each need to learn from and be a little more like each other, which is why they went looking for each other in the first place.

Another example we'll call Mr. Neat and Ms. Clean. Mr. Neat can stand in a shower filled with soap scum as long as everything's in its place. Ms. Clean can have piles and piles of junk scattered about as long as the piles are clean: This couple could have a very neat and clean house or a I real mess on their hands.

For a couple to be a productive team, the differences need to be appreciated. This can be accomplished through the following steps:

1) simply appreciating and honoring the differences;

2) understanding the differences as a matter of. style and not a matter of right and wrong;

3) "trying on" the other person's style, to see what there might be to learn;

4) understanding they are not in competition with each other; that they are on the same team.

Visit for tips and tools for creating and growing a great relationship. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 10 day e-program on how to enrich your relationship today, from relationship coach and expert Jeff Herring.

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