Have you ever met someone and thought, “Wow! He ‘s so __________.” And whatever fills that blank is like the most amazing quality. You are totally magnetized by his __________-ness. It is hands down, super sexy to you. And if the two of you get together, over time you realize that _______________ has many sides to it. The original side that you were crazy attracted to, and then a few other less flattering sides that are not so great.
The initial awe you had was for the attractive trait. And each and every attractive trait has a “shadow trait.” They are two sides of the same coin. It’s a relationship law that the thing that you are most drawn to at first will eventually drive you crazy. No relationship is absent of this dynamic. It’s a yin-yang type of thing that is inescapable.
For instance, my client Melanie was initially impressed by her husband’s professional drive. He was committed to climbing the corporate ladder and creating financial success. He read business books every night, attended financial seminars on the weekends, went to networking events and strived to learn more about his industry every day. She was blown away with how focused, engaged and committed he was to his career. But over time, it started to feel like so much of his time and energy went into his work that he had little to put toward their family. The initial respect and awe for his passion slowly faded into frustration that he put so much into it that there wasn’t much left over for helping out with their children and household duties.
With some patience and lots of communication, they were able to find a balance that allows for him to build his career, but tempered with an awareness of their needs as a family so that Melanie no longer felt lonely and frustrated. But there was a lot of tension, misunderstanding and difficulty between recognizing her initial frustration and them finding a solution. The very first step was identifying that the trait she had so respected eventually turned into one she began to hate.
So, what is it that you find you are most liked or appreciated for? Is it your thoughtfulness? Your outspoken nature? Being friendly? Your intelligence? Believe it or not, each of these has a shadow trait. Too thoughtful = inability to prioritize self when it’s necessary/lacking internal awareness. Outspoken = too direct/insensitive. Being too friendly = quality of friends over quantity, can lack depth in friendships or being spread too thin emotionally. Too intelligent = too cerebral and hard for others to connect with on an emotional level.
The saying “too much of a good thing is not a good thing” holds true in this case. You may be wondering where the fine line is that turns a positive trait into a turnoff. How can you tell if you’ve crossed that line? Glad you asked. One way to think about it is to ask yourself “is my drive/need/value of ________ preventing me from connecting with my partner?” For example, if you’re really organized, is your need for the dishwasher to be loaded in a very specific order/way helping or hurting your relationship? If you’re really career/success oriented: is working 80 hour weeks in order to achieve success hurting or helping your relationship? Once you’ve answered that question, you’ll know if you need be more conscious of this tendency and take action. Verbally acknowledging it to your partner and then making changes accordingly will go a long way to show self-awareness and consideration. And what relationship couldn’t use more of either of those?
The flip side of this is “how do you identify and deal with your partner’s shadow trait?” Maybe you recognize that you were initially drawn to your partner’s extreme optimism and now you find it downright annoying, even bordering on delusional. There are two parts to addressing this with him/her. The first part is to realize it’s a normal human thing to eventually be frustrated with the same things you were initially drawn to in your partner. Remind yourself that this trait isn’t all bad; in fact there was a time you loved it. The second part is broaching the topic of your frustration and asking for consideration. I’d recommend:
A.) leading with admiration for the trait “I really admire your _________, it’s a strength of yours that made me fall in love with you.
B.) Identifying how it gets in the way “And I think that sometimes it might be a challenge to us _________ (spending time together, getting along, understanding each other, etc.). “
C.) Acknowledge that you have a shadow trait as well and ask your partner what it is about you that he/she was initially drawn to that can sometimes drive them crazy now that you’ve been together a while.
D.) Invite him/her into a dialogue about get the connection/time together/need to feel accepted.etc “I know ______( his shadow trait) is important to you and I want to respect that. ________ (your shadow trait) is important to me. What are some ways I can keep it in check and not let it become an issue between us?”
Ideally this conversation ends in each of you being honest about yourself, each other and the needs of the relationship.
What is your shadow trait? What is your partner’s shadow trait?
Want to some help figuring out how your personal strengths may be inadvertently holding you back from the relationship you want? Or maybe you tried to start this conversation and it didn’t end according to plan. Click here for help.