Chronic Communication at Home: Living with the Imperfections

Mike and Marie have been married for almost 20 years. So you would think they would be so used to each other at this point that they wouldn’t be getting on each other’s nerves.  I mean, 20 years should be a long enough time to develop a whole lot of patience and tolerance, right?


Well, yes. And no.


Mike has a couple of habits that Marie could definitely live without. “He’s a really great guy,” she insists.  “Except when…”  And then she describes what he does that “can be really annoying.”


And when that “except when” happens, Marie admits that, at least temporary, she can forget about all of his good qualities. The result?  Frustration, maybe a few angry words, and then silence.


Okay, so nobody’s perfect. But boy oh boy, some days those imperfections sure can march to the front of the line and make their presence known.


When I was growing up, we used to refer to those little imperfections as “flat spots.” Some examples include: showing up late, forgetting to turn lights off, lecturing to make a point, and on and on.  We humans are quite a collection of quirks, and a few of them are bound to irritate the people around us.


For sure, we love our partners and other family members. But sometimes those little things they do that really push our buttons can leave us wondering if it might be just a little easier to love them if they would just smooth out their imperfections.


It’s been my experience that living with a chronic condition can cause you to be more sensitive to your partner’s behavior, and less patient at times. Maybe more likely to take things personally.  Especially when your partner does – or doesn’t do – something that annoys or frustrates you.  After all, you’ve got enough to deal with.


So, does your partner have a few flat spots? If so, here’s how to keep your cool:


Stay focused on the big picture.  The people we love are a collection of qualities that we enjoy and admire.  Most likely, a whole lot of positive qualities that greatly outnumber the imperfections.  It might help to take a step back and remind yourself of all of those great qualities, and recall a few nice memories.


Reframe imperfections as what makes us unique.  Wouldn’t it be boring if your partner was always perfect?  How about looking at those quirks and contradictions are part of what makes your partner so charming?


Keep your sense of humor.  The best antidote for the frustration and annoyance that your partner’s flat spots can bring up in you is to smile it away. People are who they are, that’s for sure.  And you just got a reminder of the full spectrum of your partner’s qualities.  So smile, shrug your shoulders, move forward with the day.


Embrace the opportunity to learn patience.  Life is always tossing growth opportunities in our direction.  Your partner’s imperfections qualify as one of those opportunities.  Let this be another lesson in being patient and kind.  Look at it this way, if everything in life always went according to your expectations, you probably wouldn’t even know what it means to be patient.


If necessary, have a talk.  If there is something your partner does that you feel harms your relationship, or is hurtful to you in some way, then it may be time to have a conversation.  If so, take ownership for how you feel without being accusatory.  Something like: “I know you don’t intend to hurt my feelings.  But when you ______________, I feel _____________.”  See if you can come to an understanding that helps your partner to be more aware of his/her behaviors, and maybe even make some changes.  It’s worth a try.


And by the way…  Like I said earlier, nobody’s perfect.  Your partner may be smiling away some of the quirks that help to make you your own unique self.  Just saying.


You and your partner. Two unique individuals, with lots of positive qualities that you appreciate in each other.  And a few imperfections.  Love the whole package.  We’re all in this together.