AcceptanceI have been working as a therapist with couples for over 13 years. I have always seen clients who are stressed in their relationships but I feel that the level of stress in these times is higher than I have ever seen before. It seems that marriages and relationships are stressed and dissolving all around me. As I look for common themes in the incredibly varied stories I am confronted with the role that acceptance plays in relationships. To me the act of acceptance is the act of seeing the truth without trying to change it. Having acceptance in a relationship is a strength that most stressed relationships do not have. Here are a few questions that can help determine whether or not you have acceptance in your relationship:

• Can you accept your partner as he/she is right now on every level – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
• Can you honor and accept how your partner lives and how he/she chooses to spent his/her life energy every day?
• Do you accept how your partner shows up in your relationship and what he/she expects from your partnership?
• Do you feel accepted by your partner in your actions, decisions, thoughts, beliefs, personality, intelligence, appearance, strengths, weaknesses, etc?

If you answer no to any of these questions then you are living in a relationship of resistance instead of a relationship of acceptance. Resisting “what is” is the cause of intense dissatisfaction in life and in relationships. One of the main reasons people find themselves in a relationship without acceptance is that they don’t fully accept themselves. Here are a few questions to help highlight what I mean by lacking self acceptance:
• Can you accept yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
• Can you accept how you show up in the relationships in your life?
• Do you tend to be hard on yourself or self-critical?
• Would you label yourself as someone who has low self esteem?

If you answer no to the first two questions and yes to the second two questions then you do not accept yourself as you are. If we don’t accept who we are then we can’t be with a partner who accepts who we are. Let me clarify what I mean by self acceptance.

Self acceptance is not laziness. When I talk about self acceptance my highly motivated clients sometimes think I’m asking them to sit around in mediocrity and enjoy it. Self acceptance does not exclude self growth. Self acceptance means seeing the truth of who you are without creating an internal story that negates that truth.

For example, a woman might accept that she uses criticism when she communicates with her partner. This means that she sees this as the truth of how she currently communicates. She can also decide that she wants to take responsibility for that critical style of communication and learn ways of being less critical of others. Using acceptance in her relationship with herself brings her to seeing the truth of her actions and gets her to stop focusing all of her energy on her partner’s actions. Taking a truthful look at ourselves means we are changing the way our mind thinks from being externally focused to being internally focused. Rather than thinking that her partner is bad or wrong this woman starts to look at the truth of how bothered and critical she is…realizing that she has things to learn about being kind and respectful in a relationship. I know some of you are wondering…what about her concerns? Does she just ignore them? The answer is no. But her concerns become secondary to the primary concern of learning about herself.

Our relationships tend to be mirrors and if we are reflective about what bothers us in our relationships then we can learn a lot about who we are. When something bothers us in a relationship we are resisting what is. When this woman sees her concern happening she reacts negatively toward her partner. Here is a list of possible concerns:
• My partner doesn’t pick up his stuff so our house is a mess.
• My partner watches too much TV.
• My partner yells at our kids.
• My partner eats poorly and is overweight.
• My partner never initiates sex any more.
• And the list could go on and on…

When this woman works on changing the way she thinks from being externally focused to being internally focused, the concerns change from blaming to self-reflective:
• I don’t feel respected by my partner when he doesn’t pick up his stuff.
• I feel lonely when my partner watches too much TV.
• I feel scared and defensive when my partner yells at our kids.
• I feel judgmental about my partner’s choices with food and about his body.
• I feel insecure because my partner never initiates sex any more.
• And the list could go on and on…

Taking these concerns and reactions as opportunities to look into the mirror of self-reflection means we can learn something about our internal world. Now this woman can work on her own part in the dance of relationship and look below the surface complaint to the deeper emotions underneath. It may turn out that she still has a discussion with her husband about one or more of these concerns, but it will come from a place of self-reflection, self-understanding, and self-acceptance rather than from a place of blame.

Accepting your partner as he/she is can sometimes mean accepting that you want to end the relationship. Changing the status of your relationship is sometimes required in order to allow room for both partners to achieve full internal and external acceptance. But even if the relationship needs to end there is a lot to learn from all of our relationships.

I work with many of my clients on this theme of acceptance. I use a unique combination of talk therapy, hypnotherapy, meditation and shamanic journeying with my clients in order to work our way through the external reactions and concerns in order to find the treasures of internal acceptance and peace inside. This more evolved internal world is often reflected in my clients having more peace and acceptance and, therefore, less stress in all of their relationships.

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