I enjoy a good Disney movie. Is there a better one than Aladdin? That’s a rhetorical question because everyone knows it’s the best. Maybe I enjoy it because it has a happily ever after. Isn’t it interesting how the movies and shows we watch as kids impact how we view life as adults? I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared early in marriage when the relationship with my wife wasn’t rainbows and unicorns.
Here’s how unprepared I was.
When we did pre-marital counseling, our counselor told me I wouldn’t always feel ‘warm fuzzies’ for my wife. I thought he was nuts. I left the session thinking he must be the worst husband. It’s funny to think about that moment and even funnier to think about how naïve I was. For transparency sake, in the 11 years I’ve been married I’ve had my share of unpleasant feelings toward my spouse. Fortunately, we’ve learned how to deal with those feelings. We communicate with gentleness and vulnerability that allows relational repair to take place (disclaimer: we’re not perfect and still act like fools sometimes.)
This begs the question.
How do you respond to your spouse when your happily ever after isnt?
You know those moments I’m talking about. The moments when you feel so angry, an almost hatred-like feeling for them. I’m not referring to emotional or physical abuse – that’s a different ball game. I’m talking about when they forget for the 100th time to take out the trash, miss a birthday, or keep doing that thing they know is your number one pet peeve. How do you not focus so much on the things you dislike and keep the fire stoked in your relationship?
First step: Radical Acceptance
Am I suggesting that you be in a relationship and not try to change who your partner is? Absolutely. If long-term change occurs, it’s only going to be because they wanted it instead of because you pushed it on them. We are all exceptionally flawed individuals, but at the same time exceptionally unique. The second step is made easier when you can mentally get to a place of radical acceptance.
Second step: Radical Gratitude
Because perfection is impossible within the human experience, I’m sure you don’t have to look hard to find it within your spouse. Focusing on the positive and taking in the good about your partner is crucial to a long-term, meaningful, and secure attachment with our spouse. This is difficult in part because we are not biologically wired to seek out the good. We’re wired for survival, so our brains are more in tune to find the negative to ensure we stay alive. I mean, if I see a lion and focus solely on its beauty I may feel inclined to cuddle with it when in fact I need to be far away. Radical gratitude – if not already present – will take a substantial amount of effort and energy, but your relationship will reap the rewards.
At this point some of you reading may feel a little disappointed because you thought I was going to provide a strategy or communication guide. Maybe another time. Radical acceptance and gratitude, if implemented into your relationship, can create a place for each partner to have certain emotional needs met that help keep resentment and contempt at bay. It doesn’t mean you’ll never argue; it just means you’ll argue less.