Everyone is difficult at some point. But there's a difference between being difficult when you're under pressure and being difficult all the time. If you're feeling frustrated at your partner's lack of enthusiasm for the things you do for them, you may be
dating a chronically difficult person.
"Difficult can be a strong word, but in general, what many would describe as difficult is someone who has
very particular expectations or requirements for their time or efforts," Lia Holmgren , NYC-based intimacy expert and relationship coach, tells Bustle. Someone who is difficult may be much harder to please than someone who're more easy-going. Some have higher standards, while others don’t like particular environments or activities. According to Holmgren, those who are called difficult are often the individuals that know what they dislike and won’t do something that they don’t want to do.
To be fair, there's nothing wrong with knowing what you like and don't like. But it can be harmful to a relationship when it becomes a source of stress for one or both partners.
"When you are melding your life with someone, there are anticipated compromises," Holmgren says. "One person should not have to bend over backwards to please the other, and when one partner is [...] jaded about many things, it can wear on the other." When you're dating someone who's difficult, traditionally "happy" times like birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries can be met with complaints, aggression, or negative reactions.
It's not always easy to spot a chronically difficult person, since we all have our moments. So here are some signs that you may be dating a chronically difficult person, according to experts.
There's A Lot Of Avoidance And Resistance Coming From Them
"Characteristics among 'difficult people' will be different among all individuals, but you’ll notice resistance and they’ll be unwavering in their desires to do or avoid something," Holmgren says. Sometimes they'll dismiss small things like date night suggestions or restaurants to eat at. "Once you start to notice it more regularly, it’s probably safe to assume that your partner is one of those who
have higher standards about they way they spend their time and energy," she says.
If this is the case, you don't have to see it as a bad thing. According to Holmgren, some people just have a little more requirements in order for them to experience wonder or joy. So for you, it might not be a bad idea to ask them to help plan things. "You shouldn’t always need to overcompensate for their having higher standards," she says.
You Need To Walk On Eggshells When It Comes To Certain Subjects
When you feel the need to stay away from certain subjects because you know your partner is going to react in a negative way, you may be dealing with a difficult person. As licensed clinical social worker,
Meg Josephson tells Bustle, "This can be a major challenge to keeping an open line of communication, which is critical to building a healthy relationship."
Some topics of conversation can be uncomfortable for some, and that's OK. If your partner doesn't want to talk about it, respect their boundaries. But if they're unwilling to talk about every single thing that makes them feel uncomfortable, that can prevent you from solving relationship issues. At some point you will likely feel like your partner doesn't trust you, which can then create distance.
They've Told You They Feel Neglected By You
If your partner has told you they've been feeling neglected, Josephson says you need to take a moment to assess whether they're expressing a "real need" or if their expectations are unrealistic. You'll know the truth if you think about how often you touch base with your partner.
"Aim to communicate enough so that you maintain a connection and make your partner feel cared for, but not so much that you feel it's impacting your life or does not fall within your comfort zone," she says. If you can honestly say that you've been giving your all to your relationship and your partner still says they don't feel like you care enough, you likely have a chronically difficult partner.
They Have A History Of Unstable Relationships
Your partner may be difficult if they have a history of unstable relationships, Josephson says. In addition to unstable romantic relationships, you may even notice them talking a lot about "former friends" or "estranged family." In general, you'll notice that your partner doesn't seem to have a lot of good relationships in their life. According to Josephson, staying curious and non-judgmental is important in discovering if your partner's difficult behavior is the reason behind their lack of positive relationships.
They Constantly Blame Others For Their Troubles
If your partner isn't the type to take responsibility for their own actions, they're likely a chronically difficult person. When you're dealing with this in the context of a romantic relationship,
Marlena Cole, professional relationship expert and life coach, tells Bustle, it will make it very difficult to connect on a deeper level.
"Being in a close intimate relationship with someone who does not take responsibility for what they say and do will impact you," she says. You may also find that your partner is the "woe-is-me" type. "They are always at the effect of something or someone else and they seem powerless to change things in their life," Cole says. Again, this will hinder your connection and can leave you frustrated.
"Difficult people are usually the first ones to condemn because they continually judge based on their belief system," Cole says. In other words, their opinions are always "right." Since they're like this, arguing with them may seem pointless because you know they've already made up their mind without hearing your side first.
They Keep Bringing Up The Same Issues Over And Over Again
When you're dating someone who's chronically difficult, they may not let old problems die. "You will find yourselves arguing about the same thing over and over again with no solution in sight," Cole says. Even if you're arguing about something totally unrelated, they will somehow find a way to bring things back to that one issue you can't seem to resolve.
If you realize that you're dating a chronically difficult person and you've made the choice to work things out, it is very possible to do so. "Although it can be exhausting, the best way to turn the relationship around is to ensure that you are acknowledging and validating your partner's emotions," Cole says.
If you choose to continue with the relationship, it's super important to keep bringing the positive energy in. According to her, you can do this by encouraging your partner to see a different side of things by asking empowering questions when they're being uncooperative. Allowing them to discover the solution on their "own" will be the key to them changing their behavior. It will take a lot of patience on your part. But if you truly believe that your partner is worth it, you can do it.