Portland Relationship Counselor: Falling Out of Love with a Partner’s Traits

August 27, 2014 by

There’s some truth to the expression “opposites attract”, but what happens when the traits that you used to love most in your partner start to seem incompatible with your own?

Some researchers call these traits “fatal attractions”, and they’re surprisingly common in relationships. For example, if you’re a somewhat reserved person, you might initially be drawn to your partner’s gregarious personality. Or if you’re a spontaneous person who has trouble staying organized, you might appreciate the balance a more level-headed partner brings to the relationship.

But over time, you might be able to think your outgoing partner spends too much time out with friends, or your practical partner is too unwilling to loosen up.

Why Does “Fatal Attraction” Happen?

One reason for this “fatal attraction” phenomenon may be that we tend to idealize our partner at the beginning of the relationship. When you’re in what’s often called the Honeymoon Phase, you spend lots of time thinking about your partner and want to be with them as much as possible, but you may not have gotten to know them as a fully rounded person yet.

Because of this, you might unconsciously fill in what you don’t know with what you want from your partner—turning them into an ideal instead of a person. When you get to know your partner better and discover that there’s something you don’t like about a trait you once considered positive, it can be a rude awakening.

Imago therapists believe another reason for this is because each person’s self image, which is formed in childhood by interactions with parents and family members, may be left incomplete due to emotional wounds and conflicts, and as adults we are attracted to people who seem to complete our self image. For example, a people pleaser might initially be drawn to a person who is somewhat demanding and clear about what they want, but over time this once attractive behavior may aggravate old emotional wounds and start to seem domineering.

How to Cope When You Begin to Resent a Partner’s Traits

Starting to dislike one of your partner’s traits doesn’t necessarily have to spell doom for the relationship. After all, it’s unfair to expect a partner to be perfect, and it’s natural for there to be times when you don’t see eye to eye. But when you find yourself disliking a partner’s trait, you do need to be proactive in addressing the relationship issue.

Talk to your partner about how you feel without casting the blame on them. For example, instead of saying something like, “The fact that you can’t take anything seriously makes me so angry”, you could say something like, “Sometimes I get upset because I feel like you’re shrugging off serious situations, but I know you probably see things differently and would like a chance to explain.”

You and your partner should take turns listening and talking about the issue and coming up with a plan or compromise to handle it. You should also take the time to talk about the traits you do like in your partner and to think about how your opposing traits bring balance to the relationship.

If you feel that you can’t get past a certain trait, consider meeting with a Portland relationship counselor before giving up. Attending relationship counseling may help you remember why you fell in love with your partner in the first place—and encourage you to work on strengthening your bond.