The lovable-infuriating partner

Why is it that some of the nicest, kindest, most easy going, amiable
people in the world may also be the most infuriating? How can you become
livid with a partner who is agreeable, loved by everyone and truly good-
natured? Is there something wrong with you? Or, perhaps is there
something hidden that does not meet the eye?

First, let’s meet Mr. or Ms. Wonderful. The classic profile of this type

of person is most endearing. This individual is understanding, pleasant,
optimistic, kind, easy to get along with, well liked and an all around
lovable person.

People with this type of personality are praised during their lives and
mourned with amazement _ “in eighty years of life, he or she has never
had a cross word with anyone”. The harmonious nature of the departed and
his or her lovable nature, are marveled by all attendees.

The partner of the deceased agrees with all the kind comments. Yet, the
grieving mate also remembers his or her anger with the sweet departed.

What causes the anger felt by partners of lovable mates?
The anger often arises from a repeated pattern of unkept promises,
delays in fulfilling requests, slow responses when action is called for,
and the experience of passive resistance.

Why would loving, accepting, nice partners act in a subtly
non-cooperative ways? The answer lies in certain beliefs Mr. or Ms.
Wonderful holds.
These pleasant, unassuming, patient and calm people desire harmony above
all. They are very uncomfortable with any exchanges, particularly with
their mates, which may be disharmonious. They want everyone to feel and
be calm and happy at all times.

To accomplish this, the husband may promise his wife he will do whatever
she requests. As he makes the promise, he averts any discomfort which
may arise should he express his less than enthusiastic endorsement of
this project. He finds it extremely difficult to say “no”. The harmony
of the moment supercedes any risk of creating greater problem in the future.

Mr. Wonderful is also going to be agreeable to any other request other
people may make of his time and energy. When the time comes, it is clear
that he is unable to fulfill all his promises to those counting on his
kindness. Even then, Mr. Wonderful will not declare that he is
over-committed- he will just not do some of what he had promised.

When confronted by his spouse, Mr. Wonderful, still intent on keeping
the peace, will provide a logical justification for his failure to
perform. The partner, greeted with a well-intentioned spouse, accepts
the excuse. Now he promises to execute the task by another deadline,
while professing his love for his partner and his desire to please her. Needless to say, the new deadline for completing the task comes and goes
to the sound of new and very persuasive excuses.

The Wonderful people see themselves as helpful, kind and cooperative
individuals. Since their intentions are to be accommodating, they are at
the loss to understand their partners_ frustration and anger.

One woman described waiting for seven years for her husband to finish
their deck. Meanwhile he assisted two neighbors with major renovations
of their homes. It was only his sweet disposition that helped her
contain herself from exploding with rage. She spoke of feeling let down,
silently and continuously deceived, and feeling unimportant to her mate. Attempting to talk to her husband only created further platitudes,
excuses and even mild innuendoes that she was the owner of the problem.

Ongoing reminders by mates of these lovable people only postpone
cooperation. Mr. Wonderful has a strong need for autonomy. Dealing with
authority figures and people’s demands causes him to feel controlled and
disempowered. Since he views himself as a kind and loving person, he is
not free to assert his independence openly. Instead, he will passively
rebuke any attempts to prod him along. His partner is aware that her
frequent “reminders” are likely to be met with smiles and inaction.

Another common trait of this personality style is _distractibility.
Again, the intentions are honorable, but the wonderful partner will
begin to do something and soon see another task that requires her
attention, she then begins that task only to be distracted by the next
one. Her partner may become very annoyed with the number of unfinished
tasks, some of which may be urgent. The partner may also learn very
quickly that reminders and prompting are unhelpful in remediating this
pattern.

The Wonderful individual is also invested in keeping himself calm,
serene and relaxed. Yet, his emphasis on “Being mellow” may cause him to
tune out, feel numb, disengage, minimize problems and become
uncommunicative and inattentive to his partner. Since his behavior is
still pleasant, it is hard for his partner to allow herself to admit her
hurt and anger. The offenses are so subtle, that she may even doubt her
own feelings of pain and aloneness.

If you are partnered with a lovable infuriating mate:

  • Recognize that your partner’s positive traits far surpass the annoying
    ones.
  • Know that your mate struggles with needing harmony, desiring to please
    everyone, distractibility, and preserving autonomy.
  • Appreciate your mate’s quest for harmony and attempt to voice your
    objections kindly.
  • Ask your partner to set his or her time frame for doing a task. Agree
    that you will hire someone else after the time limit.
  • Talk of your frustrations in a non- accusatory way.
  • Accept his or her distractibility as neurological, not intentional.
  • Appreciate your partner for his or her calm demeanor and request
    greater emotional expression within your relationship.
  • Love your partner for all his or her fabulous traits. He or she is
    truly Mr. or Ms. Wonderful.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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