Yesterday, we talked about whether or not marriage is for you. The audience was active in sharing what may have been missing from the original list of flags for a marriage destined for divorce. Laurie, of Dazed & Confused, brought up an interesting point.
You forgot to say that you should be with them long enough to figure out if you can continue to look at them each day without wanting to choke them. Behavior you can not abide by in the long term makes one unattractive no matter how cute they were when you met them.”
Love At First Sight
Sue pointed out she knew she was destined to marry Grant (Yesterday, they celebrated 15 years.) the moment she met him. Kudos on keeping it together. But what happens when your first impression is a less than accurate depiction of your mate?
Myopia Sets In
After the initial pheromones wear off, you begin to notice behavior which rattles your beliefs, yanks your chain or outright makes you angry. Before you decide you can live with it, ask yourself some important questions:
- Am I tolerating this because I love Mate?
- Do I think I can change Mate’s behavior?
- Does Mate possess enough good qualities to overshadow this behavior?
- Will I grow less tolerant as the years go by?
- If I tell Mate I hate this, will the relationship end?
1. Am I tolerating this because I love Mate?
This is hard work. If you are willing to overlook bad behavior, you are endorsing it. When you see something wrong and say nothing, you tacitly give your permission and become complicit. Think of it this way, even though your mate is not your child (This is another segment altogether.):
If you say nothing to a child running toward the road and a car hits the child, you might as well have been driving the car.
Your mate probably has no idea the bad behavior is, well, bad. Mate had been doing this long before you came along. Either the people in Mate’s life do not think it is bad or they are tolerating it.
2. Do I think I can change Mate’s behavior?
Stop, right there. The only person’s behavior you can change is your own. To expect Mate to change behavior for you leads down the wrong paths: Resentment and Doubt.
Resentment: Have you ever done something someone asked you to do, but you did not want to do? Eventually, Mate will resent your asking for change. Mate has no desire to change. By taking your suggestion (pleading, nagging, griping) to change, Mate has to acknowledge the behavior was unacceptable. Resentment is shooting the messenger, but it happens.
Doubt: Mate thought you loved unconditionally. Now, you have placed a condition on your love. If Mate does X, the same X as before you came along, you are not going love him/er the innocent, touchy-feely, gushing way you did in the beginning. What else will Mate do to cause this love loss? Doubt is a powerful emotion, which erodes love.
3. Does Mate possess enough good qualities to overshadow this behavior?
You have decided to take the good with the bad. Good and bad.
Good: You are accepting Mate unconditionally. This is the basis to a healthy relationship. Love all of Mate.
Bad: Swallowing hurt feelings because Mate does not see or will not prevent behavior which makes you crazy (irate, sad, miserable) will make you resentful. (See #2.)
Compromise: Tell Mate about your feelings about the behavior. Stop there. Mate is an adult who needs to decide if continuing to practice X is worth making you crazy (irate, sad, miserable) and running the risk of exhausting your tolerance and patience.
4. Will I grow less tolerant as the years go by?
Forgiveness is even harder work. It requires the offending party to be remorseful. Mate is not remorseful if he continues X. Mate will never be remorseful if you have been silent about your feelings. If you have not, the answer to the question is an unequivocal “yes”. Think of it as bashing your head against a brick wall: The wall does not cave, but the skull does.
5. If I tell Mate I hate this, will the relationship end?
No: Good. Talk to Mate. You may find a heartfelt apology, genuine remorse and a change which is only attributable to your admission and Mate’s commitment to you. If Mate is willing to step up to the plate and make a change for him/erself, you have just been awarded the open communication award.
Yes: The relationship is already over. You should be able to talk to your mate about anything. Absolutely, undeniably, no-holds-barred anything. Pointing out bad behavior is not condemning. It is merely a statement of actions and your feelings to those actions. If it is condemning, you need to reexamine how you speak to Mate.
Accepting your mate for the person they are, warts and all, is the toughest thing you will ever be required to do in a relationship. When the communication lines are wide open, relationships do not test your tolerance, but do help strengthen your patience.
But Not This
Remember, abuse is not bad behavior; it is a crime. Abuse should never be overlooked or accepted. You are too good a person to withstand abuse from anyone, especially your mate, someone you love and who should love you in return.
Without naming names, what is some bad behavior you tolerated and did it lead to change or the end of the relationship?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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