Many people experience a time where we are comfortably engaging with our partner, only to suddenly experience the rush of irritation for “the thing” that bugs us. It may be the way they choose to pack the dishwasher, or the way they make their cup of tea, or even the manner in which they conduct themselves with others. Sometimes in relationship we find ourselves becoming irritated or annoyed with various aspects of our partner, possibly not really even understanding the reason. Usually those parts are in conflict with our own ideas, and the irritation stems from them being different to us in some way. These things then eventually become sources of discontent within relationship, and we may find ourselves engaged in power struggles around them.

The power struggles are essentially the way we try to change some parts of the other. We fight to get them to “see our point” or agree with us in some way. And hold the hope that if they do that, then we will be more content in our life. We spend so much time trying to get the other person to change, that we forget how exciting it was getting to know a different person, while forgetting that our excited, adult self once reveled in learning about the other person. This can create a kind of amnesia regarding who our partner really is and who we knew them to be initially. Surely an attempt to coerce our partner into becoming a reflection of who we are or who we wish they could be can negate the reasons for engaging in the first place? It doesn’t really make much sense if we are criticising another for being different to us, as there are few rules regarding personality.

Often those aspects of the other which serve to annoy are the flip side of characteristics that drew us towards them initially. For example, the partner who finds the other’s rigidness uncomfortable may have perceived this as strength and power in the beginning. Losing sight of the initial flurry of romance, and with all those limerence chemicals subsiding in the brain, we can become overwhelmed with criticism for the other. Perhaps seeking the positive opposite of such characteristics may offer insight and compassion for the other, rather than resentment and tension. When we find ourselves become annoyed with our lover, perhaps ask, “What is the positive flip side to this particular behaviour?” Or, even more illuminating, perhaps ask, “Where in myself have I disowned this characteristic?” It is often likely that through this self-inquiry is where the gems offered in relationships reside. Find the gift in your relationship and use it to learn more about yourself and the other – you never know, you might discover unique depths in your intimacy.