Radical Acceptance In Relationships
Let’s just start by reiterating that I am not in any way qualified in, well, anything. But more importantly, what I am discussing here. This post is a collection of what I’ve learnt in years of therapy, research and my own personal experiences of radical acceptance.
Radical acceptance is a coping mechanism. One that many people naturally have without even knowing it. And one that many people don’t have, without even knowing it. It’s an important skill throughout all aspects of your life, including your relationships. Think of every time you didn’t want to get up for work, but you peeled off the covers, hauled your ass out of bed and went anyway. Radical acceptance in relationships is about accepting a person as they are, without judgement. And accepting the situations that surround your relationship. You can’t make them enjoy a Sunday morning run when they prefer a lie in. You can’t make their new colleague any less of a goddess. And you can’t change the fact they got off with your friend, once, 10 years ago.
“The three things I can not change is the past, the truth and you.”
The point of radical acceptance is saying to yourself that this is how it is. This is the reality and there is nothing I can do about it. I can cry, shout, sulk or whinge. It is still going to be that way. Whilst radical acceptance in relationships can make your partner happier, that is not what it is about. It is about making YOU happier. It’s about letting go of pain, anger, frustration and resentment.
Radical acceptance is something I use almost on a daily basis. I radically accepted it when my dad didn’t acknowledge my birthday. I radically accepted it when the babysitter was ill. And I radically accepted I’d somehow managed to lose a tenner. But for the sake of this post, I’m going to cover a time I radically accepted things in my relationship and a time when I did not.
The Time He Kissed A Girl
A year into my current relationship my partner kissed another woman. He actually tried to have sex with her but she declined his advances. We were supposed to be completely monogamous. This was not okay with me. I shouted, cried, hit the walls and gave the poor girl a proper piece of my mind. I held on to that hurt and anger for a long time. I couldn’t accept that he had betrayed me when I hadn’t deserved it. That whilst I was at home planning our future, he had been prodding his tongue in someone else’s mouth.
He begged me to stay in the relationship and I did. But I did not forgive him or accept that he had done what he had. And in holding on to that hurt and anger, I was only prolonging my pain. Reliving the upset every time he went out without me, every time we argued and every time he went to work and she was there. I couldn’t face my hurt because I hadn’t accepted that it had happened. I was too distracted by the injustice of it all.
The Time He Was Late
I wanted to surprise him. I put on my best lingerie and prepared his favourite meal. I envisaged a night of love and laughter. He came home late and slightly drunk. I radically accepted that there was nothing I could do to change it, made a mental note to warn him next time I had a special evening planned, and still had my night of love and laughter.
‘Holding on to anger is like holding onto a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone.’
Practicing Radical Acceptance
So, it’s all very well me praising the joy that is radical acceptance. But, in practice, it is really not that simple. When you are faced with situations that infuriate you with the injustice, break you with the despair or just really, really piss you off, how can you say, ‘Oh well, never mind!’ It is, ultimately, a learned behaviour. It is something you can consciously work on until you don’t even know you are doing it anymore. Think back to the work reference. Some times are harder than others. And that really depends on you and how different things affect you.
You want your partner to be tidier? Acknowledge you want it, and accept that you can’t have it that way just because it is what you want. What you can do is let them know you would appreciate it if they made the bed tomorrow. And prepare to radically accept it when they don’t.
You want your partner to have noticed your new haircut? Acknowledge that is something you wanted, accept that it didn’t happen. Let them know how it made you feel and hope they will notice next time.
It isn’t about not changing things. You can change the things you need to change. And often it’s a case of having to. If you’re radically accepting your partner’s broken up with you, your life is about to change whether you like it or not. All you can do is accept and respect their decision and focus on self-care. Until you accept it, you will be in a pit of despair, hurt and denial. You HAVE to accept it to move past those emotions. Whilst the pain can’t be avoided, the suffering can. And ruminating over every tiny detail that led to your ultimate heartbreak, is only prolonging your suffering.
“What you deny or ignore, you delay. What you accept and face, you conquer.”
It is not only about accepting your partner as they are and the situations surrounding your relationship. There is another part of radical acceptance that is equally important. Accepting yourself. Accepting that they love good food and you’re a crappy cook. Accepting that they desperately want to put their cock in your ass but you’d rather eat chalk. And accepting that they made a choice to be with you because they love you, just as you are.
I hope I was able to make some sense in what I have written. I know not everyone needs to learn radical acceptance, but I also know that some do. And I do believe it is a skill that has helped in transforming my life.
Next time you hear yourself thinking how unjust something is, how infuriatingly unacceptable it is, maybe just give it a try? Remind yourself that that is the reality of the past and the present. All you can change is the future. And whether you are going to spend that future in the distress of denial… or not.
If you liked this post then check out my post on Borderline Personality Disorder and its effects on sex!