Andrea Syrtash, a relationship expert, talked to Mike and me for all of five seconds before she nailed our #1 problem. And apparently, we are not special. This happens in almost every long term relationship.
One of the first things I ask a new couple I meet is, “What attracted you to each other?” since there’s a lot to learn about a relationship’s dynamic through this question.
It’s not uncommon for many of us to get annoyed by the very same qualities and characteristics that initially drew us to our partners. So – if you used to think, “I love that he’s so spontaneous!” later you’ll probably complain that he never makes plans. Or – if you just loved that he was so organized, his anal retentiveness may now translate into him being way too uptight.
It’s also notable to mention that our brains change – literally change – between the falling in love and attachment stage of a relationship. (More on that in a future post.)
During the first few months when you’re falling for someone, everything is charming, even things that are objectively super annoying. The way he screams at the TV during a soccer match? Adorbs. The way she interrupts people when she’s excited about an idea? So cute!
It’s worth taking a pause to recall what was once charming about your partner and what initially attracted you to each other. In a long-term relationship, it’s helpful to remember your falling-in-love story. How did you feel on dates with your partner in the early days? Why did you think this had real potential? What made your partner stand out from the rest?
I’ve asked Ilana and Mike to think about the same question I’ll pose to you: Is there anything that currently drives you crazy (not in a good way) that was one of the qualities that you used to admire in your partner?
This exercise may remind you that some of the quirks or behaviors that you now wish he’d change are the very same ones that once made your partner stand out from the rest.
What did you like about that character trait again? Think hard!
When you answer this question, you’re more likely to appreciate your partner’s way of being a little more again. After all, there’s a fine line between endearing and annoying. Sometimes it’s a matter of remembering the feelings that drew you in in the first place.
Ilana and Mike’s response:
To answer Andrea’s “homework,” one of the big things that attracted me to Mike was that he seemed take charge and responsible. He was a planner who got things done. Like an actual adult.
If you ask Mike why he was attracted to me at the beginning, he will tell you the opposite. He liked that I was more creative and laid back.
Ten years later, those are also the qualities that we butt heads over. I now interpret Mike’s need to plan every last detail as being too structured and controlling and Mike interprets my laid back nature as being disorganized and forgetful.
I guess I need to remember that if Mike wasn’t so on top of things, I’d have to pick up the slack which would leave me totally overwhelmed. Mike has to remember that if I was more organized, he wouldn’t get to do everything his way which would drive him crazy.
What quality about your partner was attractive at first and how did that translate over time?
Andrea Syrtash is a relationship expert and author of the book He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s A Good Thing). You can read more about Andrea here or follow @andreasyrtash on twitter.
You and Mike are exactly me and my husband!!!
It was his caring nature. We met as teenagers, so we had a lot of group dates. We were at a haunted house with a group of friends, and being dumb teenagers that did not want to ruin our outfits/costumes with jackets we were all freezing. Chris, my future husband, took off his jacket and put it over my shoulders. He thought I was cute, and he was so handsome as well. At the end of the night he gave me his number and said call me and the rest is history. That was October 1993. We were 16, we dated for 7 years, got married at 23 in 2000 and now have a 19 month old and a baby due next month. He’s still a thoughtful person, concerned about my comfort, I wish he was more of a do-er around the house. He has a tendency to do chores lack luster and would rather hang out then keep a tidy house. I mean who wouldn’t, but we own a home and chores must be done.
Boredom is the main cause of disaster in a relationship. I used to go on same old boring dates with my boyfriend (now husband) and then I found Michael Weffelizza book 300 dates. It’s really made my life more interesting.
I’m definitely WAY more spontaneous than Evan is. In the beginning, he liked that because it was refreshing to him. I liked that he was organized and in control. It still works for us for the most part – but the inflexibility that he has due to his organizational skills don’t translate well in the toddler and kindergarten years. That’s where we tend to butt heads the most. I’m free spirited enough that when the kids melt down or dawdle I can rearrange things to fit in a new window of time and still get most things accomplished. But Evan loses his mind and freaks out. So really what happens is for the time being, I have four kids – one of them just happens to be 47. 🙂
But… when he travels for extended periods of time, I miss the consistency that he offers. I start to feel like I’m free falling after about the second or third week that he’s gone. So when he finally comes back home, I feel grateful. For us, his travel schedule both drives me insane and allows me to fully appreciate him a little more upon return. Sigh. It works… but it’s weird!
My hubby and I met my junior year of high school. We dated all through college and got engaged in 2010 and will be married next month 6 years. It’s really hard to say what it first was that attracted me to him. We were so young and foolish. We had lots of fun together whether it was taking a random drive or laughing and he always was there for me (still is). Today, when we have the occasional date night or day I see glimpses of us and I want to get that back, to remember who we were when we were 16 and 17. A fun loving care-free couple. It’s hard-families and our son, work/stress and responsibilities that enter the home force that to be the focus and not the fun we once had. How do you make fun the priority in our busy technology filled life?
This is spot on.
Bill and I have been together for 22 years, married for almost 20. (Gulp.)
I absolutely agree that the things we loved in the beginning have at times become frustrating over the years. But reframing it this way – remembering that this is what we wanted/needed from each other – is just perfect.
I liked how decisive she was when we first met, she knew her own mind, it was refreshing. Now 40 years later I find her to be much, too much controlling in our relationship.
I’m free spirited enough that when the kids melt down or dawdle I can rearrange things to fit in a new window of time and still get most things accomplished. Today, when we have the occasional date night or day I see glimpses of us and I want to get that back, to remember who we were when we were 16 and 17. https://chateasy.me/chatrandom/