Did he always leave his dirty shoes like that?

Was her voice always so nasally?

Did he always ignore my texts?

It can start with noticing just one thing that bothers you about your partner—then suddenly, it’s everything. Even the stupid little things that you know really shouldn’t bother you suddenly have you crawling up the wall.

Ever heard the phrase “It’s not you, it’s me?” Well, this is probably the case.

It’s not that your partner has suddenly developed a million new annoying habits—it’s the fact that suddenly you’ve noticed and decided to be bothered by them. More likely than not, it’s you that has the problem, not them.

I know, harsh, right? But trust me on this.

I used to date a man named John. When we first started dating, we were fully in love and good for each other—we challenged one another to learn and grow and to see the world from a new perspective. But as the years passed, I found I was dissatisfied with how engaged he was in my life. He was stretched thin building his business, but he didn’t share this with me. Instead, he’d blow me off and sneak off to hang out with his friends all night.

As my irritation with and disappointment in him grew stronger, I expressed these feelings to my mentor. She helped me to dig deeper—was I really frustrated at his lack of interest in the relationship, or was it something else? As we spoke, I mentioned numerous times that John had broken my trust by lying to me. Soon, my mentor was able to highlight the pattern: the problem wasn’t that John was disengaged, it was that I hadn’t forgiven him for being dishonest and I no longer trusted him.

I had never admitted to myself that I didn’t trust John, but it was nonetheless causing me to actively look for ways to pick apart our relationship. By putting the blame on him being “disengaged” I could pretend that he was the one whose change of heart was destroying our relationship—not mine. In reality, my anger and distrust—though justified—was pulling us apart.

Only by admitting these feelings to myself and confronting John were we able to move through it. John and I didn’t end up working out, but the experience taught me how easy it is to lie to ourselves.

I’ve seen this denial happen in many different ways. A number of my female clients have complained to me about their history of attraction to “emotionally unavailable” men—the ones who can’t and won’t commit. Eventually, their frustration with his noncommittal attitude spirals into an irritation with everything about him.

Usually, after we look at some of the patterns in my client’s life, I find that the reason they find a sudden issue with their partner is because underneath it all, they didn’t have the confidence in themselves to think the relationship was going to last.

It’s not their partners that are putting a wall up, it’s my clients who are afraid to open up and be vulnerable—whether from a fear of rejection or abandonment or of not being worthy or liked.

This can be a chronic problem, and the way to fix it doesn’t start with a new relationship; it starts by figuring out what it is that we really want. For example, when I was younger, I didn’t have the self-awareness that I do today. I didn’t know myself and my passions well enough to bring them to the table in a relationship, so I would go along with whatever the other person wanted to do. This complacency on my part consistently created resentment within me, and it convinced me that all men are selfish, forcing me to go along with what they want.

I later learned that I needed to know myself—and all my passions and desires and hopes for my life and my relationships—before I could ever be happy with someone else. I had to figure myself out first before I could possibly work on a relationship with someone else because…

We can only begin to see the perfection in others once we’ve seen it in ourselves. @RobinEmmerich (Click to Tweet!)

Sure, your partner may drive you nuts, but before you put the kibosh on the whole thing, ask yourself this: is this person truly wrong for me, or are they a catalyst who’s meant to help me change and grow into the person I’m meant to be?

Robin Emmerich has spent close to a decade coaching some of the most successful women in business. Even with their considerable success, the common denominator is that as much as they seemed to be cruising through life on the outside, they were melting on the inside. It’s why Robin created Beauty and the Mess—an athleisure brand launching Spring 2017—in support of a sisterhood who understands that life is messy and difficult and challenging, but together, can find the strength to prioritize passion over perfection and fearlessly seek beauty in their everyday lives. Connect with Robin at robinemmerich.com on Instagram, or Twitter.

Image used with permission of Jared Tennant.