When you enter into a relationship, you must understand that your partner has an elaborate psychological defense mechanism created in their youth that attempts to protect them from emotional damage. You also have such a defense mechanism within yourself.
The problem is that you often don’t recognize when you’re motivated by your defense mechanism such that you are not behaving in your own best interests. You may feel that your behavior is normal and satisfactory. You may not recognize problems that we might be introducing into your relationships, romantic and otherwise.
If you own up to problem behavior rooted in your largely unconscious defense mechanisms, it does not mean that you're a horrible person. Perhaps you have a 98% perfect personality but are hindered by 2% defensive, negative behaviors. If so, it's incumbent on you to fix that 2%.
You will never be perfect, and neither will your partner. That is something that you'll need to accept, and it's not difficult to understand and accept that on an intellectual, adult level. However, the inner child in all of us has difficulty dealing with concepts regarding imperfection, particularly as they pertain to our parents or primary caregivers. This being the case, I recommend the following exercise. Write a letter to your own inner child, the gist of it being the following (reworded as you see fit): “Dear inner child: Mommy and daddy are imperfect and they did not care perfectly for me. I am imperfect, and anyone that I am going to love will be imperfect. Imperfect is now going to be acceptable to me, because there are many ways to find happiness and relief in this world without seeking perfection.” It's necessary to write the letter out several times and then read it aloud. The repetition is necessary because the inner child is very hurt and has difficulty coping with the concept and reality of the imperfections and shortcomings of its primary caregivers.
When you enter into a relationship, you should make a pact with your partner that you will not try to smash down their defenses too quickly. As you learn more about your partner you will begin to understand their defenses. At that point you can write them down and you can pray for your partner. More importantly, you can study your own character and see if you have defenses within yourself that are similar to those of your partner. Over time you will need to let your own defenses go using a similar process of writing, prayer, and meditation.
The writing I speak of is designed to trigger feelings within us. It may be difficult to connect with and unfreeze our feelings. The thought processes in connection with the writing will make it easier to find our feelings: We must find our feelings in order to heal the damaged thoughts, emotions, and psychological processes so that we can experience relief and healing.
We need to behave compassionately to our partners in connection with their defenses. It may be difficult at times, but we need to hold our own centers and not allow our partner’s defenses to break us down. Exceptions to this rule are if lying, cheating, violence, or mental cruelty are taking place because of a partner’s behavior related to their defense mechanisms. When that's the case, our course of action needs to be to step away from the relationship—perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently.