I Radically Accepted My Wife For 60 Days And It Made Our Marriage AMAZING

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Love

I spent two months not acting like a jackass… for love.

I’ve been tasked with challenges at work before.

Once, while working in an office, I challenged myself to go two weeks without saying a word to anyone. (Made it six days until someone needed my stapler.)  Another time, I turned off spell-check for a week to see if I could live without it. (I can’t.)

But, two months ago, I received a work challenge that I was not ready for. The challenge was simple — LOVE YOUR WIFE MORE.

To give some context here, Andrea Miller, the CEO of YourTango has a new book coming out, Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love, and she was looking for people to participate in a 60-day challenge. She wanted people to test out the book’s five step process to increasing communication, empathy, acceptance, and, ultimately, LOVE between partners.

So, after quickly asking permission from my wife (because I’ve been married long enough to know better), I raised my hand and said, “I’ll give it a shot.”

And I’m so glad I did.

Here are the five main steps of the Radical Acceptance process — you can learn about them in much greater, more actionable detail in the book (which is great, BTW) — and how I applied them to my marriage over the past 60 days.

 

THE FIVE STEPS OF THE RADICAL ACCEPTANCE 60-DAY CHALLENGE:

STEP 1: Just Love Him (or Just Dump Him). 

This was the easiest step for me. Basically, at the beginning of the Radical Acceptance process, you do a quick check-in on your relationship and you ask yourself, “Am I all in?” The check-in is less about your partner and more about you.

You ask yourself, “Do I have the capability to fully love this other person, without a bunch of caveats and conditions?” If the answer is “No,” you might want to reconsider being in the relationship, because, if you’re admitting that you can’t give your partner full unconditional love… what’s the point?

In terms of my relationship, I’ve been with my wife for 20 years. I literally can’t imagine life without her. When I do, the images I conjure in my mind are less like a break-up and more like losing a limb in an accident.

I’d have phantom pains if she was gone. I’d never not feel her. So… yeah, I’m opting to “just love her.”

 

STEP 2: Stop, Reflect, Introspect.

This step is challenging for me because I’m a big dumb loud guy.

When I get mad, I Hulk out. I’m 100% bluster. I yell, I wave my arms all over the place. I turn anger into performance art. (The upside is that I can’t sustain that level of crazy, so my anger fizzles out in like 30 seconds, but my wife can probably has some opinions on whether that’s really an upside or not.)

So this step asked me to do something I’m not good at — restrain my reactions.

For the past two months, when my wife and I found each other in moments of conflict, I had to consciously force myself to try to detach myself from my immediate emotional reactions and view them like an observer.

Perhaps my wife would scold me for not cleaning the kitchen like I’d promised to do and, immediately, I could feel the emotional Hulk inside me itching for a fight. “But I DID DO… and you DIDN’T…”

Rather than getting the giddy rush of releasing the Hulk, instead, I stepped to the side and just tried to observe him. And you know what? From a distance, the Hulk looks pretty dumb. All green, wearing cut-offs, screaming at clouds.

Taking those moments to stop and get some perspective about my reactions — and my wife’s reactions — made a HUGE difference. When I divorced myself from the immediate emotional response, I could see my wife’s points for what they were (valid or not) and I also got to see how silly most of my knee-jerk reactions were.

That moment of “pause” completely changed the tenor of our arguments. I started empathizing with my wife more, which also allowed me to empathize with myself for a change. And, yeah, we definitely fought less.

 

STEP 3: Radical Communication.

The main goal of this step in the Radical Acceptance process is creating a safe place in your relationship where you and your partner can actually talk about the hard stuff without feeling like you’re placing your neck in a guillotine.

This can be surprisingly hard to do — even if you’ve been in a relationship or marriage as long as I have. When you’ve been with someone for 20 years, it can be weird sometimes to just say out of the blue “I’m not happy right now.” It feels like you’re violating a social contract in some way or casting judgment on your love.

But that’s not it at all. We all fall into unhealthy patterns when it comes to communication with the important people in our lives.

Case in point — when my wife corrects me or tells me I’m wrong about something, I tend to stop listening. I shut down. I feel like I’m being scolded. I feel like I’m being talked down to. I check out.

So, over the past 60 days, I made a conscious effort to NOT shut down when we were communicating. Yes, I need communication safe spaces, but so does she. And my tendency to check out when I felt judged was robbing my wife of her ability to honestly communicate with me.

