Additional Information for Chapter 8, page 105
The Compatibility Code provides two sources of disqualifiers: Disqualifiers based on the findings of research psychology, and disqualifiers that are personally determined. We spend our time here addressing the first type—disqualifiers already determined by research. The reason is essentially twofold:
- Every one of the 19 disqualifiers listed operates on a continuum from a lesser to a greater amount.
- At mild levels these issues would not be disqualifiers at all
Another critical factor is that personally-determined disqualifiers can, indeed, be pre-determined; that is, before you start dating someone. The existence of psychological disqualifiers can only be determined within the context of an actual relationship. Some of these qualities may be immediately evident while others may emerge over time.
There is nothing clear cut about the list for research. On the List of Personal Disqualifiers worksheet (p. 117), disqualifiers from research findings are each preceded by a box with instructions to “Put a check by any that you think may pose a problem to the relationship.”
It is likely that most of us have experienced these destructive qualities at some level during our lives. Ever felt hostile? Ever felt bitter? Ever been selfish? The answer is “of course!” The same would be true of many of the items on the list.
Once you have placed checks next to potential problem areas (and you may be well into the relationship before some qualities emerge) then it is well to consider some of the options suggested in The Compatibility Code on pages 113 and 114 to determine how serious these problems are. Five steps to assist are listed below:
- From your own simple observations some qualities may clearly be labeled disqualifier
- Be on your toes as the relationship progresses to be aware of emerging difficulties
- Talk with others who know the person well to gain their honest feed back
- Consult with an expert if the former three don’t provide a clear answer
- Get tested as suggested on page 114 of The Compatibility Code
Don’t doddle in checking out these issues in the context of a personal relationship. The longer you delay the more emotionally entangled you become and the more devastating a break up will be.
The more emotionally involved you are in a relationship the less able you are to see with clarity. Emotional involvement with someone you love meets very real human needs for closeness, belonging, nurturance, sexual expression and others. When your world is engulfed in the sweetness and warmth of these needs being fulfilled the following outcomes are likely:
Entirely ignoring your list of disqualifiers (assuming you have created one)
Forgetting what your disqualifiers are
Minimizing serious issues as, in the rosy glow, you feel they are not so important
Remember from Chapter 3 of The Compatibility Code that this in-love condition lasts on average only 2 years. Remember also that what you seek is a relationship that provides all of those needs for a lifetime, not just for two years.
What this boils down to is the importance of being to extract yourself from occasionally from the intensity of emotion and explore with clear rational objectivity the likelihood of success in this relationship. Don’t try this when you’re snuggling in front of a fire, but select a time when you’re alone or with an objective friend or counselor. Then, extract yourself from the emotion and consider in the light of what you have learned from The Compatibility Code and other valid sources the likelihood of long-term success of this relationship. Pull out your list of personal disqualifiers and the list of research-based disqualifiers and see if any of them apply.
This doesn’t sound very romantic, I realize, but consider the subtitle of this chapter: “Warning, no romance found in this chapter!” You want a relationship that provides these needs for 60 years, not just two.
Altering Your List
This need not be complex. We have already considered how to relate to the issue of research-based disqualifiers under the first sub-heading of this prescript. Your list of personally-determined disqualifiers will rarely be complete. You see, you are not omniscient. In the context of different relationships you will find that some items you thought were disqualifiers are actually red flags and, given thorough discussion, can be dealt with. Other items that had never crossed you mind will emerge as disqualifiers, once again, within the context of your relationships. Be open to including these changes. Just be careful not to compromise principle in the changes you make.
Here is what we mean by “compromising principle”. You may have listed as a disqualifier “habitually critical”. You are in a relationship with a wonderful man who possessed all your #1 qualities of a desirable match and demonstrates a wonderful lack of serious challenges. The only problem is that he is, indeed habitually, critical. In the dating phase he tends to be critical of others. As the relationship grows his criticism switches increasingly to you. Compromising principle would be deciding that “habitually critical” is really a red flag and that you can handle it. This is an example of being blinded by your emotions. If you marry you will be the unhappy recipient of most of his scorn. This is not the world you envisioned but it materializes simply because you compromised on your list of disqualifiers.
Developing the Right Mind Set
The time to develop the right mind set is before you get into a serious relationship. Let’s draw an analogy.
If I am a talented 13-year old violinist it might be wise, even at this early age, to determine what I eventually want from my playing. If I wish to eventually play in a symphony orchestra and make my living as a professional musician, it might be wise to consider which steps will get me there. Where would I go for such information? I would go to top musicians who have achieved what I want or to teachers who have guided musicians to such challenging achievements. Within that context a top teacher might clarify that 1) I have the talent to achieve my goals and 2) it would require 3 hours a day of practice (with the guidance of a top teacher) through high school and 6 hours a day when in college, and, that it may take up to 7 or 8 years (with many discouraging auditions) before I land a position with a top symphony orchestra. This provides me with a model of what is required and I can then determine whether or not I am willing to do what is required to achieve the goal. The reward? To live an entire career immersed in the world’s greatest music and associating with others of similar talent and interest.
If I choose to go ahead, I am mentally and emotionally prepared to do what’s required and also prepared to develop a thick enough skin that I can handle the rejections. This is what we mean by “developing the right mind set.”
Now a successful marriage is not as difficult as landing a spot in a top symphony orchestra, but let’s write a similar paragraph for someone who wants to have a successful marriage.
I am a 33-year old woman who has experienced a divorce and has no children. Even for an average woman, statistics suggest that I have another 50 or so years to live, and if I care for myself perhaps 60 or more. Just as our young musician, it would be well to consider what I want to do with those 50 or 60 years. We consider only the relational domain as we continue the story. Although my first marriage failed I have a strong need to be in a committed relationship with all that that entails. I want the marriage to be successful in that it 1) lasts the rest of my life, 2) it provides nurturing, sentient, sensual pleasures associated with a good marriage, 3) it provides a dynamic relationship with a wonderful man who shares my passions and remains my best friend, 4) we have a family that includes children, pets and all the activities associated with family. Just like the young violinist we have identified our goal.
How do I achieve that? Who would I consult to gain the necessary knowledge? When I tried myself (with no guidance) the marriage failed miserably. So I look to the best sources possible. I load myself down with John Gottman’s books, Gary Chapman’s books, and, of course, The Compatibility Code. I devour this material (this will certainly take less than the 6 hours a day that our violinist must devote) and before beginning to date acquire a foundation of knowledge of relational success that will stand me well into the future. When I begin to date I establish a relationship with a counselor who has guided many to successful marriages. I don’t go on a regular basis, but as questions emerge, I get together with the counselor to help clarify—early in the process—not when I’ve made a mess of it.
In the context of this chapter, I acknowledge that I want the pleasures of marriage for a lifetime, not just for the two years of the in-love phase. Thus I will complete all the worksheets provided in The Compatibility Code. Concerning disqualifiers, I will complete my list, and, in consultation with my counselor break off a relationship if we agree that a genuine disqualifier exists. This will be painful, particularly if the relationship has developed for awhile. But I am clear on the eventual goal.
I (Darren) intrude on the dialog for a comment: I know what some of you are thinking: “Gosh, darn, that is a lot of work. If it is that much trouble I’d probably rather not marry.” I assure you, it is not that bad. The surgeon does not continue in med school for a life time. The professional musician does not have to continue to practice 6 hours a day. The lawyer does not continue in law school once he or she has passed the bar. The same parallels apply to intimate relationships. Certainly you should read and absorb the works of Gottman, Chapman, the Georges and others to gain that foundational knowledge. Once the knowledge is in place and your marriage has successfully negotiated the early challenges; then maintenance of an extraordinary relation might involve applying what you have learned and reading together in a relational success book for 10 minutes a day. Once the ground work is laid, then you move into “flow” where you enjoy the benefits of your hard work—and the benefits continue for a life time. Back to the dialog:
I will also not settle for someone who is not a good match. This may involve many dates with many men before one that complements me will emerge. This is not fun (nor is practicing 6 hours a day and failing audition after audition fun), but I keep my eye on the eventual goal. A wonderful marriage that encompasses all the things listed earlier.
This, my friends, is the right mind set: Willing to gain the knowledge; willing to consult with experts; willing to cut off a relationship if disqualifiers exist; willing to take as long as is required to find the person who can share the joy of a life-long marriage.
Disqualifiers in an Already Existing Relationship: Is Change Possible?
We did not include this topic in The Compatibility Code because it would encourage the desperate to think that someone they love who is afflicted with serious disqualifiers is likely to change. This rarely occurs, but, since it does occur sometimes we include a thorough and thoughtful discussion of the factors that influence the possibility of change in an existing relationship.
If the world was an entirely logical and orderly place, this section would not even exist. Instructions presented in The Compatibility Code are straightforward: 1) Identify and write down your disqualifiers. 2) If a particular person has one, look elsewhere. But we don’t live in that orderly logical world. People fall deeply in love with someone who possesses disqualifiers. When this occurs, there is an agonizing, desperate desire that the disqualifiers disappear (or at least moderate) so that a happy life together is possible. The remainder of this chapter addresses the possibility of change.
For centuries, the Judeo-Christian heritage has urged the possibility and the necessity of change.
But, is change possible? In many instances, yes.
Is change likely? In most instances, no.
For example, it might be clear to us that certain problems are limiting or destroying someone we love. It is unlikely, however, that our challenged friend sees these difficulties so clearly. Many people live in a vague fog of confusion, and the possibility or desirability of positive change never clearly emerges. Others are aware of their challenges, but choose to live defeated lives rather than putting forth the effort to change. No matter how much you want it, it is futile and foolish to hope or wish that another person will change. The first rule dealing with changing disqualifiers is that change must occur because the person wants it, not because someone else wants it.
A. Factors Associated with the Difficulty of Change
Several factors influence the difficulty of change. Each factor operates on a continuum such as the percentile scale described earlier. There are, of course exceptions to the basic rules, but generally they hold:
- Higher levels of energy are more susceptible to change than lower levels of energy. For instance it is generally easier to mellow out the workaholic or the hyper active than it is to energize the couch potato or the lazy bum.
- Less deeply-rooted problems are easier to change than more deeply-rooted problems. For instance, it is easier to work with someone who is experiencing situational anger due to a recent difficulty than to alter the explosive temper of an individual whose anger has brewed since childhood.
- It is easier to change a short-term issue than a long-term issue. For example it is easier to clean up the language of a person who has only recently started swearing than for someone who has practiced this particular art form for 30 years.
- It is easier to change an acquired habit or characteristic than to change a person’s basic temperament. Based on this argument, it would be easier for someone to quit smoking (acquired) than for a shy person (basic temperament) to become outgoing.
Within this context we consider three levels of difficulty associated with changes of undesirable qualities:
- Qualities that are impossible to change,
- Qualities or conditions that are extremely resistant to change even with extensive effort and therapy, and
- Qualities or conditions that can change given sufficient motivation and guidance.
We accept that individual differences may shift a particular quality between number 2 (extremely resistant to change) or number 3 (possible with effort). Number 1 (not changeable) remains precisely that. In the following paragraph we introduce eight situations in which a person possesses a disqualifier and then, in paragraphs that follow, categorize and discuss each situation. We also raise the issue about whether change is genuine or long lasting. That question will be addressed later in this discussion.
B. Examples of People With specific Disqualifiers
These examples propose two persons who are eager to marry, are thoroughly infatuated with each other, but one possesses a characteristic that the other identifies as a disqualifier. Here are examples of desired changes or promised changes that attempt to deal with the issue:
- Jason smokes and Joyce won’t marry him if he continues to smoke. Jason promises that he will quit once they get married.
- Paul has an explosive temper. Realizing that his temper will kill the possibility of marriage he carefully avoids expressing anger whenever he is around his beloved.
- Marvin has been raised without ever experiencing consequences for his actions; his buddies call him a spoiled brat. Emily has found him to be terminally selfish and unable to take responsibility. To retain Emily, Marvin fakes generosity from time to time.
- Albert is a Ph.D. physicist and is dating a beautiful girl, Shelley, who has average intelligence. She promises that if they marry she will spend a lot of time reading mathematics and physics books.
- Karen has an excessive dependency need (pop psychology would call this “codependent”) and is all over Carl like the proverbial “mud on a pig.” Carl needs some room to breathe. Karen promises to back off and allow him more space.
- Julia is compulsively critical. Her mom was critical before her and her grandma before her. Harry realizes he cannot survive a marriage in which he is continually subjected to this form of abuse. Julia, realizing the importance of change, tries to be nicer.
- Howard wants to maintain control of everything that touches his life. Within this relationship Katharine feels crushed and restrained. Alfred eases back a little (lets her drive his car) to allow Katharine to feel a little more freedom.
- Cary has lived a life characterized by deep-seated hostility and bitterness. Paula has become increasingly alarmed as these qualities have unfolded during the course of their relationship. Cary, realizing that he might lose Paula, begins to stop expressing his distress to her.
So how do you feel about the chances of these eight couples? Probably not very good—and your opinion would be well justified. Let’s first consider the difficulty of change in each of these situations.
- Impossible to change: Only one of the examples above falls into this category—the physicist and his beautiful but intellectually-challenged girl friend. She can read math and physics books for a lifetime but will never make much of a dent at understanding Albert’s world. The defining quality in this category is the fact that nothing known to present medical and psychiatric knowledge can change it.
- Extremely resistant to change: Even with great desire on the part of the individual and extensive therapy over time, change is slow. The vast majority gives up long before genuine change is realized. This category would include spoiled brat Marvin, codependent Karen, hostile and bitter Cary, and controlling Howard. The foundational characteristic in each of these cases is that the problem is so characteristic of their lives, so deep-seated, that even focused effort takes a long time to crack the nut.
- Change possible with sufficient motivation: These would include smoking Jason, angry Paul, and critical Julia. We reiterate that based on the qualities of the individual and circumstances, personal qualities might be classed as either #2 or #3. We adhere to the averages, that is, qualities that in actual experience would typically be coded into these categories. In each of the three cases there are many well-defined mechanisms in place to deal with the problems of smoking Jason, angry Paul, or critical Julia that can effect lasting change.
C. Effective and Ineffective Methods of Change
How do you know if visible change is real and lasting? We have all lived long enough to know people will attempt the appearance of change in order to get what they want. Often when a person realizes they possess qualities that seriously threaten the continuation of a relationship, they will make feverish attempts to change or at least pretend to change. This “appearance of change” takes several forms.
Dishonesty. There are instances when someone knows that their efforts (or absence of them) have not produced the desired result and they simply try to deceive their partner into thinking that change has occurred. This might include the smoker or drinker who continues the habit in secret, the porn addict who continues his activities underground, the couch potato who puts on a show of activity when in the presence of the other (but sits like a slug when he can get away with it). Such individuals may be able to continue their charade until the marriage occurs, but will revert to the previous behavior when the immediate risk of losing their partner has passed. There is no cure. Deceit is deceit and you will need to be perceptive and hardheaded enough to realize that no change has taken place and break the relationship before you waste more of your life in an unworkable affiliation.
Efforts to change when knowledge is lacking. The second futile situation is when an individual makes serious efforts to change but does not understand how. Equally distressing is someone who is convinced they know how to solve the problem but their misguided efforts only make matters worse. They have an explosive temper and attempt to be strong and not let it show. They are overweight and think if they just wear the blubbo-buster for a few weeks they will lose 20 lb. The manipulative person tries to become less so. The rigid person makes some concessions and tries to improve. All may require the help of a professional (or at least a self-help book on the subject) for resolution to occur.
Not recognizing the magnitude of the problem. Some make efforts to change entirely unaware that the magnitude of change they need is not possible with simplistic efforts. One may suffer from paranoia and try to resolve it by wearing a “Don’t Worry Be Happy” t-shirt. Another is overly sensitive and thinks if they just try harder they can develop appropriate toughness. Long-term challenges are not solved easily. Such efforts are like dealing with an embedded bullet by putting a Band-Aid over the hole of entry. In fact, a standard phrase in group or individual therapy is “band-aiding” and refers to trivial attempts to solve deep-rooted problems. Those who put forth inadequate efforts to resolve deep seated issues are condemning themselves to a life of frustration.
D. Quantitative change vs. qualitative change
Two types of change are described below. One type represents the essence of the most desirable sort of change (Qualitative); the other is rarely effective (Quantitative). We first describe the ineffective one.
