But first, here’s what Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage:
“People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of it.’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”
Another tricky part is seeing the good stuff that’s “always” there…because sometimes all you see are the problems. The irritations. The habits and pet peeves and minor and major disturbances that make you want to run screaming for Saskatchewan.
Accepting your partner’s flaw is easier when…
You are aware of your own quirks, weaknesses, and bad habits. Perhaps the best ways to accept your partner’s flaws is to be aware of and accept your own.
I remember the first time I found out that I sometimes annoy and even enrage my husband. He had to point it out to me, actually (I’m not perfect? I can be irritating and wrong and frustrating?) I was shocked! He doesn’t love and lust after me all the time? Unbelievable.
It’s easier for me to accept my husband’s weaknesses when I remind myself of my own. My problem is that I’m very hard on myself for my mistakes, and this sometimes spills over into my marriage (I’m sometimes hard on Bruce for his mistakes).
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Know the difference between his weaknesses, versus abuse or mistreatment
Gilbert mentioned the “crap underneath that can ruin you.” I think it’s important to be aware that there is crap and there is CRAP. Readers write me all the time, confused about their relationships and not knowing if they should leave their husbands. Sometimes it seems obvious that they should (abuse, lying, cheating, neglect, etc). Other times it’s just the normal boredom and frustration of marriage that gets people down.
How do you determine the difference between a “normal” flaw, quirk, or weakness in your husband, or a serious personality or character defect that can destroy your self-esteem or marriage? Thousands of women are married to good men, yet they want a divorce (which is why I wrote You’re Married to a Great Guy – Why Aren’t You Happy?).
Your husband’s flaws and weaknesses are “normal” when they DON’T leave lasting physical or emotional scars on your body and soul. You should accept your husband for who he is when you can tell your friends and family all about his quirks without being ashamed or embarrassed (not that you should or would want to spread around your husband’s flaws! It’s just that when you have to hide or keep secrets about your husband’s actions or words, then there may be a deeper problem).
What’s the secret to acceptance in marriage?
I think it’s about giving up your need to control your husband. Instead of focusing on his flaws and weaknesses, you need to let go of how he “should” be and what he “should” say and do.
Here’s a great tip from Kathleen Doheny, from 7 Marriage Tips to Stay Lucky in Love:
“It’s another one of those easier-said-than done marriage tips, of course. But trying to control each other – using a technique psychologists call “external control” – is the main source of marital unhappiness, according to the Glassers. In a happy marriage, partners know they cannot control each other. You have practiced this “external control” if you have ever told your partner they need to behave the way you want them to or that you know what is right.”
In a happy marriage, not only do you know you can’t control your husband – you don’t want to! You don’t want to create a clone of yourself. You want to love and accept your husband for who he is.
It’s your turn – how do you accept your husband’s flaws and weaknesses?