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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

Flaw or Fatal Flaw?

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

Lindsay, age 27, was ambivalent about marrying Brian. “I just don’t know if he’s the one. He has problems, but then again, doesn’t everyone?”

The problem is that Brian drinks too much. And when he drinks he can get mean — yelling and cursing at Lindsay. When he’s not drinking, though, Brian is sweet and attentive.

Here’s another example of someone uncertain about a relationship. John, 30, has fallen in love with Lauren. But he’s not sure about making a commitment. For one, his best friend doesn’t like her that much. The friend thinks Lauren is a nice person but not particularly interesting.

While John has a masters degree in computers, Lauren only has a BA. She works in a pre-school, a job that she enjoys greatly but which doesn’t pay a lot. Aside from his concerns, John has warm and wonderful feelings when he is with Lauren. He can imagine having a house and family with her.

Here are two different scenarios. The common factor is that both Lindsay and John are uncertain whether to take the next step in their relationship. Both love their partners, but find fault with them.

Perhaps you, too, have mixed feelings about a relationship. It may not be a love relationship. Maybe you aren’t sure about maintaining a friendship.

We all can become uncertain at times about whether a relationship is good for us. One suggestion that I have is to ask yourself: Does the other person have flaws? Or do they have one or more fatal flaws?

For John, he worries that people might find Lauren a bit dull. But he loves being with her. Perhaps she won’t have a career that makes a lot of money. But he can imagine having a child with her.

It sounds like Lauren has “flaws.” But it doesn’t sound like she has any fatal flaws. Let’s contrast this situation with Lindsay.

Lindsay cares about her partner, Brian. But he drinks too much and can become verbally abusive, which great distresses Lindsay. Brian is also unwilling to change his behavior. Consequently, his behavior is an example of a “fatal flaw.” Even if someone only has one “fatal flaw,” it still bodes very poorly for a relationship.

Of course, Brian could come to realize that he has an alcohol problem. He can get help and change his life. However, if he doesn’t get help, then this relationship is bad news.

Let’s look at some common flaws versus fatal flaws. I will list a few, but I’m sure that you can come up with many more.


–He’s too short.

–She is overweight.

–He doesn’t make enough money.

–She can be sloppy and leave stuff all over the house.

–He can be a bit late, though he apologizes and tries to do better.

–He likes to go skiing; she prefers to hang out in the ski lodge and read.

Now let’s look at what might be “fatal flaws.”

–He has a problem with monogamy.

–She has emotional affairs with other people.

–He has a gambling problem.

–She has a shopping problem and spent thousands of dollars online last year.

–He is abusive to his son.

–She is inappropriate towards other men.

–When angry, he belittles and degrades his partner.

–She has serious mental health problems and refuses to get help.

–He has a substance abuse problem.

These flaws don’t have to be fatal ones. If someone is willing to get help, then there may be hope for the relationship. Also, in some cases, the behavior may not distress the partner. However, if the person won’t reach out for help and change actions that upset the partner, the best decision may be to end the relationship.

Remember that everyone has flaws. If your partner’s flaws are not fatal ones, try not to overreact to them. We all have to pick our battles. And one of the keys to relationship success is accepting the other person as they are, while focusing on his/her better qualities.

(Note: any reference in this blog to a person is a composite, not a real person.)

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