How to Love a Partner Who Is Hard to Please

4 min read
Source: Pexels / Pixabay

Source: Pexels / Pixabay

We all know someone who never seems to be satisfied. They set the bar too high regarding expectations of you and often of themselves.

Whether personally or professionally, when you think you have moved the ball down the field, they move the goalpost.

If you are reading this, you might already be involved with a hard-to-please paramour. How did it happen? Probably over time.

Perhaps your partner was on good behavior at first, although intolerance and dissatisfaction often tend to be expressed, even on a first date. Perhaps the dissatisfaction was not about you at first, so you felt like you were part of a unified team.

You might have even agreed with the sentiments, empowering your partner to continue the diatribe. Until, predictably, the tables turned, and you were transformed from team member to target.

If you are unsure whether you have fallen for a partner with high expectations, consider the following questions.

The Walking Complaint Box

Some high-maintenance partners consistently show their stripes because they are always complaining. These people are in line at the purser’s office on a cruise ship or at the front desk at a luxurious tropical resort, complaining about a small flaw, such as a drawer not closing completely or a spot on the rug.

The walking complaint box will also continually remind you if, God forbid, you are the one who “broke” the drawer or spilled the coffee on the rug. There is no such thing as a complaint too small for a difficult-to-please partner.

Your Best Is Not Good Enough

Hard-to-please partners are vocal about their dissatisfaction, even if couched within a compliment. Although they may express appreciation when you have made an effort to appease, be alert for the caveat.

  • “Thank you for fixing the television set. I hope next time you can figure out how to add the cable channels as well.”
  • “That concert sounds great. We’ll see how well we can see the stage from the seats you selected.”

Resist the temptation to engage with these types of remarks. No retort will be “acceptable” to a partner like this; sometimes silence is golden, and indifference is bliss.

Equal Opportunity Dissatisfaction

Someone hard to please within a relationship is likely hard to please in other settings—which you can detect early on in the relationship if you are paying attention. Jiseon Ahn (2023) examined customers’ behavior with Dark Triad personalities in a food delivery service context.[i]

Results showed that customers exhibiting narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy were linked with negative engagement, associated with “negative behavioral intentions,” including desiring revenge and exaggerating in online reviews.

When Conflict Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Countering research on dark personalities, on the bright side, studies have identified how negative circumstances can predict positive relational growth. Scott Gershwer (2022) found that within a sample of middle-aged, self-described “happily married” couples, negative experiences endured as a couple can increase mutual intimacy, especially when a crisis led the couple to understand they could rely solely on each other.[ii] Gershwer thus identified mutual reliance as a relational value and an apparent dimension of intimacy.

Love Is Blind, Not Deaf

Partners who are impossible to please are usually easy to hear if you know how to listen. Pay attention to word themes, conversation topics, commentary, and complaints.

Suppose you decide that leaving the relationship is not an option and choose instead to try to manage the situation. In that case, you don’t have to lower your expectations about how you should be treated, but you can lower the volume or the temperature during disagreements.

Listen without reacting. Your partner’s tirade of complaints is not sustainable without any wind in the sails. It takes two to tango but also to argue.

With patience and possibly professional counseling, you might identify and address the root cause of your partner’s dissatisfaction, which in many cases will have nothing to do with you.

Relationships Essential Reads

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours