(If you want to stay together).
Here’s something you’re probably not expecting to read: You don’t have to like everything about the person you love.
In fact, you probably won’t. No matter how much you like or love someone, there are bound to be things you disagree on — even if it’s something as small as leaving a light on at night.
Some things, though, are more inherent traits or behaviors that we must accept if we want to build a life with someone.
Here are a few to start with:
1: The life they lived before you.
None of us can change the past, but all of us havea past. And, the older that we get, the more varied and intricate the years behind us become.
When you meet someone new, you have no control over what that past looked like, and vice versa. The only thing you really see is the person that it formed in the present moment, as we are all shaped by our life experiences.
While the popular opinion is that people don’t change, I do believe we grow and evolve. I am certainly not the same person, nor do I have the same interests, as 5, 10, or 15 years ago. Do you?
The version of us today doesn’t always reflect our yesterday, so we must love and accept our partner for who they have become, not for who they used to be.
This goes extra for partners who’ve got children and/or have been previously married (I say this from experience). They quite literally bring pieces of their past with them, and if you can’t love and accept those pieces, you can’t love and accept the rest of them, either.
2: How they handle stress.
There are endless sources of stress in life. Work, bills, chores, kids, household duties, family, friends — even our relationships at times.
Everyone processes stress in different ways, particularly depending on the source(s) of it at the time. Some of us turn inward and become quiet. Some of us vent to let the frustration out. Some of us meditate. Some of us distract ourselves, or read, or cry.
Some of us even turn to unhealthy methods of coping.
No matter what your partner does in order to handle stress, is going to be something you need to accept. Now, of course, if they are harming themselves or making negative or toxic personal choices, a conversation may need to be had — but these actions only change if the person wants them to.
I’m speaking more generally here — for example, if they get quiet and process internally while they’re stressed, but you are anxious and lose your mind when they’re not talking to you — this is going to be a sticking point between you.
One, or both of you, will need to accept the nature of the other (if you want the relationship to continue).
3: How they handle conflict.
This is a separate point because, sometimes, the conflict is between the two of you.
Disagreements, discussions, arguments — all have the potential to either be productive or destructive, depending on how they’re handled.
The hope is that our partner has the emotional maturity to have calm and rational discussions in order to solve problems together. Disagreements should be you and your partner against the problem, not you and your partner against each other.
This can be a big consideration because if they handle conflict by bringing up the past, insulting you, demeaning your opinions, or discrediting your viewpoint — you shouldn’t accept that kind of treatment any longer.
4: Their health and fitness habits.
Whether mental or physical health, we all view our own wellbeing in different ways, and live our lives in accordance to it.
Imagine putting two people together with vastly different value systems around health.
One gets up every morning and goes to the gym. They meditate. They read often. They follow a well balanced and regimented meal plan…
The other…does not.
They live a mostly sedentary lifestyle, don’t understand personal development, have no interest in expanding their knowledge base or exploring the world…
The fundamental value differences between these two types of people would prevent a strong and cohesive bond from forming. They most likely just would not be able to understand each other enough to build a deep connection.
If, though, there is enough overlap that you can accept each others’ habits even if you don’t adopt them yourself, things can move forward in harmony.
5: Their political and religious views.
This one is obvious, but the world we’re living in makes them a bigger piece of the puzzle than they ever were before.
6: Their family and friends.
Whether we like it or not, marriage (assuming the relationship goes that direction) is a package deal. You’re marrying a person, but you’re marrying into an environment. An environment of traditions, holidays, values, family, friends…
You don’t have to (and probably won’t) like every single person that comes along with the package, but this article is about acceptance, and you’ll definitely need to accept that they’re part of the deal.
7: Your parenting philosophies.
Obviously, this only goes for couples who are choosing to have children. If you do, though, there’s going to have to be a cohesive style that reflects both of your values (which, hopefully, mostly align).
8: Their plans for the future.
Another obvious one, but I believe that we too often overlook it. What do you envision the next 5, 10, 15, or 50 years to look like?
What type of setting do you want to live in?
Do you want to travel?
How do you want to decorate your home?
What family traditions do you want to create or carry?
These are all things that we sometimes “take as they come,” but what if they come, and we’re not prepared for them? Or, we discover massive differences in opinion when we get there?
I’m not saying you need to map out your life by the decades — that’s impossible. Things change, people change, and circumstances sure as hell change.
But, you can have a general overall goal that you both work towards together. And, you can’t work towards it unless you know what it is.
9: How they comfort and care for you.
Listen — this is a big one.
Part of the traditional marriage vows are “in sickness and in health.”
We’re all human — even though we don’t like to admit it — and will all face challenges along the journey.
Maybe we, ourselves, get sick. Maybe we lose a loved one. Maybe we get laid off. Maybe we experience an injury…
How does this person step up for you in those times of need? Are they warm and caring? Comforting and nurturing?
Now, I say acceptance because everyone has different needs and expectations. Maybe you want to be left alone to heal. Or, maybe you have a deep need to be cared for in challenging times.
We’re all different, but the key here is that your partner’s tendencies align with your needs, no matter what they are. Otherwise, you’ll be left feeling abandoned and alone when you need them the most.
10: Their future identities and phases.
Earlier, we discussed how we’re not the same people we were 5 or 10 years ago. The same goes for 5 or 10 years into the future.
This is the tricky part about monogamy, I think. You’re signing up for something that’s unpredictable. Dynamic. Varying. Complex.
You’re going to grow and evolve through many phases of life, and the hope is that your growth will be parallel to your partner’s growth. Much of this has to do with point #4: Health and fitness habits.
If you both value personal development, mental and physical health, caring for yourselves…then you’ll have better chances at growing togetherrather than apart, because you’ll both be seeking to improve.
But still, the results are unpredictable. This is why commitment and dedication are so important: You both honor the pledge to choose each other every single day.
I have always believed that when two people wake up the morning and pledge to do the best they can and to show up for their partner, this will serve as the foundation the rest of their lives are built upon.
If you can’t (or won’t) accept some of these pivotal pieces of your partner or your relationship, then it may be time to consider letting go, and letting them find someone who does.
And, if they can’t accept all of you, then the same sentiment applies.
Remember— you don’t need someone to complete you, only for someone to accept you completely.