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?