The Gift of Acceptance

man giving gift

I’ve talked a lot about self-responsibility. In truth, it’s hard to show up in a loving way for another person if you don’t take responsibility for yourself. Otherwise, you’ll be passive and dependent or blaming and controlling, in either case believing that your wellbeing is up to someone else more than you. This mindset will cause you to be a poor partner. Your marriage deserves someone who can take responsibility for him or herself.

But I want to say a few words about another important habit—the gift of acceptance. This is your willingness to respect your partner (or any other human being) as a person of dignity and worth. It’s about respecting their right to their own thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants, and to make their own choices.  It includes being committed to their happiness and being willing to support them in achieving their goals and living their vision.

In order to do this, you have to allow your partner to be who he or she is. Each person in a relationship is a unique individual and you’ll only find mature love when you stop trying to change your partner and accept and even embrace them for who they are. The exception to this is someone who violates your deepest values. You should not accept someone who has multiple affairs or someone who is emotionally or physically abusive. This would be a failure to show love and respect for yourself.

But assuming your partner does not violate your deepest values, I want to put this principle of honoring and accepting your partner as a person of worth into the context of the five stages of relationship development that I talked about in a past blog post.

Acceptance and the Five Stages

During the enchantment phase of the relationship, you probably had an idealized image of your partner. Not only did you want to put your best foot forward but wanted to see your partner in an idealized and bigger than life way. You minimized their blemishes and magnified their good traits. You may have seen your mate as happier, more confident, friendly, thoughtful, intelligent, emotionally resilient, etc. than they really are. Over time, it became impossible for you and your partner to maintain your “Prince Charming/Cinderella” image and you eventually began to see one another more realistically.

At this point you could either be disillusioned and unhappy or you could have learned to accept one another more realistically and honor the person you married and not just an image. If you became trapped in the stage of disillusionment you’ve been unable to give up the fantasized version of your spouse and are acting it out through disappointment, blame and punishment. Some people even stay trapped in a love-hate relationship for a longtime, vacillating between the feelings of enchantment on the one hand and disillusionment on the other, always believing their happiness or unhappiness has to do with their spouse rather than accepting personal responsibility for their feelings and wellbeing.

Those in obligation have given up their idealized illusions but one or both have been unable to work through their disappointments. Although polite, they are emotionally distant, settling for a peaceful coexistence, a functional but unfulfilling relationship.

Moving to a More Mature Love

In order to move to the stages of friendship and mature love, it’s necessary to offer your partner the gift of acceptance. How? By releasing judgements and negative feelings and cancelling out the negative effects of unrealistic expectations or some actions or circumstances which you’ve been holding onto. This opens up the space for peace, enjoyment and love. It is making a decision to enjoy the relationship you are in rather than holding on to a belief that it has to be different.

I Like My Chair

my office chairLet me share a couple of analogies that illustrate this gift of acceptance. Here’s a picture of my office chair. My wife found it for me on the internet and I choose to like it. It is a simple design, sleek, comfortable, rolls easily, has an adjustable seat and so on. My relationship with my office chair works when I allow it to be what it is. If I expect it to be different then I’ll be frustrated.

Suppose I think my chair should have padded arms, a footstool, and recline. Or suppose I want to turn it into a toy that I can ride around the streets. If I could just hook a rope to my wife’s bike and have her pull me around the neighborhood. Even if she could do that, it wouldn’t work. It’s not a scooter or a skateboard. It’s a chair. I’m going to be frustrated if I expect it to be something other than what it is. The frustration is not a function of the chair but rather my expectations. My relationship with my chair works when I accept and enjoy it for what it is.

A Peach

Or, think about the metaphor of a peach. A peach is a peach. It isn’t an apple, orange, or avocado. What doesn’t workaccepting your spouse is like loving a peach is to try to turn a peach into an apple. We sometimes try to do that to our spouses through controlling, lecturing, criticizing, or blaming. The truth is that if your spouse is a peach then he or she is going to make a lousy apple. And then you’re going to be angry that he or she isn’t a good apple. That’s what I call messed up.

The truth is that a peach is a peach and you’re not going to enjoy it until you accept it for what it is. Once you accept your partner as a peach, you’re going to love him or her at a much deeper level. Life is going to feel easier. So why not learn to value your spouse as a peach rather than trying to get him/her to be more (or less)… ambitious, personable, outgoing, organized, spiritual… (you fill in the blank).

I hope you can see how this works in marriage. There are some givens about the person you married (and you as well.) This doesn’t mean people can’t change. They can. But only so much. And the change has to come from inside them. Better to enjoy the sweetness, juiciness of a peach rather than trying to get your peach to be an apple.

Give the gift of acceptance. It will make your spouse happy. It will deepen your relationship. Most importantly, it will open you up to the abundance of love inside your own heart.



  1. Susan Stavis

    Thank you so much for this enlightening piece of writing. I appreciate what you share Mr. Allen.

    • Roger Allen

      You are certainly welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Susan.

  2. Gianfranco Arfinengo

    As always you are clear and direct. Thank you very much for this article and share it. I appreciate your thoughts.

  3. Kent

    This new blog explaining “The Gift of Acceptance” has encouraged me to take a deeper look at my relationship with my spouse (and others). The analogy of the peach is so instructive. Incorporating this principle into my relationships also enhances the I-Thou principle you recently shared.

    Thank you for sharing your masterful insights.

    • Roger Allen

      Thanks, Kent. I’m glad if a post prompts thoughtful and deeper self-examination. I certainly have to take a good look at myself as I write them.


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