In this new series focusing on marriage, I’m setting out to work my way through the alphabet… call it the ABC’s on steroids… highlighting the things that I believe is paramount to a healthy and long-lasting relationship.
But, before I start, let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that my own marriage is perfect (far from it). In fact, it’s because I know it isn’t, that I think I’m able to put thought into what needs work and put words to my thoughts – in the hope that my own journey and reflections might be of some benefit to others. If we fall into the trap of believing our relationship is perfect, we tend to stop working on it, and that’s where the problems creep in… Any relationship is an ongoing process of learning and growth.
I have a suspicion that the average person learns about love and relationships from movies and songs. Giving shape to an idealistic hope for what might be our own marriages… and sadly, the image of the perfect relationship and the faultless person soon becomes an unfulfilled dream that leaves us unsatisfied and jaded.
And this sets the scene nicely for the first principle of paramount importance in a healthy and long-lasting relationship.
Once we accept the other person for what s/he is, rather than what we would want them to be, the energy used until now to criticize and correct can be used for building and nurturing the relationship.
It’s so easy to accept things that are out of our control. A sick baby crying for comfort, or sirens waking us from our sleep (clearly I’m already becoming quite a city-girl). Those things might be frustrating, but our response to accepting them is much easier than accepting something we THINK we can change.
When we first get married, or seriously involved with someone on a romantic level, we are naturally in a euphoric honeymoon phase… everything seems perfect… But as time wears on, we start seeing things that annoy us. Small things at first that might seem irrelevant, but could very well widen the gap between you and your significant other.
Let’s look at a few of these:
- He always leaves the toilet seat up.
- She always insists you put the toilet seat down:)
- She never packs away the laundry.
- I can hear his constant chewing.
- Why does she always whine about everything?
My husband has this annoying (I think so) habit of leaving his shoes in the lounge. He will come home from work, sit down and take them off. Forgetting to put them in the cupboard. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to throttle him. My frustration kicks in, then the anger, and the next thing you know, we are arguing about something that is totally unrelated to the shoes.
Then you start throwing insults at each other, bringing up old hurts that haven’t been dealt with. It’s a downward spiral. The resentment gnaws at you. You might forget about it for a few days, but if it’s not dealt with, the next time you see those shoes lying on the floor could become the reason the relationship doesn’t work out.
In most marriages. These small annoyances become huge problems…Why?… Because we ALLOW them to. So how do we move past the frustration and give our true acceptance?
Well, let’s first look at what acceptance is. Acceptance is not something that you can demand from someone. Acceptance is given, freely and without requiring something in return. Are you able to give your acceptance to your spouse? Is this an area that you need to work on? Or do you think that you are so far gone, that you CHOOSE not to give your acceptance? These are some things we need to think about.
Giving True Acceptance.
- Stop Challenging – when your spouse speaks to you about something that he/she believes is true, don’t challenge them. Have a conversation about it and choose to accept their conviction. This shows that you are willing to have belief in them, therefore building trust.
- Praise instead of put down – Does it come naturally to you to praise your spouse? Are you able to overlook their weaknesses (just like we have) and focus on their strengths? How often do you tell others about the things your spouse excels in. The more we begin to highlight their strengths and accept their strengths as truth, the more we are able to accept them for who they truly are.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – Just like those annoying shoes that taunt me on a daily basis, what bugs you? I’m sure there are things that we do that annoy our partners as well. Is it really worth all the frustration? Isn’t it easier to just pick the shoes up and think of all the positive things they have done for us during the day? A small act of kindness in a moment of frustration can bridge the gap.
Lastly, marriage is a choice, giving your acceptance is a choice. I’m not saying there won’t be any more frustrations along the road, but when you are able to understand the value of acceptance, you build confidence in your marriage and are able to work through almost anything.