My relationships have gotten better since I moved back to America from Singapore.
It could be that the spicy curry rewired my brain. Or that the tropical heat of living so near the equator flushed the disapproval from my pores. But, I think it was all the time I spent at the temples, bringing back the idea of acceptance, that changed how I interact with people.
I accepted my son’s father—as he is not as I want him to be—and the fighting stopped almost instantly. It was magical.
I accepted my (now ex) husband—as he is not as I want him to be—and the excessive work hours didn’t bother me anymore.
I accepted my (bless her heart) mother—as she is not as I want her to be—and family holidays are now enjoyable.
I accepted co-workers, acquaintances and even strangers on the train as fellow human beings who ultimately want the same thing in life that I want: love, comfort, safety and, of course, to be accepted as they are.
I was gliding through this normalized, non-reactive, even keel of an accepting life. Then I met someone, and embarked on a new relationship.
He was also enjoying a normalized, non-reactive, even keel of an accepting life. We were in synch. Simpatico. It was all cake and ice cream. We would have wonderful, peaceful weekends together. He would then return to his home in Oklahoma or I would return to my home in Illinois.
There was no subject off-limits; nothing we refused to discuss. All was well.
Until it wasn’t.
Until I fell back into my old, pre-accepting habits. My need to please and be liked and do almost anything to keep the romance going. To sacrifice my own self, my wants and my needs for preservation of the relationship.
Still, like most couples, we continued to talk and work on the “issues.” All the while, I struggled with recognizing and shedding my old, lingering, bad habits while continually working to come back to my newly adopted method of acceptance.
Until finally the lightbulb went on in my attic, and I knew that continuing in the relationship would be a rejection of my own self, my own soul, my own protection and my own love.
I could accept him as he is—that was the easy part. What I really needed was to accept myself as I am.
I took a time-out, like a five-year-old in kindergarten. I needed the separation, the distance and the introspection to view myself and my needs instead of only viewing the relationship.
I took this time out to reflect and ask myself these questions:
How far had I strayed from my personal acceptance?
I was performing all sorts of jumps through hoops, back bends and contortions for the relationship that I always advise my girlfriends to never, ever do. My first step was to listen to my own advice. I accepted my wants and needs as valid, culled and proven over a lifetime of getting to know myself.
Why was I no longer accepting of myself and the person I had worked so hard to become?
I loved him, and in loving him I put him first. Which is great for the relationship, but bad for me. I worked to see how I could be true to my own acceptance, to fully accept him and to still have the relationship flourish.
What would I need to do to come back to accepting myself?
I started by voicing my wants and needs—with love and respect—to myself and to him. This is when the fevered flush of the relationship stripped away and we realized that our unique and authentic selves were on paths too divergent to remain together.
These are the questions I asked and answered when I was lost and floundering—when I was accepting him but rejecting my true self.
I learned that acceptance of myself is necessary for my physical, emotional and mental health. That accepting myself first is necessary to being in any relationship with another.
I learned to breathe and to create space before plunging in and losing my self-acceptance, because in the end, I am the only one I’ve got.
Author: Cindy Karnitz
Editor: Toby Israel