Relationships and Acceptance

All relationships have issues.  No relationship is perfect, and they all take work to maintain.  As much as I would love to believe the Disney Princess fairytales that the royal couples lived happily ever after, I have been a therapist too long to believe the fairytales.  As I think about marriage, and the future, I wish more people got premarital counseling prior to the big day.  I think it could cut the divorce rate significantly, and save a lot of broken hearts.  When it comes to relationships, accepting someone for who they are becomes important.  You shouldn’t get into a relationship with the idea that you can change them, fix them, mold them into the perfect person, or think that things will change when you are married.  That’s not how it works.

I have worked with a lot of couples over the years, and people stay together for many reasons, including money, kids, illness.  They break up for the same reasons, but when you make a commitment, part of that commitment has to be to accept your partner for who they are.  They may come with baggage or mental health issues.   They come with skills, or lack of skills, and they come with issues.  In some cases, some of the issues don’t surface until after the ceremony and that becomes the real test.  We tend to be on our best behavior when we are getting to know each other.  Living with someone is different, and a general level of respect for the differences that come with being two different people is important when you are working to make relationships work.

Over the years things change, and sometimes the relationship is challenged as it grows.  Kids might become a part of the equation, and mental health issues may make things difficult.   I have worked with couples trying to manage bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety, and those issues make relationships more than difficult at times.  Many people would like to pretend things are not real, or that a person can just ignore mental health issues.  They should just “get over it” but it doesn’t work that way.  If you care about someone, you have to understand who they are.  I have worked with people with significant issues, that challenged any relationship that they got into, but they also had such a big heart, and loyalty to the people they loved.  Not everyone is easy to live with, but that makes the relationship interesting.

I encourage people to be who they are, and to accept people for who they are.  It’s important in relationships to care about the whole person, not just the parts you like.  People with bipolar disorder will cycle, and things will get better, but there will be bad days.  For people with depression, it’s the same outlook, and anxiety as well.  If you can see past the scary stuff, there is probably a loving person in there, but you have to accept it all.  This is not about abuse, and if someone is abusive, you need to end the relationship.

Being in a committed relationship is accepting someone, for better or worse, and there will be both in your relationship.  There will be times when you don’t communicate, for different reasons, and there will be times that you finish each other’s sentences.  Take the good and the bad, and build a life together, if that’s what you want, but don’t end a relationship because you couldn’t change someone to make them what you wanted them to be.  Don’t get into a relationship, to begin with, if you can’t accept the person for you they are, and expect the same in return.  It’s all part of being happy, for life.