It can be tempting to think that your partner should accept you without any help.
In my previous article, we looked at what acceptance is and how to give it. Now we look at how you can help a partner become more accepting. It can be tempting to think that your partner should accept you without any help. But if you want to cultivate the richest growing conditions for your partner’s acceptance, you are in a unique and ideal position to do so.
Here are some ways you can do just that.
Compassion is a great supporter of acceptance.
Take a moment to reflect on what you convey when you need and want your partner’s acceptance. Go inside, sense your body, and feel into your energy. Is it pressured, demanding, intense, constricted, or pushy? Or is it relaxed, open, and spacious? If your energy falls under the former category, notice the ways you, too, have difficulty accepting your partner’s lack of acceptance. From this place of being able to relate to your partner, see if you can have compassion for how hard it can be to accept another.
Acceptance grows well in environments that feel safe.
Notice the part of you that finds it hard to be with your partner’s lack of acceptance. Also notice if there is a part that judges yourself or your partner. If you feel judgment, this might be a good indicator that your partner, on some level, is anticipating judgment from you or is already sensing some unspoken version of it. Be kind to yourself: just notice this judgment and thank it for teaching you something about your experience. Then tap into a part of you that knows when you feel safe. See if you can respond to your partner from this safe part. In the same way they can sense your judgment, they can also sense the energy of this undefended part of you.
Acceptance blooms in the warmth of your vulnerability.
Letting your partner know what in you needs accepting can pave the way with more ease and clarity. Sometimes we think we are sending a clear message about what we feel, but we do it in a defended way. For example, it can feel risky to share feelings like jealousy, fear, or shame. When feelings seem too vulnerable to share, we offer up substitutes to our partners, such as frustration, irritation, or anger.
Recall a time when someone expressed irritation or anger at you. Now, recall a time when someone shared that they were frightened. Which opens your heart more easily? Chances are your partner responds in the same way. Take the risk to express clearly the more vulnerable, underlying parts of you that want acceptance.
As humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers noted, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” He may well have added that true self-acceptance also makes it easier for our loved ones to join us.
Suzanne Berens, MFT
Suzanne understands that pleas for connection, validation, and understanding in intimate relationships often masquerade as complaints. With warmth and compassion, she helps couples uncover the source of their challenges and develop more skillful ways to communicate. Suzanne knows firsthand that crisis can stress a marriage and test partners’ capacity to cope. But if approached with mindfulness, crisis can also be a portal to deeper intimacy and unspeakable beauty.