His annoying habits and behaviour will inevitably drive you round the bend, but try to make peace with his inner frog because there’s no such thing as the perfect Prince Charming. By Carla Calitz

The much-loved fairy tale The Frog Prince sees a spoilt princess magically transforming a common frog into a handsome prince with a single kiss. Of course, that’s the modern romantic retelling…. In the original version by the Brothers Grimm the spiteful princess hurls the common frog against a wall before he transforms into Prince Charming. But what both versions fail to mention is that although the prince loses his external trappings, he never really gets rid of his inner frog.

Dealing with your man’s inner frog is undoubtedly one of the most annoying challenges you’ll face in your relationship – and it’s a continual one unfortunately. Whether it’s his infuriating inability to pick up the bath mat, his refusal to plan ahead, his preference for wearing the same jeans for an entire week or his empty promises to get home early from a boys’ night out, you may well find yourself wishing you could throw him against a wall. But unless you learn to live with his inner frog rather than your perceived ideal of a Prince Charming, you may find yourself not only alone but also empty and unhappy.

MEET MY FROG

Charmaine*, 26, a personal assistant from Pretoria, is completely in love with her boyfriend but admits that his inner frog drives her up the wall. ‘I’m an extremely punctual person and he’s not at all. He also procrastinates, which drives me insane. I try so hard not to be “the nagging girlfriend” but he occasionally makes it impossible. I have to ask him 10 times to wash the car or the dog, or even to make me a cup of coffee. Being well groomed is very important to me but I have to beg him to cut his hair or to shave. Yet I have to be perfectly presented at all times. Then there’s his obsession with soccer – I don’t know what I’m going to do when the World Cup starts.’ Joanne*, 27, a copywriter from Johannesburg, is considering leaving her boyfriend because of his inner- frog behaviour. ‘We had the perfect relationship at first – I was so in love with him and we did everything together. But two years later it feels as though we might as well not be together. Every weekend he’s off with the boys playing cricket, while I sit at home waiting for him. He’s also absolutely useless in our home – he doesn’t like doing the dishes or tidying up after himself. I have to pressurise him to do anything and when he does do it, he doesn’t do it properly. He also only organises things at the last minute, which drives me mad. I worry that he doesn’t have enough drive – I want kids but I worry that he won’t be able to provide for them. It just doesn’t feel like we’re on the same page.’

YOU’RE SO ANNOYING!

As a relationship progresses, each partner becomes more comfortable and allows more of themselves to shine through, says Thuraisha Moodley, a Johannesburg clinical psychologist. ‘Your boyfriend might start to feel comfortable enough to allow his stereotypical male behaviours, such as untidiness and disorganisation, to come to the fore,’ she says. Each relationship certainly has its own unique set of irritants and it’s important to remember that your boyfriend isn’t the only one with annoying habits and behaviours, says Hanlie Raath, a Johannesburg psychotherapist and author of The New Paradise: Making Intimacy Real (Double Storey). ‘What annoys men the most is their partners’ nagging and shaming. We have a

It’s important to remember that your boyfriend isn’t the only one with annoying habits and behaviours

tendency to remember details and when we’re locked into a victim mentality we complain and feel hard done by. This creates feelings of guilt and helplessness in men.’ When women are angry, says Raath, they tend to shame men by adding up their faults and building a case against them, saying things such as ‘I wish you’d grow up’ which make them feel they have to defend their characters. When dealing with his annoying behaviour, rather talk openly and honestly – without blame or judgment – about the effect it has on you. ‘Be gentle when discussing it and ensure you don’t break him down or try to put him on a guilt trip. Use “I” language and say, “I feel this when you do that” and then discuss the effect it has on you,’ says Raath. Just remember that he can choose whether or not to heed your need. ‘What you’re essentially doing is handing the responsibility over to him and affirming to yourself that “whatever will be, will be,”’ says Moodley. ‘This will give you a healthy sense of control – you will have done the best you can, knowing that you can’t control people or situations fully.’ The key to a healthy relationship is that both partners have the space and safety to blossom, because we all have shortcomings, fears, anxieties and sensitivities. ‘When we can honestly accept this fact, both in ourselves and in our partners, then we can take a more balanced approach in dealing with each other’s limitations. Rather replace “blaming” with encouragement, support and love,’ says Moodley. Charmaine believes her relationship has worked precisely because her boyfriend accepts her flaws. ‘I rarely do wrong in his eyes – he’s fixated only on the good,’ she says. ‘Because he is so accepting of me, it makes me do my best not to retaliate during his inner-frog moments. I seldom complain about his annoying behaviour either, because I don’t want to dwell on the bad. Instead I do my best to accept him as he is.’

PRINCE CHARMING?

It’s important to embrace your partner’s inner frog and to realise there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect Prince Charming’.

By adopting a perfection ideal you set yourself up for failure because your standards will be impossible to meet

Sometimes we suffer from unrealistic romantic expectations and naturally it’s impossible for our partners to meet the prerequisites of our ‘perfect man’ and ‘perfect relationship’, says Moodley. Barry*, 30, a marketing manager from Cape Town, is considering leaving his girlfriend because of her unrealistic expectations. ‘We’ve been together for four years but she has this princess mentality that drives me nuts. She insists that I need to adore her and she wants attention the whole time. She also becomes almost resentful when we socialise. I encourage her to go out with friends but she’d prefer to stay at home and expects me to do the same. I love playing soccer over the weekend but it’s become such an issue between us because she says I’m not spending enough time with her. At home I feel as though I’m walking on eggshells because everything has to be perfectly tidy and structured, and I always have to be on my best behaviour. All the spontaneity in our life is gone – she plans everything down to the last detail. I don’t feel she accepts me for who I really am. I’m at a point now where I feel so confi ned and controlled that I just want to rebel and disappear for a huge night out with my friends. I can’t go on trying to live up to what she thinks a relationship should be.’ As a relationship grows, reciprocal trust, acceptance, unconditional regard and mutual understanding are nurtured, so we feel supported and share life’s daily struggles. ‘We may begin to feel that our partner and relationship are safety nets that will always be there,’ says Moodley. ‘But if we base a relationship on these assumptions we’ll be very disappointed when our partner fails to live up to these expectations. When you expect him to provide fulfi lment in your life, you’ll begin to focus on his failings as a cause of your own disappointment,’ she says. Raath agrees. ‘Often the biggest obstacle to love is the fear that it won’t last,’ she says. You may, for instance, sabotage love by focusing on something now that could wreck your relationship later. For example, if your man likes drinking you could convince yourself he’ll develop a problem. ‘The problem with having these perfectionist standards is that then you set a context for having to be perfect too,’ says Raath. ‘Life and people are full of fl aws, and we need to turn the raw material of our relationships into something valuable,’ she says. Your inability to accept his behaviour could be refl ection of something that’s missing in you. If you suffer from low self-esteem, a lack of confi dence and no clear sense of self, you may attempt to overcompensate by controlling the aspects in your life that you can, says Moodley. ‘You may try to control the state of your living space and your boyfriend’s behaviour because it provides you with a false sense of security. If he continues to exhibit “unacceptable” behaviour, you may feel that he’s distorting your “perfect relationship” picture deliberately and that he’s showing disrespect, a lack of sensitivity and understanding. Rather than accept that he’s just being himself and probably has the best intentions, you may start to see him as the source of your anxiety, which could lead you to resent him,’ she says. It’s vital to remember that your boyfriend has many good qualities that you gravitated towards initially. Remind yourself of them and ask yourself whether you’d want him to hide, or sacrifi ce more and more of who he is and what defi nes him. ‘Focus on becoming more self-aware when it comes to your own behaviour and notice when you’re overly invested in getting your own way,’ says Moodley. ‘Self-confrontation means coming to terms with our own fears, anxieties and insecurities, and may mean accepting the criticisms of our partners as valuable insight into where our insecurities lie.’ By adopting a perfection ideal you set yourself up for failure because your standards will be impossible to meet. ‘You will create a world for yourself that is “dangerously safe”, where you’ll have a safe but ultimately empty life,’ says Raath.

DEAL-BREAKERS

That said, beware of the guy with the inner toad: if your boyfriend’s behaviour is violating, disrespectful and/or abusive, reconsider your relationship. ‘The deal- breakers are those things that make your relationship unliveable, such as violence, addiction, mean-spiritedness and an unkind nature,’ says Raath.