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How to Change Your Perception of an Imperfect Relationship

It’s helpful to apply self-awareness to improve emotional response to relationships. Glenn Stok studies this and discusses his research.


Do you have disappointments in your relationship that stand in the way of recognizing if it has the potential for lifelong happiness?

Your attention might be on problems that make you feel the relationship is hopeless. To overcome the feelings of displeasure and frustration, appreciation of the positive things you experience with your partner is necessary. But how do we change our perception?

In each of the following sections, I’ll review various ideas that can help you recognize the positive features of your relationship. The result could lead to a rewarding experience with a happy and sound partnership.

Focus on Growth Potential

The future can be pleasant and rewarding, but you need to be sure that your relationship is going in the right direction. If it’s stagnant with no plans for a lifetime together, something is wrong. In most cases, it’s due to miscommunication—or lack of communication altogether.

Putting the disappointments aside, can you say that you have good experiences with your partner? Can you agree with any of the following statements about your relationship?

  1. It could result in a lifetime of happiness.
  2. It could become a rewarding experience.
  3. Your relationship with your partner usually does meet your needs.
  4. Your rapport with your partner is generally warm and comfortable.

If you agree with these four statements, then your relationship has strong potential. Good relationships with a pleasant partner are hard to come by as it is. It may be possible to look beyond the feelings of disappointment by focusing on the positive. Consider the future together. Think it through in your mind. Do you see growth potential?

A healthy relationship that continues to grow requires emotional intimacy to be successful. You’ll want to achieve a closeness that allows insightful communication, an understanding of expectations, appreciation for different preferences and priorities, and a willingness to find common ground. Let’s examine each of these ideas in more detail.

Communicate Effectively With Your Partner

If something is bothering you, don’t hold it in. Discuss it with your partner. He or she may not have been aware that they are doing something that you find troubling.

You only run into trouble if your partner does not wish to listen or discuss the issue. If you find yourself in an argument, try to determine if you are not explaining yourself well.

If your partner is a non-listener, an effective method to overcome that is to give examples of how they might feel if it were the other way around.

Make productive statements, not condescending remarks. Focus on solving a problem rather than trying to win an argument. Sometimes you may have to compromise.

You both need to be on equal ground. Discuss things with fairness and a good understanding of where the other is coming from with their feelings. Remember that you are in this together as a team.

Get in Touch With the Right Expectations

When we have too many expectations, we might envision way too much more than our partner can offer. We might become disappointed if things don’t turn out the way we had hoped.

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Start by thinking about what you want from the relationship. Was it based on things you already saw possible? If not, was it based on dreams you’ve had all your life­—of a future you wanted to have?

The next step is to come to terms with reality. Try to adjust your thinking to the way things are and not about the way you thought it ought to be.

That might be difficult to do. You might even be saying I’m asking for too much from you, but this is the reality of the life we have. Go with the flow. You may never have it so good again.

Once you have your mind focused on what you have, rather than what you want, you may find yourself appreciating it more.

Be Mindful of Your Partner’s Needs

You have your own needs, and it’s okay to expect your partner to appreciate what they are. However, never forget that your partner has needs too. For example, your partner may prefer doing things together a lot while you feel the need for “alone time” more often.

You can’t always have it your way. When you detect that there are different preferences with needs not being met, work on an acceptable compromise.1

Go back to the section on communicating effectively with your partner. Put it to good use. I know from my own experience with failed relationships that the culprit was always a failure to communicate.

Find Some Common Ground

I think that everything that happens in a relationship is valuable for growth. Even though differences can sometimes cause problems in a relationship, it can enhance it too. Those differences can be the ingredients for growth since one’s partner can introduce new viewpoints to consider.

Each of you may have different priorities and values. For that reason, you need to talk about it and find some common ground.

It’s vital to pay attention to your partner’s reaction while having this discussion. That will help isolate problem areas that need more consideration. You both need to do that, to find a mutual understanding.

Body language is useful in this case since smiles or frowns can indicate more than words will ever say.2

  • Discuss differences.
  • Examine conflicting opinions.
  • Share your fears.

