Do You Enable Bad Behavior?

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Love, Self

Why you should accept your partner ... only to a point.

There is a way to be lovingly strict. I am referring to the boundaries and limits you set in relationships that send the message that you have needs which deserve to be respected. 

We all have a desire to be loved and cared for. We have desires for sex and romance. We have other spiritual needs, etherial desires and worldly cravings. We often put all these sights into the partners that we seek. One potential outcome is allowing our partners to infiltrate so deeply into our lives, we give them the world, and, in turn, we lose sight of our inner worlds, our past lives, our needs, our desires, and eventually there is an imbalance. 

The opposite extreme also exists, where I see nitpicking, nagging, constant annoyance and frustration at our partners because they are not who we want them to be. In this scenario, I strongly encourage people to accept their partners. Acceptance is at the core of all successful ,intimate relationships. Hard Work Ahead: Are Relationships Really Worthwhile?

I discourage long lists of expectations and/or changes which represent ideals of who their partner should or should not be. These ideals or shoulds can be quite detrimental not just to the relationship as a whole, but they can affect other areas of the relationship along the way, such as a couple's sex life. Ideals and should can sound like judgments and criticisms, and there is just no room for hostility in the bedroom. So, I recommend limiting our lists to two very specific items, and simply accept the rest. Acceptance conveys the message that we love our partners just the way they are. We admire them, look up to them, and we are still in love with them. If we find we cannot accept our partners most of the time, then it's time to look at ourselves.

But there is still the other side of acceptance. There is a detrimental aspect of acceptance, and that is when it allows for things like abuse, manipulation, and control to take over the relationship. Being too accepting of all things, especially when they risk harming someone, is where learning to draw the line becomes important. Having boundaries is key, and knowing what one's boundaries are is a good place to start. Some examples of behaviors that should be questioned include:

  • drug and alcohol use and abuse,
  • violence of any kind (this includes physical abuse),
  • sexual abuse towards anyone, including spouse, pets, and children in particular.

Yes, there are some things we should not blindly accept. Accepting these often become like sweeping things under the rug — a giant pink elephant in the room that everyone knows is there, but no one acknowledges or talks about. This is also sometimes known as denial (a concept that Sigmund Freud suggested was one of our coping mechanisms). Denying that there is a problem may often lead to trying to cover up the problem or fix the problem by accepting our partners behavior. I call this covering-up behavior enabling.

Enabling is simply trying to smooth things over, to keep things in peace and harmony, to keep the relationship together and intact. And while enablers definitely have their personal roots and reasons, enabling may have severe and detrimental costs. In the case of violence, physical abuse, and drug or alcohol abuse, the worst case scenario is death, but along the way there are many other costs. The enabler may have to work harder and harder to make up for the addict or abuser's behaviors to keep the relationship and family running smoothly. There may be financial hardships, accidents, legal battles, and a lot of physical or emotional suffering. Establishing boundaries for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior is absolutely key.

Learn to say no. Not setting clear boundaries and limits in your relationship can be detrimental. Knowing what you want and need and being able to verbalize it becomes very important. Knowing when something doesn't feel right, and learning to say no without fear of being judged, abandoned or hurting someone's feelings goes hand in hand in knowing that we deserve to be treated with respect and not taken advantage of.

Learn to recognize when enough is enough, and then learn to stand up and speak up for yourelf.  Be firm. There is a way to be lovingly strict. Letting someone know that you have limits and boundaries based on your needs does not suggest that your love also has limits. Your love is infinite. It's time to learn the difference.

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