Marriage Therapy

How accepting are you?

Here’s a scenario: you are out with your partner, your partner’s brother and his wife. We’ll call them William and Lucy. Your partner is very fond of brother William, and William is very much in love with his wife Lucy. Unfortunately you find Lucy hard to take. At dinner she complains bitterly about her job, the waiter, the food, the weather, even the television schedule. Nobody else seems to mind, but Lucy is driving you nuts. What do you do:
  1. Grin and bear it
  2. Tell Lucy to shut up
  3. Have a good old moan yourself on the way home

Whatever you do, there is going to be someone suffering. If you opt for number one, it’ll be you. After all you’ll have to listen to Lucy! If you tell her to shut up, Lucy, William and probably your partner will be angry with you. The third choice is a little trickier. It is okay to let off steam, but if your partner thinks you are criticising William, well then, you might get an earful about that.

Bad behaviour vs annoying behaviour

How willing are you to accept your partner’s foibles? It seems obvious to say: we all have personality traits and idiosyncrasies. Some of these are unacceptable, unfair or make a happy relationship impossible. Examples of these include:

  • Aggression
  • Addiction
  • Boorishness
  • Dishonesty
  • Dismissiveness
  • Quick temper
  • Rudeness

Other types of behaviour can be annoying at times, but these are not necessarily deal-breakers for most of us. The following types of behaviour could be seen as annoying:

  • Bad table manners
  • Bossiness
  • Lateness
  • Nagging
  • Neediness
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Talkativeness
  • Whingeing

These could be behaviours we learnt as a child or as a young adult. If you bossed your brothers and sisters, you may be tempted to boss your partner; if your partner’s mother gave in every time she cried, she may expect you to do the same. Quite often, we may not even realise that we do this.

Why acceptance is important

Certain behaviours are just a part of who we are. This is why acceptance and accommodation are important. In any relationship, you need to accept that you both bring personality traits to the equation. You need to accept your partner’s foibles, however, it is equally important to accept your own. Acceptance comes from the understanding of the ‘I’ that we each bring to the ‘Us’.

What do we mean by acceptance?

True acceptance goes recognises and understands that you come from different family backgrounds and that these have helped shape the people you are. Accepting your partner includes accepting his or her family. You don’t have to love them, or even like them, but you have to accept that they are part and parcel of who your partner is and, at very least, tolerate them for your partner’s sake. Family gatherings are often a true test of acceptance.

Accommodation is the everyday expression of acceptance – the things you do to let your partner know that his or her social, family or romantic needs are important to you. Accommodation could mean making allowances for an overbearing sibling; time apart to spend with friends; or sticking at your partner’s side at a party if he or she is uncomfortable in large gatherings.

It’s not always easy, but truly accepting your partner, your partner’s foibles, and your partner’s family, will mean a much happier relationship.