We often think that marriages break up due to serious problems such as addiction, adultery or abuse but quite often the lesser problems, like tiny leaks in a ship, do them in. They appear on court documents under “irreconcilable differences.” This umbrella term covers anything from financial disagreements, lifestyle clashes, in-law conflicts and even personality differences.
We often wonder why marriages break up over personality differences because it seems obvious that people should get to know each other before marrying. Surely, she saw his cheapness or he was on the receiving end of her critical tongue. Sometimes, people are good at hiding their unpleasant traits. Or our pre-marital generosity excuses the red flags (“He’s just tired.” “She’s stressed.”)
It isn’t until living with another person on a daily basis when some of those hidden traits begin to surface. Then, it is “I never knew he was so critical all the time.” “I never knew she was so selfish.” “I never knew he was so weird about doing the laundry in a specific way.” “I never knew she’d flip out over the smallest things.”
Everyone has personality quirks. But while some can be strange, they are tolerable while other traits can slowly erode away the mutual respect and affection in a marriage.
Difficult Personality Traits
These personality traits can make marriage insufferable over time.
1. Selfish-Chronically ignoring the needs and wants of the spouse
2. Immature-Childish, irresponsible, unreasonable, emotional game-player
3. Inflexible-Stubborn, needs to be “right”, dogmatic, unrealistic standards
4. Controlling-Needs to be in control, demanding, manipulative, domineering
5. Pessimistic-Fatalistic, depressed, chronically miserable
6. Critical-Judgmental, opinionated, snobbish, condescending
7. Insecure-Jealous, suspicious, emotionally draining, untrusting
8. Angry-Hostile, toxic, suspicious, aggressive, negative, stressed
9. Overly independent-Loner, solitary, withdrawn, non-communicative
10.Grudge-holder-Lives in the past, continually rips open old wounds, resentful, negative, pessimistic
If you recognize that you might have some of these traits, do yourself a favor and seek counseling from a qualified professional. Otherwise, keep a journal to log in your “practice” of better behavior. It isn’t easy to change your go-to reaction but you can do it once you’re aware of your difficult traits and their effects upon your relationships. Chances are, your traits present problems in other areas of your life and not just your marriage.
How to improve
Self-improvement takes ongoing commitment but it is extremely rewarding to become a better person.
1. Ask your spouse for honest feedback about how you’re doing.
2. Give yourself a reminder token. A smile on your cell phone wallpaper, a pleasant ring tone. An inspiring quotation posted on the refrigerator or your desk.
3. Apologize when you backslide and recommit to doing better next time.
4. Remember it only takes one small improvement at a time. You don’t have to become a new person overnight.
5. Try not to rationalize or excuse your negative behavior.
Sometimes, difficult personalities don’t recognize why their reactions are inappropriate because they have rationalized their behavior all their life. They tend to be blamers. When you’re in doubt about the best way to react to a person or situation, choose kindness. Kindness is a positive personality trait to develop, and one rarely regrets being kind.