Acceptance is the Core of Harmonious Relationships

Many couples who come for therapy to improve their relationship subsequent to frequent fights, arguments and mutual frustrations wish that the therapist will side with their individual view and guide their mate in becoming more agreeable and cooperative with his/her preferences and choices. How can pairs restructure their loving union to the satisfaction of both of them?

The euphoria and delight of newly partnered pairs is a joy to feel and observe in others. It is a dream-like period in which the new beloveds perceive each other as flawless, perfect and the ideal mate whom they were truly blessed to find. They were patient, curious, attentive and admire everything about their new beloved. Some of those who paired maintained their enthusiasm about each other for a long time, even a lifetime. Others, who soon woke up to the fact that love and romance are no longer their primary preoccupation, became housemates, entitled rivals who then focused primarily on their own needs. They then proceeded to fault with each other and even gloat at the mate’s failures, faults or inadequacies.

In “How to Save Your Own Life”, Erica Jong wrote, “How wonderful to have someone to blame! You may be miserable, but you feel forever in the right.”

In “Reconcilable Differences”, Drs. Andrew Christensen and Neil S. Jacobson state, “We may spare our partners the profound knowledge we have of their personalities and instead evaluate their performance as spouses, partners, providers, or simply people…. We judge our partners not on their morality or mental health, but on their ability to be a good lover, spouse or partner.” They further add, “Because we believe that we are only reacting to our partner’s provocation, we tend to cast ourselves in the role of victim and our partner in the role of villain.”

The habit of assailing one’s mate as inept, incompetent or ill intentioned, may give the labeler a momentary sense of power, righteousness or superiority as he/she degrades, humiliates and devastates the spouse. This is cruel and unbefitting a decent spouse who originally felt profoundly fortunate to have his/her partner’s love and devotion.

To belittle a partner in front of the children is an indecent act. Children love their parents and look up to them for guidance and modeling of healthy behavior. Even those who later apologize to the children or minimize the insults as an affectionate joke, cannot convince their youngsters that this behavior is acceptable as they may often feel the hurt and shame of the berated parent.

Be a supportive and loving spouse:

  • Abstain from berating your partner. When disappointed say, “This behavior, words or actions are unbecoming to a wonderful person like you”. An appreciation is a more effective way to cause a behavior change.
  • NEVER use a derogatory term to label your spouse even when you are deeply disappointed. It only berates you and your mate selection.
  • Model for your children what kind, supportive and loving spouses do.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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