Acceptance, or How Not to Destroy Your Relationship

Everyone has experienced falling in love and mistakenly believing they have found “The One.” You know, the one who will satisfy all of your wants, bring you joy, and who naturally shares your thoughts and sentiments! We exclaim, “I’m so lucky to have met you!” However, for the majority of us, things start to shift between the first six months and the third year of the relationship. We discover that, in reality, we are significantly different from one another: How can they be such a slob? They don’t exchange words. They talk way too much. They ignore me when I speak to them. They are giving me so much attention. So it continues.

What then do we do?

We make an effort to influence them. Yes, I’m referring to both of us—you and I. We all engage in it. Our desire for our partner to more closely resemble us is the root of a lot of our disagreements. Worst of all, we are aware that it fails! We complain, insult, criticize, dispute, and even make expulsion threats. And all that this accomplishes is to incite animosity on both sides.

They will probably respond by becoming defensive, attacking back, or withdrawing if they feel wounded, angry, or underappreciated. All of this damaging behavior is carried out in an effort to persuade our partner to do what we deem to be “right”. And everyone of us has a unique interpretation of what is proper. How then can one of you be “wrong” and the other “right”? Just the math doesn’t work. Most importantly, continuing down that road doesn’t help you or the relationship.

You can choose to be in a relationship or do what’s right.

I believe that this straightforward adage holds a lot of truth. Therefore, embracing your spouse as they are and letting go of trying to alter them must be your first step in establishing the foundation for enduring love and happiness. This does not obligate you to approve of or concur with anything they do. It also doesn’t imply that you don’t communicate your needs and desires to your partner. (That will follow soon!)

Couples frequently hear me advise, “You have to both radically accept your partner for who they are, and be willing to change.” However, you must start with acceptance.

What do we actually want?

The fact is, we all desire a sense of belonging. We want to feel comfortable being ourselves and that who we are is respected and treasured. Don’t you desire that for yourself? And wouldn’t you want to give your partner that? Why not start now, then? Over the coming week, I would want to urge you to take one easy step: Remember the “mantra” or intention, “I accept myself, and I accept you, for who you are.”

Think these phrases three times to yourself and experience how that makes you feel. Did you notice that you were calming down and relaxing a little bit? By the way, it’s frequently necessary to accept oneself before accepting others. Therefore, this is really a practice of “loving-kindness” toward our spouse and ourselves.

Love yourself

To further assist you, I’d like to recommend one more exercise. It won’t take more than a minute. On a piece of paper, make a list of adjectives that would best characterize the kind of partner you want. Most of the folks I’ve done this with use adjectives like “loving,” “kind,” and “compassionate,” among others. Nobody has ever expressed a desire to be critical, angry, or cruel to me. The next time you feel yourself getting upset with your partner, use your list as a reminder and see if you can draw on these traits and put them into practice. I have no doubt that this will encourage you to act in a way that shows your partner that you are accepting and in love with them.