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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.

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16 Responses

  1. Apr 29, 2009

    LaShelle, this Gem was GodSent (through you).

    I have never heard anyone speak about this issue with such simplicity, clarity, and compassion for all.

    I feel valued, cared for, treasured -- and we've never even met.

    You have hit my past pattern on the head; I so did this kind of "accepting" and "compassion" to myself, to my partner, and to my relationships. For decades. I didn't realize until a few years ago that this was, in significant measure, what made my relationships so very painful and unsatisfying for me.

    Since then, I've been learning how to value myself and treat my needs with care and real respect, as if they matter, even when they aren't met by what others are doing. And, in the face of my history and how needs are (at best) unacknowledged and (at worst) denigrated in our culture, I often feel very alone in this.

    Even my closest, most aware friends are as confused about this as I am, I think -- both about valuing and caring mindfully about our own needs, and about not caretaking/accepting others' behaviors that don't meet our needs. Blame is still so often the currency of communication, when these don't fit together smoothly.

    Blaming ourselves or others for our unmet needs doesn't work, but neither does abandoning our own needs. I've been struggling with this for a while now, and -- until now -- I've never been really clear about what other options I had.

    Now you've clearly illustrated a third way that honors everyone.

    Your Gem felt like someone taking my hand and saying, "Yes, you (=your needs) matter, and this is exactly HOW they can matter, as everyday life unfolds from moment to moment. This is what it can look like, within you, and in your caring relationships."

    What a gift. What a gift.

    *Thank you.*


  2. May 07, 2009

    I have copied and pasted your email in a folder I keep for inspiration. So warm hearted and appreciative reading your words. Knowing that this simple weekly email can touch you so gives me so much energy for doing this work in the world.

    Thank you too for sharing about your process. Meets my need for community.

  3. Jan 25, 2012

    Thanks for these. I love every one!

  4. Jan 25, 2012

    Like you said, easier said than done. Especially when you try to express your feelings and get shut down in some way.

  5. Jan 25, 2012

    Heaviness, effort and lots of deep breaths. Well, that puts a hole in my whole argument that I should accept all his moods, financial choices, etc, etc. I have those feelings of heaviness when I think about trying to "get along" and "hang in there" and "wait it out" and "give it time". I look at myself and think-I seem to look similar to an addicted gambler. *next time will be better* or *just one more try and I know he will not react the same way* or *that will be the last time* or *this is just a temporary set back*.

  6. Jan 25, 2012

    The part that resonated for me was how the strong reactive energy can feel like 'truth and clarity'. I have mistakenly believed that in the past.

    One question, when is insight helpful? I find the gems to be very helpful to my understanding, but I also understand the importance of just listening and reflecting feelings and needs. When, if ever, is the time to share insights to a close friend or family member?

  7. Jan 26, 2012

    Wow Coree, that really nails how it feels for me.

  8. Jan 26, 2012

    LaShelle wrote: "If not, ask yourself what it would take to express your truth in that moment."
    I have fantasies of telling my truth in the moment. I have day dreams about saying *I am going to xyz* Then I think of the reaction I will get. The sighs, the look, ... What it would take to speak my truth in the moment is the willingness to feel the discomfort of seeing his reaction and the willingness to follow through on my strategies to meet my needs in spite of them.

  9. Jan 26, 2012

    When I try to speak my truth I get blasted with anger or excuses. Obviously we must meet our own needs and give ourselves empathy when we have a uncommunicative partner.
    I'm still learning how not to react to her rejection of my truth.

  10. Feb 05, 2012

    Thats it, yeah I agree.With that approach I could help myself and others. Thank you so for sharing.


  11. Feb 09, 2014
    Tami O'Kinsella

    Would like to have examples of this: "... 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."
    Clear examples would help because I think this is a part of my reality. So much so that it is hard to be aware of it and to know how to act differently.

  12. May 16, 2014

    I really appreciate reading each one of your wise, simple and illustrative posts. I have re blogged this post on my blog. It will be visible from 21.5.14 on. Thank you for being so inspiring.

  13. Aug 11, 2015
    Meheret Fikre-Sellassie

    I began to read this gem with a mild interest in the topic. Until this paragraph hit me "However, if you are working g over time to crept your partner, it is a recipe for resentment for two reasons, First it's not bout crept in your partner. Secindly, because it's about your own needs". Now that is a serious mirror. Serious shift in perspective is in order! Thank you for that .

  14. Aug 25, 2015

    Your welcome Meheret!

  15. Mar 30, 2018
    Marci Wichman

    LaShelle, you hit the nail on the head. I lived this for many years with a boyfriend. I would get tired of accepting his behaviors and speak up. He would then give "reasons" or excuses for the behaviors I was accepting. I realized the behaviors never changed only the excuses for them. I felt guilty for not being supportive and resentful for not having my needs met.

    You said "Unfortunately this reactive energy, because it is so strong, gets confused with truth and clarity, and costly decisions are often made."

    How true, I ended the relationship. I suppose it could have been costly but I don't feel it was. I was going crazy. When I ended the relationship, I was accused of being a quitter. I am now in a loving relationship with great communication and I couldn't be happier.

    Thank you for your work. You are a gem. I cherish every email and the information you provide. I look forward to taking one of your classes.


  16. Apr 04, 2018

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this Marci. it is nourishing to hear your appreciation and inspiring to hear your story.

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