08 April, 2013

A new paradigm is taking place in today's world and it speaks of our own personal well-being, the quality of life and how to improve our relationships.

Most book stores have a special section on health and self-development these days, and it appears that the volume of self-help literature has increased in the last decade.

In their essence, they all speak about the same thing - acceptance. What a big word that is, and how difficult it is to achieve.

Accept yourself, accept your neighbour. Just take life as it is and you will live a life full of harmony with the partner of your dreams, well- behaved kids, good friends and everything will be sweet, or not?

When it comes to trouble in our relationships, how often have we heard well-meant remarks like “you can't change him/ her” or” that's just how he/she is” or “ just let it go, it will sort itself out”. All this is good and heartfelt advice from the people who love us.

But as much as we have heard these phrases before, we probably laughed out loud at the same time, asking ourselves: “How? How am I meant to accept these annoying little quirks, when they drive me absolutely crazy and to my wits’ end?”

Most people would agree with me, that it is a lot harder to put the big ‘acceptance’ word into reality, than others would have you believe.

We all carry nagging little thoughts like, “Why can't he just put his dirty laundry into the washing basket or just be a tad more romantic, like the guy in the movie?”

“Why can't she just stop talking and leave me to myself, so I can tinker in the shed?”

“Why do I have to be the one who apologises first; why can't he/she make the first step? Why do I always have to give in? What about me?!”

And there it is, the big ME full of unmet needs, hopes and wishes, wanting to be seen and acknowledged first, not the other way around.

Making the first step is a risky endeavour, and puts us into a dangerous position. Possible rejection always lurks around the corner, so fear is absolutely understandable - most human beings have been hurt by others, usually when they were most vulnerable. It is only natural to put up a wall and stay behind it.

But where does that leave us? It leaves us in a stalemate situation, where nobody is willing to make the first step. This is when most people come to relationships counselling, as they find it very hard to solve the problem themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, most couples say that it has made a big difference to have a third party present, who looks at their relationship with a neutral set of eyes.

If you’re in this situation, there are a few strategies which can be helpful: Remind yourself why you fell in love with your partner in the first place. Try to focus on the positive qualities and characteristics your partner has. Take a look at all the areas in your relationship where you work well together.

Take time out as couple; make time for a regular date- night. Take surrounding circumstances into consideration, like stressful work hours or other current difficulties.

Don't be too hard on yourself or your partner, look for support in friends and family. Seek counselling or other professional help.

And always remember, that accepting something or somebody is not giving in, or brushing things under the carpet. It is actually quite the opposite, as it deals with bringing everything out into the open, so that it can be worked through.

And last but not least, start to love and accept yourself. Most of our relationship troubles come from the idea that our partner is responsible for our own happiness.

This will be the focus of the next blog, where we will have a good look at the grand art of self-acceptance, and why it seems so difficult to embrace ourselves.


Denise Reichenbach, Counsellor – Relationships Australia, Gladstone