That can be the most meaningful communication you may ever have with your partner.

Consider the Identity of the Relationship

Your relationship develops its own identity. Besides the personality of each partner, a relationship has a character based on the combination of your two dispositions.

That means two things:

  1. Learning from one another and teaching each other new ideas can be gratifying and even pleasurable.
  2. Sharing different ways of looking at things and considering one another’s views of life can enhance awareness.

Make a Mutual Plan for Rebuilding Together

Joining forces to work on a mutual plan to rebuild a failing relationship with excellent communication and fairness can reinforce trust and mutual respect. These are elements of a healthy relationship.3

When partners work on a common goal, rebuilding together, they feel more involved with one another as a team. They each learn how dependable their partner is while working on improving their relationship.

The act of sharing mutual interests will also give them something to focus on rather than having issues with negative concerns. Making a plan they both work on together can be a game-changer.

Support a Team Player Attitude

Disappointments are a normal part of life. We can’t expect every day to be perfect. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know we have a partner who is on our side, someone who is there for us in our time of need, and someone interested in our happiness and takes pride in being in the relationship as a team player.

To be a team player in a relationship, you need to share and appreciate one another’s priorities, values, and goals. These may change over time, but being conscious of it and discussing these things is the key to an everlasting relationship.

I believe the thing that draws two people together is shared views of what they both want in life. Their values and their dreams are on the same page. They have some understanding and agreement of what life is all about.

Isn't that what you want? Go make it happen!


  1. Ann Smith. (January 7, 2013). "I Want More From Our Relationship!" Psychology Today
  2. Darren Gergle (2013). "Using Visual Information for Grounding and Awareness in Collaborative Tasks". HCI Journal: 1–43.
  3. "Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships". University of Washington. (Accessed on Oct 2, 2020).

© 2018 Glenn Stok


Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on September 08, 2018:

De nada. Looking forward to the next article.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on September 08, 2018:

Thanks Natalie. Your comment about my article means a great deal, coming from one of authority on the subject, since you have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Your feedback is much appreciated.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on September 08, 2018:

This is an extremely well written article, Glenn. You present the information in a straight forward, easy to understand manner. I think this is important since those with relationship problems often feel overwhelmed by other's advice, well meaning as it may be. Having someone provide suggestions in a down to earth way that isn't "preachy" can be enough to get them thinking about things in a different way which may get them on the road to a better relationship.

That being said, I think that the things you mention in this article are useful for all of us to keep in mind for our own relationships whether or not we are having difficulties at this time or not.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on August 17, 2018:

Thanks for that comment Dora. For a successful relationship both partners need to appreciate the needs of the other. So true.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 17, 2018:

Great counsel! Thanks for underscoring that too many expectations can lead to disappointment. We need to take into consideration all the other features you mentioned, including the fact that our partner has needs too.

Mark Tulin from Palm Springs, California on August 16, 2018:

Helpful words of advice, Glenn.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 16, 2018:

When I read the title I wondered where this was going. But I have just read an excellent hub here, packed full of common sense, positive and helpful advice.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on August 16, 2018:

dashingscorpio - Your point is well taken. I wrote a prior article that is a discussion based on what you said. “When to Work On a Relationship and When to Leave“ — you can find it in my profile listing.

dashingscorpio from Chicago on August 16, 2018:

Excellent advice!

There are only two ways to experience joy and peace of mind in relationships. We either get what we want or we learn to be happy with what we have. Accept them (as is) or move on.

The choice is up to us. Choose wisely!

"Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

- Oscar Wilde

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on August 15, 2018:

Pam, That’s wonderful that you have a husband who understands all these important aspects of having a functioning relationship.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 15, 2018:

Glen, I think your article about relationships was spot on. Communication, common values and views seem to be the most important aspects as you described. I am fortunate to have a husband where all these aspects work, but I was in a relationship in the past that was nothing but problems. I appreciate having a partner that I can discuss anything with and always feel that acceptance. Excellent article.

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