Congratulations! You’re riding the waves in the big lead-up to “I do.” You probably feel both excited and overwhelmed.
But, take a deep breath and ask yourself: Are you more focused on the wedding or the marriage?
Thanks to cultural conditioning and a thriving wedding-planning industry, we dedicate countless hours to floral arrangements instead of planting the seeds for flowers called honesty and acceptance.
What leads us to choose this focus?
Soul Mate Syndrome
We’re born and raised on the myth of “happily ever after.” Today, thanks to smartphones, we’re fed a daily menu of memes that reinforce the “love at first sight” theory. Reality check: Relationships are far more complex than we’re taught to believe.
It’s not cynicism to question the marketing of “my soul mate is out there waiting for me.” It’s common sense. Falling in love is wonderful. In the beginning, this state of mind hides plenty of flaws. But when two people start to move towards long-term commitment, there is zero value in pretending the hard work is already done. The work—hard, easy, fun, and challenging—never stops for the couple seeking to grow and evolve together.
If there are such beings as soul mates, they regularly and collectively practice honest interactions and an acceptance of reality—and each other.
5 Ways to Practice Honesty and Acceptance
1. Refine your communications skills
In the age of texts, tweets, IMs, and LOL, we could all use a refresher course in healthy communication. To air out our feelings without rancor requires sensitivity and solid listening skills. The better we communicate, the easier it is for us to be honest. This foundation of honesty breeds acceptance.
One caveat, however, is that we can't accept what we don't know. So start bringing your curiosity into every discussion. Don't gloss over anything. Ask open-ended questions until you're sure you "get it" and your partner feels heard and understood.
2. Don’t fall for fairy tales, romance novels, or the latest Hollywood offering
As mentioned above, life rarely imitates art. Stop comparing your relationships with fiction. Talk openly and honestly about, well…everything. Learn to accept each other as full but flawed individuals.
At the end of the day, we come home to reality. We might have worn our professional faces all day and kept our flaws behind the curtain. You want to feel free to be who you really are with your partner. If expectations are unrealistic, disillusionment sets in.
3. Commit to the process of compatibility
Yes, we can love someone forever. Whether or not we can remain compatible is a whole different story. Compatibility is what makes or breaks a relationship. This is where those honed communication skills come in handy. Talk regularly (in person) about your needs, wants, desires, and visions for your shared future. We don’t stay “on the same page” by accident.
You may not always be "on the same page," and that's okay. Attempt, however, to have your pages overlapping as much as possible.
4. Disagree, discuss, debate
It’s false that happy couples never fight. Show me a couple that always “agrees” and I’ll show you one partner biting his or her tongue on a regular basis. Accepting each other automatically means accepting the inevitability of conflict. Your foundation of honest communication will see you through.
5. Prioritize each other
Nothing strengthens a bond like knowing you truly matter to each other. We all know our imperfections. We have doubts, shame, and fear. This can be balanced out by acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean we never try to change or evolve. It does mean the goal is not perfection. Work together to improve. Make it a couples project!
Making Honesty and Acceptance a Team Effort
Most of us aren’t conditioned to be honest about our own flaws and to accept the flaws of our partner. This doesn’t make us “dishonest,” per se, but it does create a culture where too much is left unsaid. What we “accept” is that some things are better kept to ourselves, keeping the peace.
If only there was a place you and your partner could go once a week to get into the practice of speaking your minds. Well, such a place exists. It’s called couples counseling. And it may be the most important couple activity you choose before walking down the aisle.