By Dr. Steve
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In To Acceptance
In the sick room, ten cents worth
of human understanding equals
ten dollars worth of medical science.
-Martin H. Fischer
The path to accepting your partner is paved by the efforts you make to understand your
at the core of the act of acceptance? Think about this for a moment. Is your partner more
likely to want to feel that you understand them or that youre judging them?
Understand or judge? Whats at the root of either of those two postures?
someone is easy enough to do. You have your own standards for the way a person should act,
think, or feel. You have your own sense of whats right or wrong. Does your partner
measure up to those standards? When your partner doesnt meet those standards, how do
you react to that? How do you reconcile the difference between who you believe your
partner should be and who they are? Isnt that really the essence of it?
of us try to fit our partner into a box. You know the saying about trying to fit a square
peg into a round hole. Often thats what we do to the people in our lives. We
dont see them for who they are. We see them for who we want them to be. We
dont see the incredible richness that lives within them. We see them as projects in
which we can mold them in a manner that makes us more comfortable with who they are.
that sound familiar at all? Molding. Shaping. Cajoling. All in the name of what? Wanting
to transform our partners imperfections? Needing to appease our discomfort for what
we cant tolerate? A little of each perhaps?
lets look at it this way, at what cost does all of this take place? How does all of
the energy you invest in trying to change your partner help your partner see the light;
how does all of that effort play in your partners head?
call it being helpful. Your partner calls it being intrusive, undermining, non-accepting.
You call it wanting the best for your partner. Your partner calls it not accepting them
for where theyre at. You call it taking an interest in your partners life.
Your partner calls it not having faith in their ability to go it alone.
the subtle digs: a jab here, a barb there. What does the accumulation of all of that
noise, all the ways we damn somebody with faint praise, what does it add up to in any
are you being helpful to me? Jan asked, as tears of frustration welled up in her
dont know. But I dont get how you can doubt my good intentions. All I really
am doing is just trying to be helpful, Alan protested.
does going behind me, second guessing everything I do, help me in any way, shape, or
form? Jan bitterly wondered outloud.
face was genuinely bewildered. Im not going behind your back. Im
merely offering an alternative for you to think about.
having lost all her patience, excitedly shouted, Who asked you for an alternative? I
dont need alternatives from you. I need your belief in me. I need your
acknowledgment that you believe that I can do this, not your recommendations for how you
would do it.
you know how it makes me feel like such a nothing every time you stick your nose into my
business? Cant you see how belittling it is to me, to have you pick away at every
little thing I do? What do you think I am? A fool? An incompetent?
now Jans face was crimson red. Her arms were slicing through the air with each point
she made. She continued, You know, sometimes I think you need to hold it in your
head that Im somehow not capable, that Im helpless, that I need you. I want
you in my life, but not at this expense. I need you, but not the way you have it set up.
It makes me feel judged. It makes me feel like the only way you want me is if Im not
me--but rather what you try and shape me to be.
it time for you to better understand how your helpfulness is experienced by your partner?
Isnt it time for you to better understand how the innocent comments you make may be
heard very differently by somebody else?
cant tell you how much discord can be alleviated between you and your partner when
you better understand how your best intentions are heard by somebody else. Your
willingness to be better sensitized to how your partner is affected by some of the things
you do and say will go a long way to helping your partner feel more accepted by you.
on the other hand is such a different game to play. The players are cast as equals. The
nature of the relationship is built upon support and caring rather than correcting and
fixing. You tell me, which energy nurtures your soul--fixing or understanding?
you take the time to understand your partner, you offer an incredible gift. Do you see
best to communicate this special gift? Understand your partner by entering their world,
not by imposing your world upon them. Make it safe for your partner to introduce new
pieces of who they are. Dont censure them for what they do and say. These are the
baby steps we must take as we build a bridge of understanding. These thousand small acts
of kindness and appreciation are what affirms and encourages your partner to be who they
best friend Stephanie Phillips knows how good it feels when I understand her.
Believe me its not always easy for me. You see shes only three, so its
hard for me to crack her code all the time. But in the end, she lets me know whether I get
it right or not.
Frischie, I frowd up, I frowd up, Stephie said as she came running to
the matter, Steph, dont you feel well? I asked as I placed my hand on her
didnt answer, but the tears in her eyes said more than her words ever could.
your tummy hurt? I asked.
nodded her head as she gave a little whimper.
wanna sit on my lap, Stephie? I asked.
words, she just jumped into my lap.
you want me to rub your tummy for you?
nodded her head as she wiped a tear from her eye.
bout I get ya a little Coca Cola, to settle your stomach?
face brightened as she said, Kay!
Stephanie finished the Coca Cola, I layed a pillow down on the couch and held out her
blanket. Steph, you wanna lay down with your blankie?
nodded yes, ran over to me, threw her little arms around my neck and planted a big kiss on
thanked her and kissed her back. For me, it doesnt get any better than that.
hope youre beginning to see how acceptance grows wherever seeds of understanding are
planted. Acceptance is choked wherever weeds of judgment become overgrown. Having built a
case for the importance of understanding, let me give you some concrete tools that will
never let you down. These tools will enable you to listen to your partner in a special
way; more importantly, youll discover how to effectively respond to your partner
rather than react to them. The followings a simple formula to follow--one part
attitude, two parts action.
deal with attitude first--the attitude you project towards your partner. Dont blow
by this question. I want you to think about it for a moment or two. Do you give your
partner the space to be who they are? Are there parts of who your partner is that you
judge to be less than worthy of your honor and respect?
fall into your yea but shtick. I dont want to hear how you rationalize
it in your head. How its for their own good. Or I know whats
best. A million times Ive heard how somebody is only trying to be
your being helpful, do you insist that your partner stop being who they are? This is the
essential question. Stop being emotional. Stop being frightened. Stop being irrational.
Stop being obsessive Stop being lazy.
judgmental, being critical--so many of us have become adept at hiding our judgments in our
good intentions, in our well-meaning behavior. But dont settle for that any longer.
I guarantee you that your partner doesnt.
The time has come to work with your partner. What that means for the purposes of this
section is to check it out with your partner. Ask them how your attitude towards them may
imply that they have to stop being who they are. See for yourself how you may be implying
in many of your behaviors and comments that your partner is less than, that somehow,
someway they need you to show them the way.
them if they experience many of your comments as just kidding. Or do they feel the sting
of your sarcasm, the harshness of your jokes, the cruelty of your just being honest? Is it
possible that your partner doesnt feel accepted by you--and rightly so?
If you truly want
things to be different, then it starts with you. It starts with you getting honest about
yourself as well as what you want for your partner. Are you ready to stop minimizing the
aches and pains that your partner expresses to you? Are you ready to let go of the
explanations youve invented to justify your behavior to yourself and the rest of the
world? If youre ready to get honest about your displaced anger, your veiled attempts
at control, your misguided attempts at being helpful, let me introduce you to two action
steps that will instantly transform your relationships.
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.