Five questions for when you need to cut your partner some slack.

Even in good relationships, about 70 percent of the conflicts are perennial ones that never get solved. At the root of these schisms are often qualities one partner has (or lacks) that irk the other person.

When it comes to improving your experience of your relationship, it can often be fruitful to become more accepting of your partner’s strengths and weaknesses, rather than to continue attempting to get them to change fundamentally.

Here are some tips for becoming more accepting.

  1. Reevaluate the seriousness of your partner’s flaws.

Sometimes people get very annoyed by aspects of their partner that really aren’t that big of a deal. When frustration builds up, it’s easy to lose sight of that. For instance, I get annoyed about my partner’s struggles with technology and with being on time, but in the grand scheme of life, my frustration is out of proportion to how important these really are. In reality, my spouse is emotionally reliable and has many other good qualities that are fundamentally much more important than the ability to manage our smart home gadgets.

  1. Acknowledge your own flaws.

What are the annoying qualities you have that your partner puts up with? In relationships, it’s easy to see everything through your own perspective. You might see all the ways your partner is irritating but conveniently forget about all the small ways you’re a pain in the butt to live with.

What are three challenging qualities you have that your partner would like you to moderate, but you have no interest in doing so? What do you implicitly (or explicitly) ask them to accept about you? For instance, I’m pretty fussy and controlling, and my spouse is quite accepting of these qualities (more than most people would be!).

  1. Consider why particular flaws irk you so much.

When one of your partner’s weaknesses irks you, it can be mostly because of something extra you’re reading into it. For instance, I value people keeping their minds agile, and for me, being up-to-date with technology is part of that.

I also value using good planning to reduce stress, but the reality is, my partner doesn’t get as stressed out by running late as I do.

Take a hard look at the extra meanings you’re adding on to your frustration about your partner’s flaws. If you tend towards anxiety, their flaws might activate anxiety for you. If you tend to feel uncared about (typically because of your past experiences), then their flaws may activate those feelings. Try to disentangle these extra meanings from your reactions to their behavior.

People who tend towards taking too much responsibility often get frustrated with themselves that they can’t figure out how to get their partner to change. This is one type of extra meaning it can be useful to let go of. If your partner doesn’t change a small, annoying behavior, it doesn’t mean anything about you, so don’t personalize it.

  1. Consider whether your partner should be required to value what you value.

As mentioned, I value being tech-savvy and up-to-date with technology. I’m subscribed to weekly emails with tips for using spreadsheets and consider these types of skills fundamental to life. However, these are just my values. They’re not some objective values everyone should have. If your partner isn’t motivated to change a behavior, it may be because some of their values are different from yours.

  1. Look at your practical options.

If your partner isn’t going to change fundamentally, then what are your options, other than continually banging your head against a brick wall? When you accept your partner’s flaws, it can help you mentally move on to thinking about what the practical options are. How can you minimize the impact that their flaws and weaknesses have on you? What are the practical workarounds? If they’re still going to exhibit the flaw, how can you reduce the stress that creates for you?

For instance, when it comes to time management, the problems in my household are solved if we plan to be anywhere 30 minutes before we actually need to be there. If we plan to be 30 minutes early, we end up being on-time. It still somewhat annoys me that this needs to be the solution, because it’s inefficient and often means getting up earlier than I would’ve needed to if I were only organizing myself, but the reality is that it solves the problem, removes the most significant consequences, and means we get to the airport on time, etc.

Summing Up

In relationships, it’s easy to develop habitual, frustrated responses to your partner’s flaws and lose sight of how important that quality is in the big picture of your relationship. If you step back and get perspective, you can turn down the intensity of your emotional reactions, feel more gratitude, and move on to thinking about practical solutions for how you can minimize the impact of your differences. This doesn’t tend to be a one-and-done process, but one you’ll need to revisit periodically whenever you feel frustration or resentment building up in a mostly-good relationship.