Hello everybody, welcome to episode 220 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's episode is whether there's something more to different personalities in a relationship.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
And we have a listener who did just that today. She’s sent in a question about a new guy she’s seeing, and whether some of his questionable behavior is reflective of a red flag, or if she’s being too critical and needs to relax a bit more. I like this question and I think it provides a really good opportunity to look within ourselves at what we’re able to tolerate and justify in relationships. So let’s get right to it and try to help out. Here’s what she’s got for us…
QUESTION: “I’m in a new relationship that I’m not sure is right for me. I’ve been seeing a guy, I’ll call him Tom, for 3 months. They say opposites attract, but I’m not so sure. It was fun at first, but we are very different. I’m a lot more shy and withdrawn, and he is very loud and outspoken. I don’t think I have a hard time dating someone like this, but I feel like he takes it too far. He loves starting fights and arguments if he feels disrespected. He’s also really up front about how he can’t help himself around women. That one he’s told me he’s joking about when I spoke up about it. And I don’t actually think he would cheat. But it feels like a lot and I’m just not sure if I can keep up. I’m worried about if I’m being too impatient with him and our differences. I don’t want to be wound up too tight, but I also don’t want to be blind if I’m dating someone who isn’t a good fit.”
Differences Between You
All right! Time for me to judge this dude when I know next to nothing about him! Just kidding. This is a good question and I think it’s a very important question for you to be asking especially based on how you’ve presented yourself. It seems to me that it’s about time you start asking more questions like this one and exploring the possibility of being who you are, not changing for those who aren’t good matches in your life.
What do I mean? You admit to being shy and withdrawn, which are not bad qualities but just tend to be more passive. Then you go on to describe differences between you and this guy and behavior of his that you clearly find unacceptable, yet you’re still wondering if you’re the one that needs to loosen up more. It’s really nice that you consider others and take responsibility for things you feel like you could maybe do better, but there’s a line.
When Is It Too Much?
How can you tell if you’ve crossed that line? I suppose only you can answer that question.
Do you find that your natural shyness regularly puts you in this position – being a passenger who’s always ready and willing to change for the sake of keeping others comfortable? If you constantly run into this type of problem with dating prospects or anyone else in your life, you’ll know that as long as you keep reverting to this instinct, your problems will stay the same, and that the line has been crossed.
I can’t speak to all that, but you do seem to have crossed the line in this scenario.
I can tell that because of how you’re justifying this behavior of his. I don’t know any more about him than you’ve told me, but he doesn’t sound like a very desirable person from your description. You say he’s loud and outspoken, which is an extremely polite way of glazing over issues that you cited in your question and any others you might not have mentioned.
This man seems to take pride in being out of control of his urges; happy to be swept into unnecessary behavior. Unfortunately, a lot of people are like this, which only enables all of them.
A Skating Rink Story
I’m reminded of one particular story. Shortly before the pandemic started I was at public hockey at the local ice rink, which is basically just a two hour period where anyone can come and play, we form two teams and have a game. Once in a while there’s some tension, and there was during this skate.
Two “adults” had gotten into a little tiff and one shoved the other extremely violently, causing him to fall pretty hard into the boards. Needless to say, you don’t do this at public hockey.
But the guy who got knocked over wouldn’t stop yelling at the other one. And he who shoved him was on my team. So I went over to the bench and was talking to the guy that shoved him, and this guy was in a total chest-puffing frenzy saying something like, “He’s gotta stop. He’s gotta stop. I’m like a psychopath when I get mad. He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with. I don’t want to have to hurt him but I’ll do it if he doesn’t stop.”
And I thought to myself, how fascinating it is to see someone leverage their lack of control and misplaced aggression as a good thing, a quality they’re happy to have if it means teaching someone a lesson.
Consideration for Others
Look, it’s a very adolescent thing to take joy in this or look up to someone who is out of control, extreme, and frankly selfish enough to not take time to consider others. I think the appeal is that these people don’t seem to be tied down by anything, they do what they want no matter what and are “too strong” for the shackles of common decency.
But this is a type of worship that’s really important to grow out of. We all do it to different extents – uncontainable outbursts of anything can be mistaken for good if we link them to supposed noble pursuits like love or protest to name a few. We think that only true passion can break through conventionality and calmness. Obviously, this is nonsense, but it’s something most of us fall victim to at some point.
This may even be part of your initial attraction to him. If you’re naturally shy, it would make sense if you admire him for being someone who is not preoccupied by limitations of expression the way that most shy people like yourself would be. But that’s not necessarily a desirable trait to have, not if it’s completely uncaged anyway.
Different Personalities? A Conclusion
Whether or not you like him because you see in him what you don’t see in yourself, I caution you to not be blind to the fact that he doesn’t seem like a good partner – again, that’s given the little information I have (though it’s rather telling how you chose to describe him). There are other, more important parts of a relationship to consider before that type of attraction, one of which is respect. And this doesn’t seem like someone who is willing to look out for or respect your feelings if he takes pride in being out of control of his own.
And maybe that hasn’t happened yet in a serious way, but I have a hunch that if you’re with him long enough, the lack of respect will expand past the off-kilter jokes about other women and into something worse that you might be likely to tolerate if you’re not careful.
I’m not saying you lack self-respect, but if you do find yourself constantly bending for the better of others, there’s work you need to do in being stable within your own identity. This is nothing to panic over, but you haven’t described this guy as the type of person that I would recommend facilitating that.
Thanks a lot to the asker for sending this one in and for trusting us with this one on different personalities. I feel like we dove pretty deep today which is always fun for me, though I tend to worry if it means I’m assuming too much.
Ah, who knows? Always trying to do my best for you guys. And I think this question serves as a great reminder for us to all look at our own relationships and if we’re putting the right values first. It’s very easy to be blinded by love sometimes, but if we look at the things we’ve been willing to justify in the past and present, we can get a pretty decent look at whether or not we’re allowing ourselves the right amount self-respect.
Ok, folks. All done. Thanks for sticking with me through the end and for supporting yet another episode. I’m wishing you all the best out there and looking forward to talking to you all again on Friday. See ya there.