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Mom with a View


Successful relationships require accepting your loved one’s idiosyncrasies, no matter how crazy you find them.


One of the secrets to a successful relationship (friends, marriage, family and so on) is an acceptance of the other party’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, no matter how crazy, absurd or inconvenient we find them.

We all have our unique approaches to situations and challenges, our coping strategies and sometimes just our way of being. In a healthy relationship we can overlook or smile at these foibles; in an unhealthy one, they send us through the roof.

Richard and Sandy have a great marriage, one that has lasted close to 40 years. They have lovely children and some delightful grandchildren. They are warm and devoted and solicitous of each other’s needs. It is a picture of harmony. Except when they travel. Then something, somewhere deep inside Richard, flips.

No one can figure out why but his anxiety climbs and his behavior veers out of control. He insists on leaving for the airport extra early; he pushes his way to the front of the security line; he has to be first to board and first to disembark. He is oblivious to the hostile stares and comments of the other passengers.

Not so his wife who wants to sink through the floor. Once they reach their destination, the trip is great and they have a wonderful time. But on the journey home, it begins again. Since this behavior is inconsistent with the rest of his character, Sandy has learned to let it go. Her marriage is more important than dirty looks from strangers.

Melissa and Suzy have a different challenge. Best friends since 5th grade, they have learned to be tolerant of each other’s quirks, calculating that preserving their 30-year closeness trumps the minor inconveniences. So Melissa puts up with Suzy’s punctuality issue and Suzy is understanding of Melissa’s reluctance to pick up the phone and initiate contact.

Likewise with Dave and Jon. Jon keeps quiet when Dave explains to him his latest fad diet and Dave only sometimes pokes fun at Jon’s tendency to hypochondria. College roommates, these indulgences have kept their friendship strong for 25 years and counting.

Mark and Elizabeth have also been married close to the 40-year mark. Elizabeth is a devoted wife and mother and the house is organized and run with precision. To the point where there is only one way that T-shirts can be folded and arranged in the closet. Although, when pressed and when his wife is not within earshot, Mark will acknowledge that he thinks it’s a little nuts, he folds his T-shirts just so. His priority is to preserve the peace – and his wife’s sanity.

And doesn’t every family have a grandmother or great aunt who loudly proclaims her opinion of – your haircut, your clothes, your weight – for everyone to hear? And doesn’t everyone decide that despite this behavior, holidays with the family just wouldn’t be the same without her, that the behavior can be ignored but the relationship can’t?

In Ethics of our Fathers, we are advised to “buy yourself a friend.” The traditional explanation is that we have to pay for our friendships – in time and commitment. But one of the commentators suggests that the price we pay is to ignore their small flaws or idiosyncrasies. As mentioned, this works with families and is a great tool for marriage as well. Everyone has “something”. Make peace with everyone else’s and they will make peace with yours.

May 4, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 10

(8) Anonymous, May 7, 2013 9:46 PM


Where do we draw the line between little quirks and dysfunctional behaviour

(7) anonymous, May 7, 2013 1:22 AM

Ehhhhh...not buying it, Emuna....well...not all of it....

Poor behavior is now a "quirk?" Pushing people to get to the front of the line? Telling someone about their weight- like what? Hey you fat pig! Or....your so skinny that one could (add insult) that is now being labeled as a quirk? Not buying it,

Sure, we should ignore certain off putting comments, yet if someone is degrading someone...let's say a child or teen and they are suffering from an eating disorder or the like, then this is not a quirk....
It sounds like a license to treat others with disrespect and say " to whatever with everyone else! I have a quirk! I'm entitled!"
I once knew someone who could not control certain things verbally and would interrupt others in public. I knew the person had a high need for attention. You know what ? The rabbis spoke with this person and the like. They never said, "Hey, he has a quirk. Get over it." No, this person needs to work on him/herself.
Just because there is a reason behind it does not mean that it cannot cause damage.
There is a rav who says: "Your lack of malice does not lessen the damage on others." (Something to that effect)
Now, though, we just all have quirks?? No, respectfully I disagree with this....

(6) Carlo, May 5, 2013 9:46 PM

Just remember.....

No one is perfect. And furthermore, be reasonable and do it my way.

(5) Beri, May 5, 2013 6:10 PM

Thjis is an awesome article.

This article made me realize that those things I find so annoying about my mom, daughter, friend, neighbor, etc., I can just check off as quirks and keep on loving them. I've often said that I can't stand a certain quality of someone, and then I put up a wall in the relationship. Now I can just look at it as my "payment" for the relationship. Really amazing. Thank you so much.

(4) Anonymous, May 5, 2013 5:32 PM

Personality disorders

This is especially true with personality disorders. My sister has ADD (so does her husband) and they both have the awkward tendency, typical of their condition, to blurt out insensitive or untimely comments. I accept this since I know where it comes from, but I wonder about others who aren't aware. They are lucky to have wonderful friends despite their quirks: mainly because of their amazing, exhaustive (another ADD quirk) lives of chesed. They are a couple of hyperactive givers!!! The moral here is to try to utilize our quirks positively.....

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