That’s why I forced myself to LISTEN for the past two months, even when I didn’t want to, and you know what? It’s not that bad.

Even though every impulse in my body told me to check out or stop listening so I could think of a cutting remark to respond with, I forced myself to stay with the conversation. And, 9 times out of 10, my wife had a point. (That sounds condescending as hell, but I mean it honestly.)

She wasn’t judging me or unfairly ripping on me. She was just expressing how she felt and, the majority of the time, all of the bad stuff was ME judging MYSELF about what I thought she was saying about me. Granted, 1 out of 10 times, she was being totally unreasonable and I was within my right to get a little pissed off, but the challenge really helped me completely rethink my normal “Fight or Flight” reaction to our hard conversations.

 

STEP 4: Love All of Him—Even the “Unlovable” Parts.

This… is the deal breaker for a lot of people when they start talking about Radical Acceptance.

It means you look at your partner and you find the parts of them that you really, really don’t like. The stuff that annoys the crap out of you. The stuff that drives you crazy. And you challenge yourself to accept and love those parts of them as much as the easy stuff.

Because it’s easy to love the cute way your partner curls up with their pillow at night, but it’s not so easy to love how your partner criticizes your clothes or ignores you when you’re out in public with friends or gets the facts wrong every time they argue politics.

The people we love know how to push our buttons. And they have access to our buttons because we feel such strong emotions for them. The rest of the people in our life — they don’t even know where the access panel for the buttons is. But if you love someone, yeah… they’re going to know how to piss you off.

With that in mind, I tried to spend the past 60 days embracing the emotions when my wife pushed my buttons.

 

Do I have my list of things about her that KILL me? Yes. (I also acknowledge that her list about me is probably 10 times longer.) But I love this woman. I LOVE HER. I forced myself to appreciate that I love this woman so much that I actually give a damn when she says or does something.

Because most people? I couldn’t care less about what they do.

But the fact that my wife inspires such a depth of emotions in me? There’s a grace in that. I need to appreciate that, even when those emotions make me want to scream.

So, yes, I held my tongue, I stopped myself from commenting, I forced my eyes not to roll. FOR TWO WHOLE MONTHS.

And guess what? My wife is kind of awesome. She’s infuriating, but damn, she inspires fury in me. No one does that. And I love her for it.

 

STEP 5: Apply the Platinum Rule and Make Him Your Priority.

This is an interesting step because it feels like you’re sacrificing a lot, but really it’s fairly self-serving.

The goal is — you stop worrying about yourself and you start worrying about your partner. You have their back to the nth degree. You try like hell to support them and meet their needs every day.

That might sound one-sided at first, but the key is — when you start doing that for your partner, THEY start doing it for YOU in return.

And it works. It really does. I looked at my wife’s morning routine and I asked myself how I could make it easier for her. (She’s always rushing in the morning.) So, without being asked, I started packing her a lunch, filling her water bottle, gathering her work stuff together. Not for any particular reason. I just saw a need and I wanted to help. (Because I love her.)

Quickly, I started noticing my wife doing similar things in return for me. She started offering to let me sleep in more. She’d pick our daughter up from school more. She’s have something special waiting in the fridge for me for lunch certain days.

Without realizing it, we were actively working to make each other happier, because we WANTED to support each other. We accepted each other as we were. We accepted each other as a team. And we accepted that I could spend more of my time working to make her life better because I trusted her to do the same thing in return.

That’s what Radical Acceptance can do.

 

So, what are the results of my Radical Acceptance 60-day challenge?

It’s hard to quantify, but my wife and I feel more connected that we have for a LONG time. I’m less likely to Hulk out, more likely to listen. We’re trusting each other more. There are more moments where we’re giving each other looks that say “I’ve got your back” without ever having to say a word.

And, when we do have relationship conversations, they’re far more constructive than they have been.

If you really want to check under the hood of your relationship, I can’t recommend trying out the Radical Acceptance framework enough.

Who knew that extending more love to my wife would’ve had such tangible benefits for myself?

Selfishly, I should’ve been doing this YEARS ago. But, for whatever your reason, selfish or unselfish, try walking through the steps in Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love and you’ll actually start feeling happier, more secure, and more loved in a really short timeframe.

It’s worth it.

 

"Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love" by Andrea Miller is now available to order online.

 

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