I love you, but I can’t stand you

Sometimes we are so in love with someone, and yet we disapprove of their life choices and lifestyle. We so much want to be with this person, but they’re clearly driving us crazy. Constantly.

I often hear about this problem in a form of a question: “What should I do? I can’t leave them, but I can’t be with them either. Not this way. Not if they don’t change.”

It is hard to truly love someone if we don’t approve of what they do with their life. But we often fall in love, hoping our partner will change over time. Or we simply don’t see – or, even more often – ignore the signs that someone simply isn’t a good match to us.

Love is blind, so they say. Our desire to be with someone and strong physical attraction blurs our vision. It’s our heart that chooses, not our head.

But, we often find out love is simply not enough. And it doesn’t magically transform people.

If we don’t pick our partners wisely – our feelings towards them will change as we get to know them better, as the initial crush fades. We’ll start resenting the person we once admired, getting annoyed and hurt by their words and actions.

Why does that happen? Why do we fall in love with people we don’t really like?

Part of it is the nature of falling in love – attraction as we know is based more on biology and chemistry, than thinking and reasoning. I don’t argue with that, and I don’t think that will ever change.

But what can change is – what makes you tick in another person. What gets you attracted and excited about someone. You can cultivate that so that next time you fall in love, you fall for the right reasons.

You might say – no, it’s not possible. How can I change what I’m attracted to? Well, it changes anyway, whether you want it or not. It changes as you grow up and mature as a person.

Think about what you were falling in love when you were a teenager. What was important to you? If you are at least a few years past your teen age, that has probably already changed, at least a bit. Someone’s perfect smile or cute haircut is somehow not enough to make you fall for them any more.

We get attracted to traits we find desirable, and that changes a lot as our priorities in life change. When you are young we usually value looks the most, and we don’t have that many criteria on our list – because we don’t depend on our partners that much, we don’t live with them, we don’t pay mortgages together, or raise children.

As we grow up and become adults, our tastes change too. We get to know ourselves, life, relationships – so our preferences in partners change too. If we wanted someone adventurous and exciting in our early twenties, we might prefer someone stable and organised more in our 30s.

Love is not something that just “happens” for no reason. You fall in love with people whose qualities you value and admire.

When you fall in love with people you don’t like after a while, it’s because you don’t know yourself enough – and the things you really want and need to make you happy. It also happens when you don’t have much experience in relationships.

If you don’t know what it’s like to share a life and living space with a partner, it’s hard to pick the right one. It’s not the same as living with your parents. Not even close.

The best way to make sure you don’t choose incompatible partners is to get to know yourself better. What makes you happy? How do you want to feel with your partner? How do you want to spend your time together, and time apart? How do you see a happy and successful life? Answering those questions will get you closer to your right match.

Also, think long term. If you are looking for a life partner, think about what you could live with for 50 or 70 years. What will be left for you to love after all the good looks you both now have, and all the butterflies in your stomach are long gone. Because they will be. Sooner than you think.

If you are in a relationship that sounds like the one from the title, there is two things you can do.

The first one is accept your partner with all that they are, and love them in their totality. Understand them, support them, approve of them. You don’t have to like everything they do, but you have to like most of it.

Because you will never be able to change them, unless they themselves decide to do it. All of your critique, complaining, nagging, threatening, crying and shouting will not make a difference. The only thing that can make a difference and help them become a better person is your love.

But it’s not the kind of love that makes you martyr – you have to love them not in spite of their flaws and shortcomings, but because of them.

And to be able to do that – you have to approve and agree with most of what they are. Not just a tiny bit.

If you find you can’t do that, then you have to resort to solution number two – end the relationship. That way, you will do the best for both.

You will give yourself and your partner a chance for a new, happier relationship with someone else. Someone whose qualities will be closer to your heart, and whose flaws will be easier to love.

Maybe you were hoping there is a third solution – one that will make this person change and shape them into someone you would like to be with. Well, sorry to disappoint, but there isn’t one like that.

The only way you can be happy in love with someone is loving them for who they are. After all, isn’t that the only way you want to be loved too?


Are you in a similar relationship right now?
How does it make you feel?

Join the debate and share your insights in the comment section below. Thank you.

You may also like...

10 Responses

  1. Ami says:

    Hello everyone!
    I very recently got into a relationship with a man whom is 5 years older than me (I’m soon 21). We share mutual values about life, and also have similar goals for a long term relationship. However I feel the major reason for why I encountered a relationship with this man, is solely because I feel safe with him. I know he would never leave me, and I’m confident he has long-term plans with me.

    My issue is that I’m afraid I will settle with this man solely because I only feel this safety. I recently left an emotionally abusive relationship, and kind of know in my heart and gut that I would only be with him for the truth that I find our relationship safe. He is a kind person, however although I’m 5 years younger than him, I’m very much more mentally mature. His immaturity enables me to sleep properly, and I feel I’m spending all my energy on analyzing and rationalizing what the root to his inappropriate immaturity is, and how much of a paradox this creates for his otherwise normal and good personality. So the truth I find him to be a safe man, is perhaps not enough for me to be happy in this relationship, and thus I torment myself with considering it might be better for me to end it.

