I have watched “Little Women” more times that anyone I’ll bet. I am mesmerized by the plot, which is laden with resiliency, feminism, strength of family, and the overwhelming power and beauty of love with a strong appreciation for differences.
My all-time favorite line in the movie is delivered by Jo’s older suitor Frederick. “Jo, we are all hopelessly flawed.” Isn’t that the truth? We are all wrought with our own flaws, weaknesses and imperfections. Perhaps the reason that this line resonates with me so much is because I believe when we enter into a partnership with another person we also must accept their intrinsic flaws. No matter how much we would like to, we cannot change another person. We can influence, but not change our partners. Many relationships meet their demise when there is an assumption or expectation that the partner will change.
How is it that we can embrace our partner’s flaws, then? How can we accept what seems annoying or downright intolerable at times? In my experience, the secret to this is in understanding your partner’s flaws. Exploring what has laid the foundation for the behavior or trait is imperative for accepting your partner’s flaws. I find that there is a light bulb moment for me when I realize the backstory of one of my husband’s less flattering traits.
This makes me recall a counseling session with my client who had been abandoned at the age of seven by his biological mother and left on the steps of the Catholic church along with his sister. I had been working with him for a few months, helping him to process his issues of abandonment and develop a healthier relationship with his own daughter. Nearly every session, I was aware of his strong attachment to me, the way he pulled his chair closer to mine during therapy, the way he was constantly seeking reassurance that I would be there the next week for our session, and his neediness and insecurity. All of his traits were perfectly acceptable and warranted given his history – but in a relationship where his partner might not know his background – these flaws and characteristics might be suffocating and annoying.
Accepting your partner’s flaws does not mean ignoring or resenting them – it simply means gaining understanding and accepting them. You can ask your partner to work on a perceived flaw, but don’t expect change. It is futile to expect someone to change for you if they do not see the merit in the change for themselves. Open dialogue helps both partners to gain understanding and often acceptance.
When I was little, I had this tapestry brought to me as a gift from a trip my parents went on. It was handmade, needle and thread, full of flaws, with missing stitches, frayed ends and imperfections. I just loved it... I thought it was beautiful. If it were made on a machine it would never have been as charming. In my marriage we are acutely aware of one another’s flaws – some have bettered with time. I realize though, as all these years roll by – they are repulsive and endearing all at once. We are all hopelessly and beautifully flawed indeed. Perfect is, after all, overrated.