Acceptance means treating your partner with “unconditional positive regard.” You may strongly disagree about some things but underneath you maintain positive regard even when your partner is: annoying, hurtful, defensive or seems just plain mad. Acceptance is different from selective evaluation – which says, “There are good things and bad things about you.” and it is the opposite of conditional evaluation: “I love you only when you are..”
Complete acceptance is not possible. (unless you are an all-forgiving God!) It is to strive for, rather than fully achieve. Everyone feels judgemental at times; so what matters is how we manage our judgemental feelings in our relationships.
When we do feel judgemental, we think things like, “I don’t understand why you have to get angry – withdraw, blame me, forget .. that is wrong, – pointless, annoying, illogical ..” etc. We close down on being curious and listening to the reasons why our partners are that way. Listening and accepting their reasons does not mean that we are granting them excuses.
Couples manage their non-acceptant feelings in a variety of ways. Introverts tend towards waiting for them to go away, and extroverts feel compelled to express them immediately. There is no correct way but if you persistently and repeatedly feel non-accepting and judgemental about something in your partner, it is certainly time for a conversation that is planned and intentional. Otherwise things fester. If you really find talking about it hard, it could be time to use a therapist.
Acceptance is not the same as love; yet it is an important part of it. Loving is a feeling we may have; acceptance is a state of mind or attitude towards our partners that is greatly enabled by loving them.
Being consistently on the receiving end of warm acceptance makes us feel liberated and free to, “be myself”. This is life-changing. One person who felt accepted at a deep level said, it brought the feeling that, “this is my experience and I am actually having it: thinking what I think, feeling what I feel, wanting what I want, fearing what I fear: no ‘ifs,’ ‘buts,’ or ‘not reallys.’”
Stretch yourself, give the gift of warm acceptance as often as you can.
With thanks to:
The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions..by Carl Rogers,
Being Intimate by J Amodeo & K Wentworth
Getting the Love you Want by H Hendrix
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