    Some subtle facts about the guy:
    He is 26 and this is his first real relationship, before he had four hook ups with four separate women in all ages. He has a job and lives with his parents, however contributes with finances when this is needed. Most of his friends are over 9 years younger than him, and he has few friends his age. I recall asking him once how he would describe himself to a person who doesn’t know him well, and his answer was: (I paraphrase his words) “I’m a complex and complicated guy who sometimes has like a dual personality.” Also to add, I sometimes suspect him for having a mild form of autism…

    Honestly, now as I think back, I get even more confused and tired of attempting to solve the “mystery” about his personality. However I also feel that it is negative he doesn’t seem to know himself well….as how could he then possibly know I’m worth spending the future with?

    I know my text is roaming all over the emotional specter, however English isn’t my native language, so I hope you readers accept my apology for a possibly poorly written comment.

    • Petra says:

      Do you love him? That’s one thing you haven’t mentioned. You analyse your relationship for its pros and cons, but you don’t really talk about feelings. Maybe that’s why you’re not sure, because you don’t feel much for him (apart from safe and secure). Regarding his immaturity, even though he is older than you, men his age are not necessarily grown up or mature emotionally. Your age gap is not a guarantee he’ll be any more grown up than you are. Especially if most of his friends are teenage, that’s a pretty big sign he’s not into any grown up things. It just feels to me you’re not with him for the right reasons, that’s why you analyse so much. When we feel someone is the right partner for us – we don’t have so many doubts. Being with someone just because he is safe and will never leave you is as good reason as any, but this is not love. And you obviously want more than just safety.

      You’ll never be safe from getting hurt – no matter how much someone loves you, there will be times when they’ll do something that hurts you. The only way to minimise pain from others is to develop emotional intelligence which will make you strong and resilient, believe in yourself and love yourself – that will protect you from pain caused by others. Also, when you understand that people don’t hurt you because they want to, but because they don’t know any better. Wish you all my best!

      • darris says:

        What doesn’t it mean when a woman says I’ll always have a place in my heart for you

        • Petra says:

          If she said it while explaining why you can’t be together (anymore) – it means she loves you but not in a romantic way. That’s a nice excuse that people use when they want to soften the blow of breaking up. Usually doesn’t work, because – like you – the person who is left misinterprets is as a sign that there is still hope for the relationship.

      • Ami says:

        Thank you a lot for your time, and also wise words!

        I do love him in the best sense I can, although I’m afraid to completely “open” my heart for him.
        However the negativity with the gap we have between us is perhaps too strong for me, I didn’t focus on the love when I wrote the comment.
        Perhaps I need more time to grow and get more wisdom about my self to build and remain in a healthy relationship?
        The last I want is to create an unhealthy environment for a potentially healthy relationship.

        • Petra says:

          You can grow through relationships too, just be mindful that you’re with someone for the right reasons – and that the relationship in general makes you happy. There can be bad periods, life has it’s ups and downs, but if you are overall not happy – you need to do something about it: fix things (together with your partner), or leave if there is no other way.

  2. Ami says:

    And my other issue is about a state he made when I asked him about how he would describe himself to someone who doesn’t know him well, where I recall the paraphrase of his words read something like this: “I’m complex and complicated, and sometimes have this dual personality.”
    The second problem is he seem to lack an understanding of whom he is, and thus I wanted to ask you in what ways a person who doesn’t know himself good enough, can affect a relationship?

    • Petra says:

      If you don’t know yourself, yes – your relationships will be shallower and more problematic. This is because when we don’t know ourselves, we have lots of fears and insecurities, which make us more sensitive and less keen to get close to someone.

  3. Lynne says:

    Hi Petra,

    You have so many wonderful articles I’d like to comment on! I decided on this one because it is something I experienced with a long term boyfriend a few years ago. I loved so much about him, but he drove me absolutely crazy, and living together was very difficult. He was/is a very good person, and I didn’t like myself for being so frustrated and annoyed with his quirks. Of course, there were other factors that stressed the relationship. I was sad to end it, but felt it was the best because I wasn’t happy and couldn’t imagine he was very happy either.

    Today, he is one of my closest friends, and I still love him (but not in love). I am able to be more open-minded about his quirks as a friend, than as a girlfriend. I think many people can relate to that idea.

    I guess that’s all I have to say.

    Thank you!

    • Petra says:

      I think it’s great you found a way to stay friends, because it is true that sometimes we find the most amazing people but we can’t be together – and friendship can be as beautiful, but a lot less stressful. Thank you for commenting, and for your feedback on my articles. Much appreciated!

%d bloggers like this: