Negative Qualities

Additional Information for Chapter 5, page 73

We refer here to the chart of personal qualities you have filled out (or ARE filling out, or PLAN to fill out).  As suggested in The Compatibility Code all people have negative qualities and some of these negative qualities have the power to severely compromise the quality of your marriage.

Recognizing that you have these negative qualities is the first step toward resolution. Awareness about specific negative qualities (even if you do nothing about them) represents a significant step toward a positive outcome.  If you are aware of them you will tend to take these qualities into account when you interact with others.

So before we worry about what to do with negative qualities let’s make sure you have included the most important personal negative qualities on your sheet.  This is where the lists (Chapter 5 Prescript #1 and Reference #1 that documents Anderson’s 555 personal qualities) can be helpful.  If you have trouble thinking up negative personal qualities a wealth of dismal and disgusting traits are included in each location.  As you look through these lists, ask yourself honestly “Is this an issue I am dealing with now?”  The answer to that question falls into three categories:

  1. Many issues don’t apply. If it doesn’t apply, don’t talk yourself into including it.  Toss it like it deserves.
  2. If you are not sure about whether you possess certain qualities (or if they are important enough to include on your sheet), ask friends or family members what they think.  In considering what they say be sure to be aware of the issue of “similar perspectives from independent sources.”
  3. Finally if you know that a quality applies to you, add it to your list.

We consider what to do with these negative qualities in the next prescript of this chapter.  But be assured that your honesty and reasonable thoroughness of identifying the negative qualities moves you a giant step in the direction of resolution.

Overcoming/Changing Negative Qualities

Much bigger topic!  Identifying negative qualities may b e a giant step in the right direction, however, certain challenges may take many giant step to overcome.  Let’s see if we can make sense out of this.

First off let’s identify several negative qualities that a hypothetical person may possess to assist in the process.

We’ll call our model “Paula” a 35-year-old once-divorced woman with one child.

These are negative qualities that Paula possesses:

  • Critical
  • Argumentative
  • Unfit physically
  • Financially irresponsible
  • Pessimistic
  • Co-dependent

First we assess potential of each of these qualities to

  • jeopardize life success
  • jeopardize relational success

Using a scale of
1 = little impact
2 = moderate impact
3 = substantial impact
4 = great impact
5 = devastating impact

We create a little chart:  Note that the numbers rating severity are a function of 1) the nature of the issue and 2) how much of a problem it is for the individual being considered.  For someone else the numbers are likely to be different.

Negative quality Effect on life success  Effect on relational success
Critical nature 4 5
Argumentative 4 4
Unfit Physically 3 2
Pessimistic 5 5

As suggested in The Compatibility Code, it is wise to have a process in place to deal with each of these issues and have begun that process before dating again.  We add quickly that if you wait for each of these issues to fully resolve, you will die single.  Once again, before it is safe to date have in place:

  • Which issues need to be dealt with
  • A plan of attack to deal with each issue
  • Implementation of the plan has begun

So, how does one solve deeply rooted problems?  Here are some options.

  1. You already know how to solve it.  It then becomes a matter of drawing up your plan, initiating it and carrying it through to conclusion
  2. The problem is solvable with moderate levels of help.  For instance purchase of a self-help book dealing with that issue, reading the book, and applying the principles to your situation.
  3. More extensive effort that falls short of working with a professional therapist.  Perhaps a session or two with an expert in the field and use of a social network to keep you on track as you work toward resolution
  4. Professional therapist required

And recognize that if you try one option and it doesn’t work, you can always move up to the next level.

Here, then, are the specific areas that Paula has listedin the following sections.

Physical Fitness

In Paula’s case this issue can be solved with level-1 resources.  She has taken classes in health and fitness and appropriate diet and knows exactly what to do to regain fitness. Discussion centers around several issues:  First, it is the least severe of any of the five issues.  If she doesn’t mind living a lower quality of life, aging and dying a few years earlier, and losing critical functions many years sooner than a fitter individual, and, a potential partner has the same perspective; then fitness may not rise to the level of action.  Millions follow the advice of Mortimer J. Adler who is the originator of the statement: “Every once in a while I get this almost uncontrollable urge to exercise . . . . . but I lie down until the urge passes”

Fitness is not a deal breaker for most people.  So gaining a vibrant life boils down to whether the effort is worth the result.  In my case (Darren) I maintain high level fitness, exercise daily, and enjoy the extraordinary benefits.  Elizabeth doesn’t, but it has not threatened our relationship.

