In a discussion about acceptance in marriage, it’s useful to go back to the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) definition of acceptance, or “radical acceptance,” as the skill is called. Radical acceptance means accepting our current reality, whatever that is. In the context of marriage, radical acceptance is not approving or allowing abuse, and it is not “giving up.” It is not about passing judgment on our situation, but rather “acknowledging that an injustice or painful situation cannot be changed without full acceptance that the event has happened in the first place” (McCarthy, 2021).
We resist reality with “should” statements. “It shouldn’t be this way,” “I shouldn’t have to…”, “He shouldn’t have…” (McCarthy, 2021). We can probably all imagine ourselves getting worked up over something and saying, “I shouldn’t have to deal with this sort of thing!” Well, the fact is, that is exactly the situation we are in – needing to deal with that very thing. Accepting the reality can help us to move through the situation rather than getting stuck in resentment or bitterness.
In marriage, as Martin (2020) puts it, we come “back to reality”—the reality that no one is perfect. “That blinding fog of love starts to wear off and your lover’s faults and defects become clearer. Somehow those clothes on the floor and toothpaste smudges become more bothersome” … “Working on accepting the many differences in your partner can be an emotionally beneficial exercise …[it] emancipates you from the stress and unhappiness of your futile efforts to change your partner. Once you relinquish trying to change or control your partner and accept your differences, not only will you feel relief, but your relationship will feel more peaceful and harmonious” (2020).
Martin (2020) suggests five ways to bring healing to a marriage with acceptance:
- Accept that your partner is not within your control.
- Accept that you and your partner are not perfect.
- Accept that your partner doesn’t need to be just like you.
- Accept that you and your partner will not always agree.
- Accept that you need to be mindful of always working on acceptance.
“The root of relationship conflict is never really about the clothes on the floor or the toothpaste smudges; it is more often about control, lack of awareness and ability to accept one another’s differences… allow things to be what they are” (2020).
Dashnaw (2021) offers the perhaps surprising observation that “…69% of all marital issues are fundamentally unsolvable. They relate to differences in family-of-origin, culture, ethnicity, religion, values, and beliefs.” Note that “unsolvable” here doesn’t mean that the marriage can’t continue, it means that acceptance is required in the relationship—the differences may not change. “Couples achieve respect by the skillful exploration of these differences, accepting their inherent differences, and pursuing deep mutual respect, (if not integration) for what is vitally important to each of them” (2021).
Dashnaw, D. (2021, July 15). 13 best ways to show respect in marriage. Couples retreats and Online Couples Therapy. Retrieved December 26, 2021, from https://www.couplestherapyinc.com/13-ways-to-show-respect-in-marriage/
Martin, B. S. (2020, October 28). 5 ways to heal your relationship through acceptance. Marriage Advice – Expert Marriage Tips & Advice. Retrieved December 26, 2021, from https://www.marriage.com/advice/relationship/radical-acceptance-in-relationships/
McCarthy, D. (2021, July 14). What is radical acceptance? (and what is not). myTherapyNYC. Retrieved December 26, 2021, from https://mytherapynyc.com/radical-acceptance/