Accepting Your Partner Too Much
Of course you want to be accepted by your partner and do the same for them. But what does this really mean? It's a pretty subtle thing to accept your partner and not be okay with some of their moods, beliefs, behaviors, mind-states, and attitudes. Rather than trying to tease all this apart, you can use your own experience as your guide.
First, get clear on the basic experience of true acceptance. When you are truly in acceptance there is a sense of ease, clarity, openness, and often warmth.
When you are thinking you "should accept your partner" (i.e., accepting your partner too much), there is a sense of effort, heaviness, contraction, and lots of deep breathes. You likely give yourself little pep talks like, "He just needs acceptance and then he'll be okay." Or "She is doing the best she can. I just have to be patient." Or "I can be big-hearted here." Or "I just need to be more loving." Once in a while these strategies can be helpful in tipping yourself out of reactivity.
However, if you are, over time, working to accept your partner, it is a recipe for resentment, for two reasons. First, because it's not about accepting your partner. Second, because it's about your own needs.
It's not your job to withstand your partner's depression, anger storms, anxiety, substance abuse, etc. Your job as a loving, supportive partner, in part, is to honestly express your feelings and needs and make clear requests and to authentically listen to your partner's feelings and needs and clarify their requests. Easily said, not so easily done.
Over the last six months I have watched the "too accepting" dynamic play out in three couples. In each, one of the partners had taken on the role of smoothing out troubles, being "accepting", and working to please the other. In so doing each person abandoned his or her needs, passions, and even lifestyle. The result in each case was the same. Some trigger event woke up this "accepting" partner to what s/he had given up. With this waking up came a sudden pulling away from their partner. A fighter energy then attempted to tend to so many needs so long neglected by taking extreme action and making a lot of plans and decisions. Unfortunately this reactive energy, because it is so strong, gets confused with truth and clarity, and costly decisions are often made.
Cultivating your ability to be honest about your feelings and needs can start in the smallest most mundane moment. Notice when you are tempted to omit little facts like, how much those new running shoes cost or how you took an hour nap today instead of finishing the drywall in the basement. Even omitting little things like this sends a message to yourself that there is not room for you in this relationship or that your relationship isn't big enough to handle little conflicts.
This week notice when you are backing away from expressing your needs or some part of your experience. Notice when you are working hard to be "accepting". Take a breath and notice how it feels in the moment. Ask yourself if this is a feeling you want to cultivate. If not, ask yourself what it would take to express your truth in that moment.