Acceptance is a funny thing.
Acceptance means you recognize these differences, even the differences that really matter (read hurt) and you still accept them. Not the doormat-across-my-forehead kind of acceptance. If there is a behavior you want changed, of course you should simply ask your partner to change.
But if it doesn't work, if no matter how much asking you do it seems the change is unable to happen, you may have a special challenge. It may be that part of your partner is something that they really can't change. That it's part of their personality which also seems to hit on your unique vulnerability. And it hurts! Sometimes, your partner's own vulnerabilities get stepped on by your differences in the same way which makes for a kind of mutual trap.
Each of you trying to change the other in an attempt to keep from getting hurt. While each of you are unable to make that change because it's a fundamental part of each of your personalities and to do so would also hurt.
When change leads to hurt, asking for more change isn't going to get the job done. At least not at first. Starting with the simple act of accepting that this is who your partner is; a part of them you hadn't known existed is real and valid, and yes it hurts you as well.
Maybe it was always there but it was't a difference that really made a difference. Or maybe like everyone else, you never saw in your beloved the thing that would cause trouble latter on--even if everyone else could. Or maybe it was just a difference that arrived, by chance or by situation, or as your partner changed through time.
No matter how this "difference" arose, this behavior or attitude is banging away at a vulnerability in you and you have to resit the urge to change it.
Acceptance means acknowledging and moving past blame and labeling. And by using softer talk and avoiding harsh judgements you begin to have a conversation that allowing both of you to see each other as you truly are.
Two people with differences (not just faults) who each have their own vulnerabilities (not just weaknesses) trying to understand one another, accept one another and then, finally, after this often times gut-wrenching work of acceptance, sometimes in therapy; you become two people who change and grow together.
Moving past staying together because it familiar and safe. Moving past staying together just because you're used to each other, and can put up with each other.
But because you have learned to deeply accept one another.
How have you pressed passed your incompatibilities and found acceptance with your partner?
Its warmth and light; staving off the unknown darkness in the chaotic world.
Don’t get me wrong, familiarity is, in the end, a good thing, but if you remove all the unknowns in life, well too much of a good thing can even lead to homicide.
It’s Spring and I’m looking forward to the return of the hummingbirds. It’s amazing to watch them seemingly float as they sip nectar from the feeder attached to the deck. But watch out if an interloper arrives trying to steal some sugar from someone else’s territory. they fight furiously; dive bombing each other into submission. It seems they don't like sharing.
Growing used to your partner's differences isn't the same thing as being accepting of them. Compatibility is about the level of meaningful differences between the two of you. And for a lot of reasons, you will almost always find some incompatibilities between you and your partner. The problem occurs when you “put up with” rather than "accept" your partner’s behavior.
As I was growing up, you would get something called S&H Green Stamps when buying food at grocery stores and when filling up at gas stations. These stamps would have a numerical value on them which you would then lick and place in books. When you had enough books saved up, you could then go through a catalog they had available and pick items you'd want based on how many books you had to redeem.
Putting up with differences that really matter in your partner is a lot like redeeming S&H Green Stamps. When you feel you've put up with enough, you feel you've earned the right to "let them have it!". The problem with that, of course, is that the intensity at which you express your displeasure is based on how much you've saved up and not in proportion to the last situation that triggered your outburst. You look crazy or at least unreasonable and things get worse.
“Do we really want to be rid of our resentments, our anger, our fear? Many of us cling to our fears, doubts, self-loathing or hatred because there is a certain distorted security in familiar pain. It seems safer to embrace what we know than to let go of it for fear of the unknown."
(Narcotics Anonymous Book/page 33)
― Narcotics Anonymous
In what ways do you hold on to the unhealthy familiar? How have you been successful in letting go?
If you're a man wanting a serious relationship with a woman, here's some things to consider.
first don't pursue, attract. Sure, you'll pursue plenty once you're both clealy attrated to each other. In the meantime, you'll want to be attracting to find a satisfying relationship.
Second, get used to being the life of the party. This is hard for a lot of guys, but not unreasonable for the woman you're attracting. Be entertaining, interesting, funny, even cocky. You'll be attractive and that's the point. She's been hit on by every guy out there wanting to get lucky for a night. She's there with her girlfriends trying to have fun. If you help her enjoy herself and have some fun, you'll be plenty attractive.
Third is confidence. Sounds like life of the party but isn't. You can be very entertaining, but desperation and confidence don't mix and looks like open-mike night at Funny Bones. The secret of confidence is practice, but practice will only get you halfway there. Dozens of tries at open-mike will earn you a start at confidence even if you're not a comedian. The rest of the way you'll have to walk alone in your own head. What you believe about yourself and how you think about women will dictate your approach out there and with getting through the first couple dates.
