Many of us have experienced the moment in a relationship when a trait that seemed adorable when we first fell in love suddenly becomes annoying–or even worse, maddening. Suddenly that spontaneous and impulsive guy (or gal) we worshiped has turned into a thoughtless jerk that overdraws the checking account and never picks up his socks!
The truth is that he hasn’t really changed, but once the intensity–and chemistry–of early love fades, habits can become destructive, and, according to the authors of a study of dating couples at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “… everyone eventually behaves badly.” The authors conclude that the couples that enjoy positive relationships have strong joint tendencies to inhibit destructive impulses–such as responding to an insult with another insult– and instead are willing to accommodate their partner’s behavior.
Or as the authors explained, if partners consistently trade “…fire for fire, the relationship is unlikely to flourish.” On the other hand, if there is an attempt to break the cycle and accept and accommodate your partner’s imperfections, it can flourish.
Valerie Waidler, a marriage and family therapist who practiced in the Bay Area, points out that, “Acceptance is not giving up on yourself but instead finding skills to accept and work on the challenges of a relationship, including how to accommodate what you can’t change in your partner.”
Waidler believes that one way to build acceptance in a marriage is to focus on what your partner is good at–not what society expects him or her to excel in. “As women break the glass ceiling, roles have changed. Sally might be an expert in finance and technology while Dave is exceptional at childcare. It’s important to accept your partner’s skills and accommodate his or her weaknesses by stepping in and helping rather than criticising.”
It’s tempting to want to change your partner’s behavior but according to Psychology Today, acceptance means there is no secret agenda for change and instead means, “I choose to love you irrespective of what you do or don’t do for me.” This leads to trust and the ability to accommodate irritating behavior. Ask a couple that has navigated a 50-year marriage and you’ll probably find the idea of acceptance and accommodation has been around since people first decided to live together.
 “Accommodation Processes in Close Relationships: Theory and Preliminary Empirical Evidence,” Caryl E. Rusbult, Julie Verette, Gregory A. Whitney, Linda F. Slovik, and Isaac Lipkus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
 Psychology Today, “Acceptance: The Foundation of Lasting Relationships,” John Thoburn Ph.D., ABPP, December 2012.
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