Critical Nature

This issue is a deal breaker if not attended to.  No easy way out here.  A Level 2 or  Level 3 type intervention might do the trick.  Explore with me the process by which one would set up a program to deal with criticisms:

1) Appreciate the consequences of continuing the behavior. Paula’s quality of life will be diminished, she will lose friends and alienate people, it will either destroy or severely compromise a future marriage.  With this starting awareness, if Paula has any interest in a successful marriage or  in not afflicting her future partner with such poison, then she will make the choice to change.

2) The most powerful change occurs when one does more than attempt to eliminate negative behavior.  The strongest results occur when you replace negative behavior with the opposite positive behavior.  So what is the opposite of criticism?  Expression of gratitude or appreciation.  So the plan is to not only eliminate criticism from Paula’s life but to replace it with genuine expression of appreciation.

3) The plan to make this change requires two tools: a) a note pad that Paula keeps on her person all day, and b) an accountability person who will monitor Paula’s progress.

Let’s say Paula makes on average 20 critical statements a day. The first day goal, then, is that when she has the urge to be critical, she stops herself and says something positive and affirming instead.  She jots down the event briefly on the note pad.  If she forgets and makes the criticism, then she will write that on the pad as well.  At the end of the day she hooks up with her accountability person and discusses how the day went. After about 30 days, the accountability person will no longer be necessary.

Let’s say that on the first day Paula caught 3 criticisms before they popped out.  In one of the three cases she was able to come up with an affirming statement instead.  There were 17 criticisms she didn’t catch and these are recorded on her little note pad.

The next day she may improve to 4-2-16 (choked off criticisms-affirming statements-expressed criticisms).  She will again discuss with her compatibility person how it went.

If she continues this process, within a month people will be commenting on how different she is.  By the end of a year Paula will habitually seek the good in others and express her appreciation, gratitude and affirmation on a consistent basis.  Than, criticisms will be rare because the desire to find and affirm that which is good will predominate.

Rhetorical question: Which of the two attitudes is likely to lead to a better marriage? The obsessively critical Paula, or the warm and appreciative Paula?


An argumentative nature is also a deal breaker if not attended to.  If Paula wishes a successful life or marriage the obsessive argumentation must go.

1) First of all Paula must look at her arguing directly and objectively to determine

  • why the arguing occurs,
  • how important is it that it be dealt with,
  • and what is required to end it.

As Paula considers, she realizes that arguing was intrinsic to the family’s pattern of dealing with issues. It was almost automatic that if someone was upset, the pattern was to figure out who was the cause then yell at that person. Since the person being yelled at was rarely the actual cause, a typical response was to yell back, and the argument began. Not once did any family member consider whether this was the best way to deal with the issue. In her first marriage she was married to a passive husband who would often not respond to her.  She found that when she did argue, he at least did respond, even though his response rarely got her what she wanted.

As Paula looks now on its effect on others she realizes that other people’s response to her arguing is uniformly negative. She realizes now that she has lost friendships because of her arguing and realizes further that her arguing played a significant role in her divorce.  She recalls a frequent comment by her former husband: “I want my home to be a place of peace but you have turned it into non-stop tension.”  Further she realizes that arguing left her frustrated and upset and rarely solved the problem she was addressing. Eventually Paula realizes that if she does not attend to her arguing then it will probably destroy her next marriage as well.

With some understanding as to why the arguing occurs Paula decides that she must explore other methods of resolving conflict.  This move us to step 2

2) Just like for resolving criticism, an answer moves beyond “just trying to quite arguing” and instead explores things to do instead of arguing to help resolve whatever issue caused the arguing in the first place. She speaks with close friends (who have experienced her argumentative nature) about what might  be a better way to a) get someone’s attention, and b) work toward resolution of the issue.

We refer you here to icon #8 from Chapter 2.  Click on the words “conflict resolution” to access that page that provides instruction about how to resolve differences without conflict.

3) After Paula has a clear understanding of the acts that will move her beyond argumentation, then it takes a choice to begin the process and continue the process until resolution has emerged.  If her friends and future romantic partner are cooperative they can play a big role in her overcoming this issue.

Finally, we realize that we have outlined might not work for some.  If so, then there is a common response to ANY problem that does not resolve due to your first round of effort.

Reconsider the issue and move on to another step.

For instance, with the lack-of-fitness issue, maybe a personal trainer is required.  For the criticisms or argumentative nature, perhaps the problems are so well entrenched that professional help of a counselor may be required to actually bring resolution.  If there are root issues that are causing the negative behaviors, a therapist may be required to uncover the root issues and deal with them.  You come down to the question you will ask about any negative issues for which you seek change:

Is the RESULT worth the EFFORT required to live a successful life and have an excellent marriage?

For most people, they never ask the question.  For many who do, the answer is regrettably “no.”  That is why we have subtitled The Compatibility Code “An Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Dating and Marriage.” The word “intelligent” does not refer as much to an IQ measure but to a willingness to look honestly at challenging issues and the courage to do what’s required to resolve them. A great marriage will be the byproduct


Pessimism reflects a characteristic way of viewing one’s world.  In severe cases (in which the pessimism is due to complex underlying factors) therapeutic intervention is required. However, in most instances, pessimism is a learned perspective, and just as it can be learned, it can be unlearned or replaced.  My professional opinion is that pessimism can be dealt with outside of therapeutic intervention in the majority of cases. The process would be similar to the process covered for overcoming Item #2 a critical nature, described two slots earlier in this discussion.

In the relearning process we’re not talking about a don’t-worry-be-happy sort of nonsense.  There are events that are genuinely negative, distressing, painful, discouraging, and devastating.  We are not suggesting that happiness is an appropriate response when your child is killed in an automobile accident.  We acknowledge that there is an appropriate time to rejoice and an appropriate time to weep.

What we ARE talking about is that the pessimistic person is cynical or glum much of the time when cynicism, glumness and pessimism are simply inappropriate.

Consider a message I found written on the board when I entered to teach a class one day:

“Things are as bad as they appear and are going to get worse”

Rather than erase the message, I wrote underneath it:

“We live in world that provides wealth, prosperity, opportunities, and freedoms hardly even imagined throughout history.”

Apparently people agreed because although the original message was soon erased, my message remained on the board for over a month.

Here then are the steps that should work for most people:

1) Shift perspective. Compare Paula’s life with an analogous person from 500 years ago. Let’s have even more fun and compare to someone in the 1 in 10,000 privileged class as well.

Issue Paula, 2008 Average Person, 1508 Nobility, 1508
expected life span 82 years 29 years 33 years
teeth in good repair for lifetime rotted out by 25 rotte out by 23
eyesight correctable to 20/20 poor and deteriorating poor and deteriorating
general health excellent subject to every possible infectious disease subject to every possible infectious disease
size of house 3000 sq feet 80 sq feet (average for family of five) 3 sq miles (approx.) (for household of 300)
TV yes no no
VCR/DVD player yes no no
internet yes no no
telephone yes no no
oven yes no no
stove yes no no
refridgerator yes no no
automobile yes no no
movie theaters yes no no
books yes no rarely
hot and cold running water yes no no
heating in winter yes no some
cooling in summer yes no no
vacations yes no yes
microwave yes no no
huge variety of foods yes no no
stereo systems yes no no
obesity potential problem (but subject to personal choices) no problem problem for some
air travel yes no no
rail travel yes no no
boat yes no yes
art (of all varieties) yes no some
torture condemned by citizens of all civilized countries. Amnesty International works tirelessly to monitor abuses an entertainment sport.  The more horrific the tortures, the more entertaining an entertainment sport.  The more horrific the tortures, the more entertaining to the masses the nobility (and church) authorized torture
crime it happens,  but we have resources to defend against it far worse, and no resources to combat it far worse, if you’re king you got 3 years until you are murdered
religious freedom and freedom of expression 100% as long as Paula does not violate the laws or the rights of others you get burned at the stake (after being tortured by the inquisition) if you believe or express differently from the majority you get burned at the stake (after being tortured by the inquisition) if you believe or express differently from the majority
political opportunities we can vote in elections, we can run for office, we can express our opinions to those in political power (and vote against them if unsatisfied) no voice, no freedoms, the pawn of the ruling powers you ARE the ruling power, but hardly safe. Thomas More got beheaded because he disagreed with Henry VIII

The list could go on and on and on, but do you see why I rejoice daily in the freedoms and opportunities that I enjoy?