Fourth, have a mind of your own. Women know guys are nice to them to get a chance to touch them. Nothing wrong with wanting to touch, but since everyone from creeps to princes are nice, it isn't a factor in deciding who gets to. There's also nothing attractive when a guy's unable to say no to unreasonable requests or when the woman isn't sure what you wouldn't do. We all want a real person with firm edges -- flexible -- not invisible boundaries.
Finally, live with some risk in your life. This builds into being interesting, confidant, and knowing your own mind. Test yourself -- know yourself. Sure, sauntering into a club carrying your cycle helmet and talking about your last skydiving adventure works. But having a talking part in the community play or pushing harder than you ever have in the last 20 seconds of that 5k you got talked into can be even better. You'll have something to talk about and adversity of any kind always is an interesting story.
There you have it. If you find paring up is hard, make a few adjustments and you'll be right in there with all the other couples in your circle. Struggling and rejoicing in the mystery of couplehood.
What do you do when you find yourself alone and looking for love?
The hardest part of changing is accepting there' a problem. You recognize your relationship has a problem but won't just start making changes. Change is too hard for that. Tell yourself that you'll have to deal with that someday. You're raising children and recognize your relationship needs attention; and you'll deal with it . . . soon. Your career is taking off and you're neglecting your partner, but you'll make it up to them as soon as you secure that next promotion.
Knowing something's wrong and finding the energy, focus, and drive to confront and change it -- that's a process not an event. You become accustom to the idea your relationship has a problem, you become adjusted to the idea you must do something about it and, in time, you begin to make modest attempts at correcting things. You're still not there, you're still not actively committed to change, but you're getting closer. Small attempts at change is part of the process of confronting the needed change.
Your dissatisfaction begins to rise. You can't ignore the problem anymore; you've even tried to make changes. Now finally, you see it as a "real problem" and your motivation to change has risen. To keep yourself from accepting the problem as just the way things are, you need to make a conscious commitment to change. This can include seeking support and publicly stating the changes you're planning to make. Few real changes are made in secret.
There are no sure bets when it comes to changing relationships. Two people are needed to make decisions work in a relationship, yet only one person is required to veto a decision. Making any relationship prone to problems. Problems are normal and getting better at seeing them, confronting them, and finding the motivation and commitment to resolving them will add stability to a risky proposition.
What do you find helpful in confronting rather than accepting relationship problems?
What do you do when you don't feel in love anymore?
Recognize that like being out of shape or if you can't remember when you last changed the oil in your car, when you finally get around to confronting this fact; you've waited too long to ask the question.
Knowing you've lost the feeling is actually the second step in making a change. Wondering, being dissatisfied, or plain unhappiness means you've stumbled out of the first stage of change.
Blissful ignorance. This initial stage can manifest itself as love that's unrequited, ignored, misunderstood, or unappreciated, but irregardless, you're not getting it.
And you can be the one dishing out this relational side trip or the recipient of this unfortunate bundle of "bliss".
Whether you're blissfully under appreciating your lover or the one feeling misunderstood; unless you can begin to recognize it's a problem--starting to consider all is not right, things won't be changing anytime soon.
Feeling ignored by the one you love isn't the same thing as being aware of a problem either. Think back to how many times you've accepted less love or commitment in a relationship as, "just the way it is"; or "the kids need to be the focus right now."?
Knowing that a relationship has lost its feeling and beginning to confront the problem are two different things. There's a real and formidable gap to bridge between "knowing" something's missing in your relationship and having built the motivation to change it.
In fact, this gap--knowing that it even exists, is the real key to changing it. Your brain wants harmony and your mind will work overtime to quell disharmony to the point of even changing what you tell yourself about what's happening. The technical term is cognitive dissonance and believe me, you don't like it.
The next post will talk more about this phenomenon and ways to pull yourself out of the quicksand.
SPLITTING INTO THREE BLOGS.
To help readers in focusing on what they may be interested in, I'm dividing my wide ranging interests into three separate blogs . . .
This blog your reading will now be titled, Relationship Glue. The focus here is on romance, love, and passion--how it binds people together to create a new project in their lives. Why passion is a meaningful life; both its creative and destructive power. The domain name will remain the same for now (darrenwlovesblog.com), but in the coming weeks I'll be investigating a change to glueblog.net.
This blog is titled, The Analyzed Capitalist, and will focus on professional development, executive coaching and exploring executive psychotherapy and the psychodynamics of executive life.
Check out: tacblog.net
This blog is titled, Quiet Creatives, and will explore the task of making meaning through the act of creating. Why creativity and solitude are intertwined--the life of the creative and the path of the quiet life.
Check out: creativesblog.net
Is narrowing down and dividing up a good idea? Look forward to sharing and hearing from you.
Life is cumulative. That's because it has a beginning and a definite end. And, that time seems to have a direction though on paper it doesn't really need to. All the same, it certainly feels like there's a beginning, middle and end to things. That it moves in one direction, and as time goes on, it all adds up.
