Dating coach Rachel Burnham answers your questions.
A Reader Asks:
I repeatedly find myself at this point in dating when I’m really liking the person, but now know them well enough to see their flaws as well. I’m not talking about superficial nitpicky issues or major red flags, but the sort of mid-level quirks that you know will grate on you horribly 20 years from now. It gives me an overwhelming urge to bail. My friends say I shouldn’t be letting debatable flaws influence my decision to continue a relationship, but I worry I’d be ignoring my instincts.
What do you think?
Rachel Burnham Responds:
The mind has a way of trying to escape reality because, let’s face it, fantasy is so much easier.
Let’s say you went on a date with a really good looking person who was intelligent, accomplished, kind, and treated you better than you have ever been treated before. Conversation was extremely comfortable. You felt as if you had so much in common and just didn’t want the date to end. You laughed, shared your hopes and dreams, and it seemed like time was standing still. Before you know it the two of you are going out more steadily and life has never been better.
Within a very short amount of time, you can easily build up this situation into something unrealistic. You run a high risk of escaping to a fantasy life with your fantasy date, conveniently forgetting to note the flaws (which all humans have).
As the dating continues, little habits, behaviors, flaws, and unattractive traits start to sneak up without your permission. Awkward silences are cropping up and are starting to feel uncomfortable. “Wait, I was so attracted to her in the beginning, but now I’m not sure.” “His laugh really grates on me, especially when he thinks he is so funny and I don’t.”
All people have flaws and traits that are not attractive — even YOU!
“What? Me? You mean I wouldn’t be a complete dream to live with? I thought everyone loves my obsessive cleaning habits and constant chatter. I thought nobody could notice my forgetfulness and lack of financial responsibility.”
Here is the good news: Getting to know someone means that we get to see more deeply into them and build a real relationship. That includes the good, bad, and ugly — it is all part of what makes us who we are. Our struggles and growth made us into who we are today, and if we want someone to embrace us, we need to embrace the other. Think of intimacy as “into me you see.” There are many levels of emotional, psychological, and physical intimacy and all bring us closer to understanding the world of the other.
Keep in mind that if you see that these “annoying traits” would really disrupt the harmony, respect, or safety of a relationship, speak with a mentor or coach immediately. If they are “livable” but not so comfortable, think about whether it would worth giving this person up for just a few annoying behaviors (which you may have also).
If we are unable to get over the livable flaws of another, we risk playing an endless game of dating because we will always be able to find flaws in another person. No man or woman will ever be perfect. In marriage, you will be doing yourself and your spouse a great favor if you choose acceptance. Hey, your spouse did that for you!
May we learn to accept the small annoyances and flaws in one another so that we can stay on the shortest route to our longest relationship.