You Must See The Whole Person. You Can’t Just Pick The Values You Like

See Whole PersonWouldn’t it be a perfect relationship world if we could love someone without seeing the “the bad and the ugly” in them and just focus on their good values? Well, some people do this everyday, but unfortunately we live with all the parts, and are affected by all the parts. No one is perfect and we live with their imperfections, just as we live with our own. The important factor is knowing the difference between the values we can truly live with and what we cannot.

Why We Can’t Pick and Choose What to See in a Person

Have you ever heard the phrases “turning a blind eye” or “seeing through rose colored glasses”? This means that someone is choosing to see only what they want to see, and overlooking the negative factors. However, the negative behavior still happened. The other person just chose to overlook it.

What Happens When We Overlook the Negative?

Whether we choose to see the negative behavior or not, it is still there, and we will be affected by it eventually if it goes unchecked or we don’t address it. Let’s take the example of Jane and Bob. Jane is responsible for the bills, but she never seems to meet the due dates, and begins to rack up late fees. We most often choose a person who balances our qualities, and Jane and Bob fit this profile. Bob resents the impact of the recurring late fees and subsequent declining credit scores. If Bob overlooks this negative impact, Jane will form a habit that conflicts with his values, eventually causing serious harm to the relationship.

Bob and Jane could provide other example problems: Perhaps Jane is consistently late and Bob values being on time, and especially does not want to negatively affect others involved. Or perhaps Bob has a pattern of clearly lying to Jane. Jane will find it impossible to feel emotionally safe with Bob if he can lie about something that benefits him.

Often we choose to not address an action in our partner that contradicts our own values for fear of losing the relationship. Or perhaps we fear hurting their feelings. It is not about judging the other person. It is about living our life according to our own values. But when we live with someone, we are more easily affected by their values and they are affected by ours. Not addressing the issue builds a wall of resentment or vulnerability towards the partner. And of course, the negative behavior will likely continue. The relationship is more likely to decline in emotional health and value.

“He (She) Ain’t Gonna Change”

We often pick someone with the hope of changing them. In reality, their core values and beliefs work for them, just as ours work for us. Neither of us have any need to change what has taken a lifetime to build. We Do What We Want to Do and we don’t do what we don’t want to do. That is why I always look at the end result of everything. If it works for someone they are more likely to continue doing it. If it doesn’t work for them, then they will choose to fix it or not. Either way, it is out of our control.

What To Do

  • Make sure you truly see the person and how they function in their life. This forms the second of the 4 Pillars Of Dating And Relationships I addressed HERE.
      • Pillar #1: No Agenda.  Do not enter a relationship with an ulterior motive.
      • Pillar #2: Eyes Open and Willing to See. (Discussed in the current article.)
      • Pillar #3: Skills and Concepts that create a healthy relationship and how we can learn to see this in someone.
      • Pillar #4: TIME. If someone practices the other three pillars for at least 6 months they will know the true nature of the person they are dating.
  • You need to talk to the person about the things that make you feel uncomfortable or emotionally unsafe.
  • If you know there are some negative behaviors in the other person, you must make a decision to determine if the issues are fixable and if the partner is truly willing to work on improving them.
  • Determine if the person continues to work on those issues for at least 6 months consistently. (Pillar #4.) It doesn’t mean they need to be perfect, but both of you continue to work on the conflict in values.
  • Some behaviors or practices are more significant than others. Someone who continues to not take out the trash is less significant effect-wise than someone who continues to lie or cheat. That is more about their values, which often do not change over time.
  • If you are truly invested in this relationship you may want to consider seeking professional assistance in couples counseling. However, it takes both people to make it work.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully by now it is more clear why we can’t pick and choose those characteristics in someone we deeply care about. That’s why there are Must Have Lists that you can create. Constructing a Must Have List has also been addressed HERE. We all have qualities that we cherish and believe in. We also have those qualities that don’t work for us or do not help us to feel good about ourselves. However, when choosing a mate, we need to distinguish between those things we can truly live with, and those we cannot.

In choosing a mate you must take all of the person. You need to differentiate between what you can live with and what you cannot, because those difficult qualities and behaviors may never change.

Habits or Values That are Unacceptable

Violence, being disrespectful to a mate or others, breaking the law, being habitually unfaithful, even in a past relationship, are all very serious signs of an unhealthy relationship. In addition, we cannot feel emotionally safe with someone whose actions do not match their words. Our partner must consistently come through with their words and commitments. Think very carefully before committing to someone who practices any of these unacceptable and hurtful behaviors.

Action Items:

  1. Do you have a Must Have List that you will stick to in picking a mate?
  2. Can you recognize relationships where you overrode your thinking regarding your mate’s unhealthy values or habits? If so, what was it in your thinking that allowed you to do this?
  3. Have you been in relationships where you continue to attract someone whose values do not match yours or make you feel emotionally safe? You need to understand why, and what you get out of that or else you will continue to bring that into your life.

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on YourTango.com and on MSN.com.

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