Luisa Tam
SCMP Columnist
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam

How to deal with your partner’s flaws and strengthen the love you have for each other

  • Dealing with a partner who has character flaws or a difficult personality can be challenging but can also help you grow as a couple
  • Building a lasting romance is often a matter of deciding whether to change or embrace imperfections

Nobody is perfect – this is something of which we are all fully aware. We should also be mindful there is no such thing as a perfect partner, and that’s more than OK.

Dealing with a partner who has “character flaws”, a “difficult personality” or whatever you wish to call it can be challenging but can also test the strength of your love for each other. Instead of trying to make them “perfect”, why not work on attaining the kind of love that helps you grow as a couple, fulfils your needs and brings you closer together?

When two partners are determined to put their hearts and minds together, they can overcome any hurdle and a relationship that has no flaws does not allow any opportunity for growth or improvement. Flaws can motivate partners to nurture understanding and acceptance and thus strengthen their bond.

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Being in a relationship is also another way of holding up a mirror to yourself – it enables you to learn what your own flaws are and how they affect your partner. By understanding how your partner ticks, it forces you to learn more about yourself.

For some inexplicable reason, flaws or imperfections in a partner can sometimes be indescribably appealing – it’s a matter of perspective. Flaws are real and make us human and individualistic, even memorable. Character flaws are not always bad, and they do not have to limit our growth and development in a relationship. On the other hand, they add depth to a partnership, provided that they are not too major and obstructive.

Those who don’t admit their flaws are in denial and/or trying to protect their ego.

Ask yourself what it is about your partner’s flaws that irritates you and see if you have attached any extra meaning to them. Photo: Shutterstock

Most character flaws can be fixed, just as long as one is willing to put the work in, says Dr Kristin Zeising, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist.


“With introspection and self-awareness, we can choose to shift some of our traits that are off-putting or limit the quality of our relationship,” she says.

Behaviours such as picking up dirty dishes or leaving earlier to be on-time for an appointment are easier to change, while more serious character flaws like habitual lying, cheating or violent tendencies are more challenging, Zeising says. When a person has a rigid and inflexible personality on top of that, the challenge is even greater.

Another factor is whether the person is aware of their problems. “People who don’t see their behaviour as problematic won’t want to change,” Zeising says.

Kristin Zeising, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist based in Hong Kong. Photo: Courtesy of Kristin Zeising

Building a lasting romance against a background of imperfections is a matter of viewpoint, Zeising says.

“When it comes to flaws, we need to decide whether to change them or embrace them. Since you can’t force someone to change, you should partner with someone who has flaws you can live with or even appreciate.


“Be mindful of whether your frustration is out of proportion with your partner’s flaws or if you are too fixated on them. In that case, try shifting your mindset and think about all the other good qualities they have to balance them out.”

If you find that their flaws do not work with your lifestyle and it’s causing you too much stress … then it may be time to do some serious re-evaluating of your partnership
Kristin Zeising

For your own flaws you need to have self-compassion, knowing we are all perfectly imperfect.


“Be yourself and own your flaws. And also think about the quirks you have that your partner accepts, and then give them the same grace,” Zeising says.

When dealing with one of your partner’s flaws, Zeising suggests thinking about why it irritates you. Ask yourself whether there’s some additional meaning you’re giving it and whether there’s a way to disentangle this extra meaning so it doesn’t have so much emotional weight.

If some flaws cause you too much stress, then it may be time to re-evaluate your partnership. Illustration: Marcelo Duhalde

If you need to bring your partner’s failings out into the open for discussion, try to communicate with sensitivity.


“Try making requests for change versus criticising their behaviours. You can also offer suggestions and ask if they’re open to another point of view. You can speak about your feelings and emotions in regard to the concern while avoiding blame or judgment,” Zeising says.

“You can also ask about the traits with genuine curiosity and see if there is a path to deeper understanding for yourself and your partner.”

When two partners are determined to put their hearts and minds together, they can overcome any hurdle. Photo: Shutterstock

Ultimately, you can still build a strong relationship based on both of your so-called flaws.


“You need to recognise that we all have little quirks that can be annoying or irritating. But don’t lose sight of the big picture and why you are together in the first place,” she says.

“You want to seek out a partner who is compassionate and flexible. Equally, you must work on cultivating these qualities in yourself too.”

Zeising believes lasting love can be achievable if you can maintain respect and consideration for each other, and that includes having patience with your partner when things get difficult. “It means recognising that you don’t have to have a reaction to all that they say or do.”

Unfortunately, some stumbling blocks are just insurmountable and there are limits at which point you should know it’s time to walk away, she warns.

“If you find that their flaws do not work with your lifestyle and it’s causing you too much stress, or you are unable to get past your judgments, then it may be time to do some serious re-evaluating of your partnership.”

As long as you and your partner are able to take ownership for your behaviours, find a compromise and maintain flexibility, then your relationship has all the potential to blossom into something beautiful and everlasting.

Common “flaws” in a partner

Inconsiderate of shared space

Obsessively clean or too messy

Having major differences in spending habits

Too reactive or defensive


Sexual incompatibility

Extreme moodiness

Threatening to break up when fighting

Neediness and other smothering behaviours

Only focusing on their partner’s needs and losing themselves as a result

Socially awkward, and unable to gel with partner’s friends and family

Avoiding important and difficult conversations by shutting down

Luisa Tam is a correspondent at the Post