No one is perfect. Everyone has their limitations. This is becomes especially important as we choose our partners. The question is - what limitations can you accept and which ones can you not? In an ideal world, you are able to use dating to successfully screen out any potential suitors with limitations you find to be unacceptable. For example, you have a dog, and on the third date, you find out that Carl is allergic to dogs. You now need to ask yourself the following question: If things got serious, would I be willing to give away my dog? If the answer is yes, then you do nothing. If the answer is no, then you would need to share with Carl that the dog comes first, and he would need to take allergy shots. If Carl knew that he was too allergic to dogs to even consider that option or he simply was not comfortable taking allergy shots, then he might decide to end the relationship.
Unfortunately, life is not always so simple. Sometimes it is only once you are deeply involved in a relationship that you become aware of someone’s true limitations. At that point, it is not so easy to walk away, and you may need to learn how to accept someone’s limitations.
If you are struggling with learning how to accept a partner’s limitations try the following exercise designed by Therapy in Philadelphia:
- Name your partner’s limitation (s). Name your partner’s strength (s). For example, Bob's limitations are: He is skinny. He is socially awkward at parties. He can not stay up late at night. He has very few friends. His strengths are: he is a hard worker, he is always chipper in the morning, and he always makes time for you.
- When is your partner’s strength a limitation? And when is your partner’s limitation a strength? For example: Veronica is lactose intolerant and can't always go to your favorite restaurants (limit). Flipped as a strength - she never eats your ice cream – thus more for you!
- Looking at the limitations you have identified in your partner, which do you think are honestly fixable? Go back through the list and circle any limitations you think your partner has the ability to address. For example: if Jaleel is short, there is nothing he can do about it. In contrast, if Jaleel is sensitive about his height and takes it out on you, the two of you can work to rebuild his self-confidence.
- What are your limitations and strengths?
- Which limitations are fixable?
- How do your limitations impact your partner’s limitations? For example: you get upset easily, and your husband is insecure and always takes things personally.
- How do your strengths impact your partner’s limitations? For example: you have always taken care of your physical health. You eat three balanced meals a day and exercise regularly, thus you are able to model a healthy lifestyle for your partner who suffers from an eating disorder.
After you have answered all the questions, ask your partner to do the same thing. Now compare and contrast your answers. Do your two lists match? Usually there will be some slight differences. Often couples do not agree upon what is a strength and what is a limitation. Now, together talk about which strengths and weaknesses are most important to each of you and why. Of the limitations that you decided were important to you, how changeable are they? Together, can the two of you develop a strategy of change.
Still struggling? Center for Growth / Therapy in Philadelphia can help. Call today to speak with one of our counselors.