Relationships are complex and probably one of our biggest challenges.
I would like to talk about acceptance when it comes to relationships or difficult situations. Also, to keep in mind our differences and how we can make these work for us.
Acceptance can be an overused statement. We often say that we accept situations or people and yet complain bitterly, without really stopping to notice that we do this. In relationships, we often find ourselves focusing on each other’s faults and mistakes rather than the unique qualities we all bring. It is, generally, normal to have reacted to something difficult. What is not helpful is holding onto that reaction. When we accept a situation or our behaviour at the time or soon afterwards, we will allow ourselves to move forward and let go of any negativity. Quite commonly we find ourselves frustrated with the situation and/or ourselves, which is unhelpful.
By accepting a situation, we can settle ourselves. This must be done carefully as our minds will be focused on the feelings that came with the situation. Its job is to protect you, so it will remind you of the feeling by way of an alarm system. A partner has done something you were unhappy with; if you hold on to that, then you will constantly feel annoyed or upset. We must be quite conscious about accepting that something happened in a certain way and understand that the other person is likely to have thought their behaviour was right. This becomes the challenge with relationships because each individual is interpreting the situation through their lens. Just to be clear, as we explored in an earlier chapter, we are not talking about accepting unacceptable behaviours.
As with anything, the real challenge is accepting yourself, your flaws, what has happened and also the flaws of your partner. Acceptance is probably one of the most powerful approaches available to us. Accepting and celebrating differences It is normal and can be fairly common to wish that others were different, just like it is normal to wish that you were different. For example, you might wish you were thinner, richer or wiser. Accepting people does not itself mean agreeing with them, waiving your own rights, or downplaying their impact upon you. You can still take appropriate action to protect or support yourself or others. Or you can simply let people be. Either way, you accept the reality of the other person. You may not like it, you may not prefer it, you may feel sad or angry about it, but at a deeper level, you are at peace with it. In most situations, the shift to acceptance will help things get better.
I think it is right and fair to say that every person has flaws and imperfections. No one should be aiming for perfection or expect someone to be perfect either.
You cannot ever force a person to change. I think this is vital. Often what changes we want for another, are not right for us. So in relationships, friendships, family relationships, we need to be able to live with each others flaws or appreciate them, or they may be that deal breaker.
It may be our perfections that attract one another in the first place. But it is our imperfections that decide whether or not we stay together. The most accurate metric for your love of somebody is how you feel about their flaws. If you accept them and even adore some of their shortcomings. These are likely to be different to you and so can be challenging – it could be someone’s obsessive cleanliness or awkward social tics – And they need to accept and even adore some of your shortcomings, and this is a sign of a healthy relationship. In the movie, Bridget Jones, Mark Darcy says to Bridget, “I like you just the way you are.” This is a perfect example of acceptance and understanding of her imperfections.
Consider how much you like it when you feel that another person accepts you completely. It is a beautiful gift — and we can give this gift to others when we accept them. Imagine how it might improve your relationship with someone if that person felt you accepted him or her fully. Acceptance is like a gift that keeps on giving. exercise helps you to consider your own behaviours around accepting others.
So I have a little exercise for you should you choose to take it. Take some time to think about what we have been exploring for yourself.
Be honest with yourself.
Do you wish that people were different? Do you spend a lot of time focusing on this? Do you spend a lot of time wishing that you were different and do nothing about it?
Focusing on accepting a situation is vital. You could try writing this sentence down. If you can get some paper, I will give you a very powerful question. This can be for yourself or a situation that you keep going round.
I accept “…” happened, and I am willing to let go of “…”
The next question is more focused on yourself.
I accept “…” about myself.
Let’s just have a quick look at the challenge between what is acceptable and what is not.
In some situations, what is considered acceptable and unacceptable has so many parameters, and it can be this that causes conflict. Being able to separate what is acceptable or not can be one of the most difficult parts of a relationship. Who is right? Is someone wrong?
If a behaviour is causing a difficulty, it needs to be addressed. Although remembering that the growth will lie with both parties identifying their part rather than just blaming. It is important to say here that when we accept a situation, this does not mean that we need to like it or agree with it. It means to be able to move on, we need to accept what has happened. Some people say that acceptance makes us vulnerable and like a ‘doormat’. It is actually the opposite as you take back the power. By accepting what has happened and dealing with your part in it, then you can be free from mental and emotional blockages. Quite often, our own behaviour, and that of others, is negative and sometimes clearly unacceptable. This still is not healthy to hold on to. By letting go, we can become more rational and reasonable – and peaceful. We can choose to accept the other person’s ways as just that, bearing in mind no one is perfect. This allows us to move on. Practising and mastering acceptance shifts you into accepting yourself fully as the person you are. Real self-acceptance comes from accepting the things you like about yourself and the things you do not. It comes from allowing yourself to experience thoughts and feelings without denial, self-punishment or rejection. By learning to accept yourself, your attention can work on the self limiting beliefs that hold you back rather than self punishment.
We have explored how acceptance of flaws and imperfections, and an appreciation of each other’s differences are at the root of a healthy relationship. But what about Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is not easy and can often be more painful than the initial hurt itself. As with acceptance, forgiveness does not mean that we are excusing someone else’s or our own poor behaviour. When we let go of the hurtful emotions associated with memories of the past, we become peaceful and claim back our power to cope in the future. By holding on, we are draining ourselves and will stay weakened. By freeing ourselves, we become stronger and more resilient.
Forgiveness can be described as liberating and this comes from both forgiving others and self. Forgiving those involved in old stories of a past relationship or situation helps us grow and focus on new things in the future. When we think of all the things that went wrong and sit in blame, it brings negativity and risks the likelihood of the same behaviours reoccurring. Self-forgiveness is like reclaiming our freedom from the past and this can often be harder work than forgiving others. It is the one form of forgiveness that most people neglect.
Through being curious and self-reflective, we find ourselves in a state of forgiveness. We are the only ones who can separate ourselves from other people’s drama. Learning to forgive ourselves and others is no mean feat. It takes determination and commitment. It also takes time, and you also may need to repeat it several times. This needs to be a conscious action.
The person I need to forgive is “…” and I forgive you for.
Now turn the exercise onto yourself, and think about all the things that you blame yourself for and say:
I truly forgive myself for “…”
You can find out more in my book ‘How to Make Sense of Your Life’
Happiness can exist only in acceptance.
– George Orwell