You CAN do it!
The term “soulmate” is laden with challenges.
That’s the love that happens between two people who can fight powerfully one night, work through their differences, make amends, and find passion in each other’s arms the next.
After all, even in soulmate love, once a week it’s just Tuesday. And nothing romantic, passionate, or earth shattering is going on.
Coming to terms with the fantasy vs the reality of love is one of those mature realizations most of us eventually go through. We learn our guy has some not-so-appealing habits or our girl is not always as “amazing” as she once was.
But, even in the every-day heartbeat of life, soulmates exist.
They are the people who make their relationships work almost in-spite of the odds. They talk, they share, they actually like each other and it shows.
The power of these three qualities has been supported by marriage researchers like John and Julie Gottman and author Andrea Miller in her new book, Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love.
Forgiveness and mutual enjoyment have been explored deeply over the years, it’s the new assertion that radically accepting one’s partner (warts and all) that peaks the interest.
Because conventional wisdom has often been that when two people love each other but have flaws that hurt the marriage, someone has to change, or go.
But what if the key is not ducking and running but digging in?
What if the key to a healthy, sustainable love is finding a way to love the parts of your partner that are challenging, or not easy to deal with or are even, hard?
Certainly, we’re not talking about abuse, if that’s happening, duck and run IS in order.
But for a real love that’s hit a roadblock, throwing in the towel is often the wrong way to go.
My husband and I had a particularly hard time a few years back. I’ll spare you the drama, but suffice it to say that, after 12 years of marriage, things were not as rosy as the once were. Kids, work, money, time, sex… none of it was working. And we were both deeply rooted in our corners of who was right and who was wrong.
But both of our hearts cracked open after taking a workshop with Dr. Stan Tatkin.
Stan is a researcher and psychologist who specializes in how couples bond together. He calls it “pair bonding” and it’s really the study of how we make this thing called a marriage (or partnership) work.
What I learned in the workshop was that nothing in my marriage could progress if either of us felt unsafe.
If the worry about being “one foot out the door” was on either of our minds, our brains would go into preservation mode and limit our ability to risk being vulnerable or fully exposed. In my case that meant doing a lot of things to be “prepared” for the worst.
The solution to getting out of our mess was to dig in and recommit to each other.
By being willing to put all my cards on my marriage, my husband could see that I was no longer a threat to him. That I was going to stick it out and do my part to make it work.
We coined a phrase that weekend, “You’re stuck with me.” And instead of that being a bad thing, it became a really GOOD thing.
A little way to reassure each other when we feel insecure that with some time, the negative feelings will pass and the love will return.
Once the safety came back, I started to see that the problems were often of my own making. I was critical and bossy. And, very often, I was RIGHT. Truth be told, I felt burdened by my busy mommy-hood and somehow that meant he wasn’t doing enough.
He would tell you he felt controlled and that he had no place of his own in our house. I felt like I had to do everything because he never seemed to know how to contribute. But he would say that when he did help, I was critical and unkind.
It felt impossible to figure out what was the chicken or the egg. But, in all of that, somehow, I started to realize that I was judging him for not taking care of me and solving my problems.
That somehow I decided that the partnership of marriage meant that we had to do things for each other that, truthfully, we never agreed to.
By getting radically honest with myself, I realized that the real root of our problems came out of expectations we both had about the other, that the other had not agreed to.
He never agreed to heal my heart from my childhood. He never agreed to be my savior or fix all of my problems, and yet, somehow I saddled him with those responsibilities and then held him accountable for doing a bad job.
Mean old me.
But I have to say, this lack of agreement between us happens in almost every relationship I know. Very few of us are that good at communicating. So fixing us eventually meant I had to get really honest about what I was demanding of him and how that unfairly burdened him to meet needs I didn’t even know I had.
As I continue to work with this idea of radically accepting him, I now ask myself when I’m mad or disappointed, “Did he agree to do what I’m holding him accountable for?”
If the answer is no, the burden to deal with those feelings is on me. And, at the same time, I radically accept myself, but lord knows, no one ever taught me this stuff in high school
This work has given me the one thing my marriage desperately needed — forgiveness. And not just of him, but of myself.
That’s the power of Radical Acceptance. It gave me a gift that I was desperate for and couldn’t even find words for when we were fighting.
It is so much deeper than needing to be heard. I needed to be known. And, for the first time, I feel like I am known, to him and to myself. And that priceless experience is shared with everyone I interact with. I can say today that I am different. Lighter. Less burdened and less angry.
That’s the formula: secure your relationship so you’re safe and not wrestling with the gut-level fear of abandonment and then radically accept each other.
And, along with knowing how to make amends after a fight and really liking each other, the recipe for turning a so-so love into a soulmate love, lies in finding the courage to truly be authentically you and then loving your partner for who he is, warts, bad habits, annoying behaviors and all.
If you’re ready to learn how to dismantle your old beliefs and radically accept the truth about what you want in a mature partnership, I’m leading a LIVE Masterclass with Arielle Ford, this Monday, April 17th in her Art of Love Inner Circle group. Join me for “Love Begins With You: How To Radically Accept What You Want From Your Soul Mate & Manifest True Love!”