Here’s a New Year’s Resolution: Radical Acceptance In Relationships

Barbara Martin

Ah…L’amour. The early stages of falling in love can be a euphoric experience that can blind you from seeing your lover’s natural human flaws. For some, falling in love is an experience of complete radical acceptance of the other; accepting and adoring even the little quirky personality and behavioral differences. Dirty clothes strewn all over the floor or day old toothpaste smudges on the sink are easily overlooked or may even seem twistedly charming. Our new love can do no wrong. We may feel like our lover is perfect because this new love completes us, saves us for a moment in time from our aloneness and impending mortality.

Back to Reality.

But…nobody is perfect. Eventually, that blinding fog of love starts to wear off and your lovers’ faults and defects become clearer. Somehow those clothes on the floor and toothpaste smudges become more bothersome. For many couples, emerging from the “honeymoon” phase and seeing the reality of their partner can initiate a period of emotional distancing and non-acceptance. Ironically, the qualities that were once accepted and even seen as attractive can become the very qualities that you dislike and want to change in the other. The laid back qualities that you found so attractive when you first met, may now feel negative and more like a lack of ambition or laziness. Or maybe that highly ambitious and organized lover who so energized your spirit in the beginning, now becomes an overwhelmingly stressful person to be around.

Accept perfect imperfection.

The beauty of romantic relationships is that they are typically made up of two individuals who are not the same, with differing values and personalities. How couples identify and frame their lack of sameness in terms of acceptance can be the undoing or gluing of their relationship. Of course, it is important to note that not every behavior or difference should be unequivocally accepted in coupledom. Behaviors such as emotional and physical abuse or having significant core value differences are predictors for unhealthy, unsatisfying and unsafe relationships.

Working on accepting the many differences in your partner can be an emotionally beneficial exercise for both you and your partner. The practice of acceptance emancipates you from the stress and unhappiness of your futile efforts to change your partner. Once you relinquish trying to change or control your partner and accept your differences, not only will you feel relief, but your relationship will feel more peaceful and harmonious.

Naturally, the concept of acceptance can be hard to come to terms with. For some people it means giving up, complete inaction and/or enabling your partner’s differing choices, characteristics and behaviors. Yet, acceptance doesn’t have to be characterized that way. You can choose to define acceptance as a willingness to tolerate and even see the good in those behaviors you cannot change.

Here are 5 ways to heal your relationship through acceptance:

  1. Accept that your partner is not within your control.
  2. Accept that you and your partner are not perfect.
  3. Accept that your partner doesn’t need to be just like you.
  4. Accept that you and your partner will not always agree.
  5. Accept that you need to be mindful of always working on acceptance.

The root of relationship conflict is never really about the clothes on the floor or the toothpaste smudges; it is more often about control, lack of awareness and ability to accept one another’s differences. So if you are looking for a healthy change in your relationship this New Year, work on relinquishing your emotional resistance to your partner’s natural dissimilarities and allow things to be what they are.

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