Notice the nature of pessimism:  I had a brief (and unpleasant) altercation with the head of grounds several months ago.  I arrive at the music building and practice from 5: 30 to 7:50 a.m.  I would park my car (illegally) next to the music building, reasoning that it was always gone before 8:00 a.m. when activities began at the school.  The altercation resulted in my not parking there any more.  I notice almost daily two or three cars parked illegally up by the music building (my wife has done it a number of times and never got a ticket).

Pessimistic response: Complain to the higher powers about the horrifying injustices, agitate for better parking for the school, and if you can get the SOB (who insulted you) fired, all the better.

My (optimistic) response:  You call walking an extra 100 meters persecution??  Get a grip!! Getting burned at that stake, that’s persecution!  The fact that others park there illegally is none of my concern.

Do you realize how much sweat and torment my reaction saved me?

2) Take action: Now that you recognize the foolishness of pessimism you are motivated to take action.  An interesting procedure that I have heard about a number of times from three different sources (psychological research, motivational speakers, church pastors) is beautiful in its simplicity and applicable to anyone who wishes to use it.

Paula is pessimistic because she is in the habit of viewing many (typically trivial) things negatively.  She has expressed negativity tens of thousands of time over the years.  She needs to begin to undo the vast well of negativity that she has collected over time.

The plan works this way:

On day #1 you write down 10 things that you are grateful for (use the comparisons with 1508 chart to get you started) on 10 different cards.

Then twice that day (once morning, once evening) get the cards out and say out loud with enthusiasm:

“I am [grateful, thrilled, glad (your pick)] because of [state you item of gratefulness]”
“What would life be like if I didn’t have [state your item of gratefulness]” and think about it for 3 seconds
“I am [grateful, thrilled, glad (your pick)] because of [state you item of gratefulness]”

I am thrilled because I have wonderful eyesight!
What would life be like if I wasn’t able to see?
I am thrilled because I have wonderful eyesight!

I am thrilled because I able to hear!
What would my trombone and piano playing and enjoyment of music in general be like if I couldn’t hear?
I am thrilled because I am able to hear!

Estimated total time for both a.m. and p.m. sessions: 3 minutes, 40 seconds

On day #2 you write down 10 additional things that you are grateful for.  You now have a total of 20.

Go through the 20 items morning and evening like on the first day.

Estimated total time: 7 minutes 20 seconds

On days #3 – #14 you write down 10 additional things that you are grateful for each of the 12 additional days.  On the last day your will have 140 items that express your gratefulness.

Go through the 30 – 140 items morning and evening like on previous days.

Estimated total time on the 14th day with 140 items: 46 minutes 40 seconds (23:20 a.m., 23:20 p.m.)

On days #15 – #30 Continue that process with the 140 items through the end of the month.

By this point you should be cured and not have to do the rehearsing any more.  You will find that you are habitually seeking and expressing appreciation throughout your day.  If a few years later it begins to slip, do the process again.

Do you realize that in a total time of 11 hours and 40 minutes you have turned around a severely destructive personal quality.  Most negative qualities take a lot longer than that!


Co-dependency sucks the pleasure out of life for the victim and afflicts those who have the misfortune of being married to one.  Often the cause of co-dependency goes right back to experiences in your infancy and early childhood. Extensive research by Phil Shaver and Cindy Hazen has show extraordinary parallels between the type of bonding formed in the first year of life (an “insecure attachment”) and co-dependency later in life.

It is not a cop-out when I say, as a trained psychologist, that this one is probably beyond your ability to resolve by your own methods or by following the steps in a self-help book.  You’re probably talking about a number of sessions with a therapist who is skilled in the area of co-dependency.

If you think you are capable of defeating this monster on your own, go ahead. Buy yourself a couple of good books, read them through and apply the principles.  In some cases you will be successful.  If not, then go back to square #1.

Get hooked up with a good therapist.

See a therapist??  What, me??  Let me gently remind you:

 Is the RESULT worth the EFFORT required to live a successful life and have an excellent marriage?

Or do you choose to live in misery.

Chapter 5 Resources

Reference and Research

  1. Personal Qualities List

Tools and Worksheets

  1. Her Personal Characteristics from pages 67 & 75 (PDF, 153 KB)
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