Experience and knowledge grows over time. You begin to see patterns and so anticipate more of life. Feeling more confident you attempt to create more in your life. Regrets follow soon after. You can't risk something without the chance of regret. Of looking back with new understanding and to wish you would've done things differently. And even though time should run in both directions, it seems only to have one. You can't co back, but you risk becoming timid and learn the comfort of following everyone else.
Moments of joy and accomplishments are cumulative over time as well. Though you may seem to remember the regrets and failures the best. Still, as time keeps moving and you keep accumulating, you'll discover projects that are meaningful. Like rewarding relationships, important work, loving families, and beautiful art--all can be created as time goes on.
With all this time on your hands, how to make sense of it? The beauty of time's cumulative nature is that you can start small. In fact everything almost always starts small even if it starts with a big parade or celebration. There's always the next day--the morning after. Weddings and Superbowls are like that.
The difference is between deciding how you're going to make meaning in your life; creating that plan, those goals, the ideas of your life--creating meaning; and then trying to do the hard work to maintain that meaning through time. You've decided to make something meaningful in your life. Let's say a more fit body so you can enjoy rock climbing. You've planned and outlined the road back to physical fitness. The following 232 days of working out are how you maintain that meaning. Each morning the alarm goes off at 5:30, you open your eyes and get to decide if you will maintain what you've created, or do something less meaningful like turn over and sleep in a bit. One gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and the other, well it all adds up. Bit by bit you create your life and each moment you get to decide how you'll spend that moment.
The seductiveness of one-moment-at-a-time is overwhelming. It can lead you to spend whole weekends watching TV and eating ice cream. The trick is to not think about your great meaning projects; writing, painting, running, or raising your child while the whole of its responsibility weighs on your shoulders as a great burden or as the hands of fear tighten around your neck. Instead, relax into the understanding that time always moves in one direction--forward. Small steps--the smallest of steps; are cumulative. Each one moving you forward as you choose to step toward the meaningful projects you've decided to create for yourself. It all adds up.
How will you make small steps toward your meaningful projects today? How have you built something you're proud of over time?
But you can create a bowl of cherries. Life will supply the cherries, and even the bowl--sometimes. Life may give you a chance to plant some seeds and will allow you to stick around to watch them grow into cherries. It could be true that you dream of cherries, or you'll find yourself using the word to describe something nice.
All in all though, you'll have to create that bowl of cherries for yourself. Yes people will share, but you might have found yourself stealing one or two cherries when someone wasn't looking or to teach someone else a lesson.
You could spend a lifetime dreaming of the perfect cherries and feel that's enough for you. Many people do, you know. It could also be true that you'll find yourself pinning for those cherries that you lost, or those that slipped through your fingertips just as you thought they were yours.
If you've been around long enough, you've surely have regretted some and I'll bet you've even spent one or two whole afternoons feeling cheated and hurt by all the cherries that never gave you a chance.
Yet, this is your life. and though life isn't just a bowl of cherries, you do get to decide what a cherry will be in your life. You get to create them, and how you'll share them.
No, life's no bowl of cherries and sometimes you'll find that hard to face. It is the human condition to realize that you start with an empty bowl--and will leave that way too.
But, you still get to decide what a cherry is for you; even those that are not so ripe or have past their prime can still feel petty good resting in your fingertips--those cherries you created with your hands, remembering the times you shared your choicest cherries with those you love.
Life may not be no bowl of cherries, but you can create a bowl of cherries for yourself. That's why I keep that bowl of cherries you see in my office. To remind me that it's my choice if I'll be having cherries or not.
Where did the quote come from? Cherries figure into lots of quotes and you can see them over at BrainyQuote. It was a popular song during the Great Depression, lyrics by Lew Brown and music by Ray Henderson. Here's Doris Day singing her version of the song over at YouTube. It's a fun song that she sings beautifully.
Where in your life do you create a bowl of cherries?
You know that old saw, "You working hard or hardly working?" It pays homage to the fact that the universe doesn't care about you--or anyone else really.
So what can you do; If nothing matters? I suppose it's up to you if you want to matter in this life. You could choose ease and pleasure. Who's to stop you? You get to choose right?
It'll be you because you won't feel content with yourself. You won't have felt enough hard work was done; have made enough meaning with the time you've spent; and you won't get that sense of accomplishment.
Remember, there is no meaning unless you give it meaning. And you won't feel content until you work hard in service of your values.
Working hard doesn't matter. It's not the work. It's consciously giving meaning to the effort--serving values you can cherish.
Being mindful, knowing what you value, facing the meaning crisis when it comes; allow these things to work in service of making meaning in your life.
Only then comes the hard work. The effort needed to keep meaning going in your life. That's when hard work feels right. You are making meaning with your life again.
Where are you working hard today? How is the meaning in your life shaping the hard work you do?