Quantitative change is represented by those who have improved some: The word “quantitative” refers to numbers and “quantitative change” is a small change on the number scale. For instance, if you ranked 8 (on a 10-point scale) on aggressiveness and improved a little to a 7, that is quantitative change. Examples: The swearer tries to not swear when in the presence of his partner (but continues the habit elsewhere); the porn addict partakes only once a week rather than a previous daily consumption (but continues with a mind obsessed by it); the deceitful person, like Huckleberry Finn, makes feeble efforts at honesty (but continues to deceive himself); the critic grits her teeth to avoid criticizing (but seethes with discontent about the flaws of her partner). The difficulty with quantitative change is that the task is not completed, and only the self-deceived individual suggests that it is. Only a commitment to complete resolution, however long that takes, produces effective change. This sort of resolution is identified as “qualitative change.”
Qualitative change represents the complete, foundational resolution of significant concerns. The swearer no longer swears, even in private. The porn addict not only ceases to indulge but has lost his taste for it. The deceitful person establishes a fundamental honesty. The promiscuous person forges a rock solid commitment to his partner. The critical person has replaced criticism with expressions of gratitude. Qualitative change is what we seek in resolving difficult challenges. But how can we know if qualitative change has occurred?
E. How Do We Know if Change Is Genuine and Lasting?
Resolution for a period of time prior to marriage. One way to test the genuineness of a promise to change, is to establish criteria for acceptable resolution. For instance, take the smoker making efforts to quit. You might place the criteria that when she has remained cigarette free for six months (or any other time frame) then you are willing to go ahead with plans for marriage. Similar movement toward marriage may occur when, for instance, the critic has gone for six months in which concerns are expressed productively and expressions of appreciation are the norm, or when the workaholic has mapped out a consistent pattern of times for relaxation and enjoyment—and adhered to it. Usually, determining resolution without the help of a professional will relate to the #3 level concerns (change possible with sufficient motivation). These are behaviors or patterns that are not so deeply rooted, or, areas where you have sufficient personal knowledge to resolve them.
Commitment to on-going self-help or therapy. In this setting an individual may not have gained complete triumph over his or her difficulties, but has made significant progress and has committed to an on-going pattern of therapy or personal growth. One rule of thumb is that you should continue efforts to change a behavior for as long as you have experienced that behavior. “But, that would take forever!” I hear some of you cry. Fine, you should probably work on it “forever.” Elizabeth and I have committed to taking a few minutes every day reading books together about relationship enhancement. We plan on doing that “forever.” If an individual possesses disqualifiers, there is an even greater urgency that he or she commits to continuing improvement.
Consider, for example, a person with communication difficulties. There are many excellent books on improving communication skills. If by reading and applying the material in books or attending enrichment seminars on a regular basis your communication improves, why stop there? Why not eventually become excellent at communication skills? The same applies to anger management, developing logical thought patterns, pursuing an exercise program, learning to be more altruistic, developing a more gentle spirit, and improving self-esteem. If your partner has clearly immersed himself in such material, has made substantial progress, AND, has committed himself to continued involvement, then it may be safe to continue on in the relationship. But don’t be deceived! Touching up the x-rays will only ensure eventual disaster!
Verification by a professional. Many of the items listed above require professional help to resolve. Even on characteristics and behaviors that are less severe, and that you feel are in the process of resolving, verification by a professional is wise. We unfortunately live in a society where obtaining help from a professional in life-management skills is looked down upon and often avoided. This is unfortunate because the pattern then is to wait until the irritating flame has become a raging inferno before help is sought. By then it is often too late. If you hold that foolish attitude and want a successful marriage, I have simple advice for you: “Get over it.” We’ve mentioned it before: If your car has mechanical challenges, there is no shame in getting the help of a mechanic; if you are physically ill, seeing a doctor is only logical; if you need legal help, a lawyer is the appropriate direction to turn. Why then, in an area so important as your life, or your marriage, is there resistance to getting help?
F. A Final Word
We remind you that all this talk about your partner overcoming the difficult or impossible should not lull you into spending years of your life pleading and hoping. In 99% of the cases these challenges will remain and can be classified, as the title of this chapter suggests, “disqualifiers.” Possession of a disqualifier eliminates that person from consideration as a potential life partner. If you are dating someone with disqualifiers who is resistant to counseling, your options are simple. Either they get help or you break off the relationship. If you are intensely in love with such a person, the wise course is to cut off the relationship now and devote your energies to someone who has valid potential.