Should You Accept Your Partner’s Bad Habit?: How accepting your partner benefits you

Many people are afraid that if they fully accept their partner, bad habits and all,  that the act of acceptance will leave them open to being taking advantage of or becoming a doormat. They are worried that if they accept a person the way they are that it will mean giving up a part of themselves. Or they may worried that if they turn the other cheek, so to speak, that they will become vulnerable to being used. relationship counseling


For numerous people accepting someone exactly the way they are is frightening.  Many are afraid of really look at acceptance because of what they think it means.  Without taking a closer look at acceptance and what it means the whole idea will remain a touchy subject.


Why accept my partner the way they are, warts and all?

On the surface acceptance of our partner looks as if it is to benefit them and while the other person may experience some a positive effect from our non-judgment of them there is an additional bonus for us.


When we accept something just as it is, without judgment, with out manipulating it to be something else or without a label, we experience peace. Think for a moment about a time you found yourself enjoying nature. You may have been hiking in the woods, or looking at a river or the ocean.

Nature can help us experience peace because we don’t have expectations for how it should be. We don’t look at a babbling brook and think it should be flowing the other way. No, we just see it for what it is.

We don’t find a rotting tree in the forest and think this should not be. No, we see the dying tree as it is. We don’t judge it as bad because it is in a particular part of its life cycle.

We don’t stand on the edge of the ocean and complain that it is too big, too salty or not quiet enough. When we find ourselves at peace it is because we are accepting the situation as it is without judgment.

We can have the same peace in our relationship when we learn to accept our partner’s behavior without judgment or without trying to change them in some way. Letting go of our expectations of how we think they should be sets us free and we experience peace.



Do I have a hidden expectation?


Often times I encourage people to look at the expectations they have for a situation or relationship. And, often times I will hear the person say, “I didn’t have an expectation. I just wanted them to_________” (fill in the blank with your choice phrase- we all have one).

It can be very difficult to see our expectations when we are so close to the situation. They can sneak in without us recognizing it.  A few tell tail signs that we actually had an expectation leak in is if we are disappointed, angry, feel rejected, fearful or even annoyed.  If you feel any of these emotions (or something similar to one of them) it might help to ask yourself one question-“How is he/she supposed to be?”.

When we ask ourselves, “How is he/she supposed to be?”, we can quickly identify what our expectations actually are.  There are a number of ways people usually answer this question and they often times try to justify their response.

-She should not be so selfish.

-He should take out that trash when I have had such a hard day.

-She should wash the baby.   After all, my mother just died.

-The price of gas should not be going up.

-They should not cheat on me.

-It should be warm for my vacation.

-They should not be drinking so much.

Does accepting my partner the way they are mean I have to put up with their behavior?

Just because we accept a person as they are does not mean that there won’t be times when we have to move away from unconscious behavior.  You can accept the fact that the forest is on fire but it does not mean you have to stay in the forest and become consumed by the flames.

The same is true in a relationship. Your partner may be acting unconsciously and it may be putting you and your family in danger of being hurt physically or it may be causing some other form of damage. You can accept the person fully and what they are going through while still moving away from harmful behavior.

A strong message in many religions teaches us the message of loving the sinner and hating the sin. Love the person, see through their unconscious behavior to their true nature, which is innocent.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if we need to move away from a situation or just take a different perspective on it.


Acceptance can help facilitate change.

Have you ever felt like someone was trying to make you do something or forcing you into something you weren’t ready to do? Spend more time with them, have more sex with them, be cleaner, stop drinking are just a few that come up in therapy.


When we feel like someone is forcing us into something, we often times force our heels into the ground and refuse to budge.  Or maybe we grudgingly give in just to shut the other person up, but it is not a long-term change.


What happens when we feel like the pressure is off of us and someone is not trying to get us to change?  Acceptance creates a space around another person. In this space healing or change is easier for that person. We feel it is much safer to change when we are accepted as a whole and not because we act in a particular way.


In truth, you can’t change your partner. 

There is nothing you can do to change your partner. If there was a way to make them do something most people would have figured it out by now. After all, most of us spend enough time trying to get them to change.

It is craziness trying to get someone to do something. You can’t change them. The only power you have lies in your acceptance of them.


We are all doing the best we can. 

The idea that our partners are doing the best they can do is difficult for many people to grasp. But the truth is we are all doing the best we can do at anytime.

Our life experiences up until this point affect how well we handle stress and what we do to when faced with fear. Swami Dayananda Saraswati says:

“Accommodation (of others) is an understanding that the other person behaves as he or she does because the person cannot act contrary to his or her background. You have no right to expect something different from someone just because it suits your needs. If you think you have the right to ask someone to change, then that person equally has the right to ask you to let him or her live as he or she does.  In fact, only by accommodating others, allowing them to be what they are, do you gain relative freedom in your day-to-day life”.

Our life experiences and temperament predict how well equipped we are to handle certain stressors that present themselves. Some people drink to handle the difficult situation, while other people lose themselves in work or children or their role as a helper.

People use all kinds of things to help them when they experience fear. For many people it is terrifying to give up that buffer. Things naturally fall away when we don’t need them anymore. Just as you outgrew the toys you played with as a child, people outgrow their vices when they no longer need them.

Don’t ever give up anything before you feel ready to give it up. It may still be serving a purpose.  If you give up something before you are ready you will find something else to substitute in its place.

Don’t try to force someone to give up something before they are ready. You can’t make them give it up until they are ready. This may mean that you need to work on acceptance and at times move away from unconscious behavior.