by Dr. John Hart, LGMFT
In a relationship, one form of showing our love to our partners is to express, “I love you.” While such an expression carries so much weight in making our partners feel secure in the relationship, there are other critical ways that we should consider that are just as important in increasing the emotional security in our relationships. Accepting your partner is an important aspect of a healthy relationship. While this may sound basic and cliché, accepting your partner for who they are is one of the hardest things to do. Acceptance in a couple’s relationship is very hard because there is always going to be things about our partner that we would like to see different or improved upon. But, we have to be mindful that our partners are their own persons and they come into our lives with their own unique lived experiences, past traumas and hurts, and personalities just as we do. As a result, healthy couples do a great job on making sure the acceptance both partners display to each other is high while also promoting growth for each partner and the relationship. If this is something you and your partner would like to work on in your relationship, there are three critical things to consider:
- Accept yourself – Of course this makes sense. But think about it – before we can truly and fully accept our partners, we need to truly and fully accept ourselves. By accepting yourself, you create a strong foundation and an empathic perspective that allows you to understand the differences that exist between you and your partner. For example, accepting yourself allows you to be mindful that you (and your partner) each have some flaws and some growing to do and because of that before you criticize or harp on their improvements, you’ll know that you have things to work on as well.
- Pick Your Battles – Healthy couples do this really well. They understand the difference between the patterns or behaviors that are critical for their partners to improve on that are necessary for the relationship itself to grow than patterns or behaviors of their partner that they themselves would like to see different but it is more so for their own wants or desires. Not understanding the difference will cause a lot of conflict in the relationship because it will lead one partner to feel so insecure and perceive that their partner does not fully love them for who they are. So, you have to understand the difference and pick your battles smartly.
- Set Boundaries – Setting boundaries in interpersonal relationships is paramount for the growth of any person. Even in your romantic relationship, you and your partner can increase acceptance by working together and creating secure and flexible boundaries in the relationship that allow both partners to grow individually while feeling secure. And remember, we have to accept that we are different from our partners and that means that our partners may have different needs than us. So make sure you both communicate these boundaries clearly and effectively and when they have been fairly negotiated, accept them. By accepting your partner’s boundaries, you will show them that you truly understand your partner and respect them.