Save This Relationship! Don’t try to make a dog a cat.
Most couples begin dating because they enjoy one another. The friendship that they build is the beginning of their relationship.
I often meet with couples after they have been together for a number of years. Their once enjoyable relationship has become conflictual and tense. Suddenly, the behaviors that they once loved (or at the least, were able to overlook) about their partner are now terribly irritating.
Jane is a quiet, homebody who enjoys gardening, baking, and sitting on the front porch with a cup of tea. She is organized, tidy, and feels fueled by her time alone. Jane enjoys going out with friends, yoga classes, and long distance running but also needs her alone time.
Jon is an outgoing, social butterfly. He belongs to a number of different sports leagues and greatly enjoys meeting the guys after work for a beer or two. Jon “never met a stranger” in his life…it seems that he knows everyone! It is a rare occasion spent home all weekend as Jon can pack in a half dozen social activities in just a couple of days.
For many couples…one is more like Jane and one is more like Jon. In a place of neutrality, most of us can appreciate the qualities of each.
However, put a ring on your finger, throw in a kid or two, and these personal characteristics turn into the fuel for World War 3. A tit-for-tat…who is better…and who is, well, wrong.
“I don’t know if we can save this relationship, we are so different!”
“We have nothing in common anymore.”
“I feel like he doesn’t even know who I am.”
Sometimes it helps to see each other as a dog and a cat.
If you are a dog owner, you might experience how your canine friend expectantly runs to the door at your arrival barking, wagging, and celebrating your return home. Every. Single. Time. You might relish in the constant attention at your every moment around the house and come to simply accept the dire of his to play ball all of the time.
If you have been a cat owner, you have experienced the silence upon arrival. This silence might last for a number of minutes or even hours. At some point, you might be graced with the loving appearance from your feline friend and languish in the warm purring body curled up on your lap. And suddenly, without notice, she leaps up and is gone.
You probably do not expect your cat to behave like your dog. You do not expect your dog to behave like your cat. You probably do not think, “If Fido was a bit more like Fluffy, Fido would be much happier. He might make more friends at the dog park, too.”
What would it be like to simply accept your partner for the dog or the cat that she/he is?
Radical, I know.
I invite you to practice this radical acceptance for a few hours…maybe a day or two if you are feeling bold. What is it like to exchange criticism, demands, and judgment for acceptance?
Sure, there are some feelings that need to be expressed and hurts that likely need some attention and forgiveness. There are some skills that might need to be practiced like listening and attending to one another. There are also things to negotiate…parenting, spending, living together.
All of these practices, however, expressing feelings, forgiveness, listening, and attending are much more successful when you have a foundation of acceptance to ground in. It is pretty tough to enter vulnerable territory of feeling work or a fair negotiation when I know that I am right and I certainly know that my partner is wrong.
Interested in learning how to practice radical acceptance in your relationship? Book a free 20-minute consultation online or call me today at (720) 457.3342 and let’s see how I might be able to help you achieve your relationship goals.
Jenny Glick, MA, MSC, LMFT is a licensed marriage & family therapist and relationship coach in Denver, Colorado. She is a contemporary therapist engaging actively with her clients to invite transformation and growth. Online, in-office, and walk-in-the-park options available. Book now and let the acceptance begin!