A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

7 Ways to Be More Accepting of Your Partner—and Build a Stronger Relationship

Updated: Jul. 23, 2021

Every relationship has its fair share of arguments. So is there really a strategy to end the fighting between you and your partner for good? One expert says yes.

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Release your need to fix him

One of the most common pitfalls in any committed relationship is assuming that the other person is the one who needs to change. Though it’s tempting to place all of the blame for your relationship troubles on your partner, Andrea Miller, CEO and founder of yourtango.com and author of Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love, believes that one of the best ways to overcome arguments is to stop trying to change your SO. Miller believes that radically accepting those you are in close relationship with reduces tensions and draws you closer to your partner. By releasing yourself from the burden of making your partner your project, you allow yourself to fully accept your loved one, faults and all. This introduces a new dynamic in the relationship, in which both partners feel mutually loved and respected. Here’s more advice to building a happy relationship.

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Replace judgment with compassion

Everyone wants to find a relationship that feels completely safe and free of judgment. When partners find themselves clashing repeatedly and judging one another for poor decisions or actions, it only drives a larger wedge between them instead of building intimacy and the ability to be vulnerable. Instead of judging your partner for the way they load the dishwasher, take a moment to remove the judgmental thought and replace it with a sense of gratitude that your partner shares the housework. If you find yourself angry about your partner coming home late from work once again, decide instead to re-frame your thoughts into compassion for him or her, for having such a long day at work. Miller says, “This is the heart of Radical Acceptance. It’s a powerful, beautiful, and, ultimately, transformative practice—emphasis on practice! The key is to commit yourself to this intention and to simply be aware of when you’re being judgmental, and to call yourself out accordingly.” She continues,” I use this with my husband and with all of the other important relationships in my life—especially the ones that press my buttons. I know that when I’m judging someone else, that that negativity is coming right back to me.” Find out the surprising secrets of happily married couples.

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Extend empathy

The best way to stop a fight in its tracks is to put yourself in your partner’s place. During an argument, how do you like to be treated? It often helps to employ a management technique referred to as radical candor, in which the partners truly care about one another, yet provide direct and honest feedback to help one another become better. You can improve your relationship simply by giving your partner the respect, acceptance, and love you would like in return. “Replacing judgment with compassion and extending empathy all go hand-in-hand. By extending empathy to someone else, you’re able to create greater safety in the relationship, which fosters the ability for both of you to be truly seen and heard. Sometimes this can be scary, but it’s key to developing deep emotional intimacy,” Miller explains.

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Stop trying to control her

The best relationships involve two individuals who feel they can function independently of one another. When one half of a partnership tries to control the other, the results can be disastrous for both sides. A healthy relationship includes trust, and an ability to let the other person be fully themselves, while also fully accepting and loving them. Miller believes that trying to control your partner is one of the unhealthiest, but most common habits in couples. She says, “Control is one of most insidious ways we sabotage ourselves and other people. Feeling the need to control things is your ego and fear rearing their ugly heads. However, these gremlins are very smooth so they operate in a very underhanded, typically unconscious manner.” She says, “We often feel a sense of righteousness and sometimes even moral authority, as we seek to control things and other people. The implicit assumption is ‘I know better’ or ‘I don’t trust you’, which ultimately translates into ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ or ‘my feelings matter more than yours.'”

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Accept your partner for who he truly is

Being part of a committed relationship shouldn’t mean that you leave the person you were before you met in the dust. While personal growth and improvement is a positive thing, both people in a relationship should feel unconditionally accepted, flaws and all. This means that squeezing the toothpaste from the middle is not a deal breaker, and your partner’s inability to share food without holding a grudge might need to be seen as a lovable quirk instead of grounds for another argument. Miller is quick to point out in her book that this does not include severe issues like physical or verbal abuse. She writes, “Radical Acceptance does not mean your partner has license to take advantage of you. It does not make allowances for behaviors and traits that are patently unacceptable, including acute character flaws (e.g., he seriously lies, cheats, or steals); verbal, emotional, or physical abuse; or any behavior that is threatening or dangerous.” Here are the 9 behaviors that are subtly sabotaging your relationship.

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Vow to love your partner unconditionally

Unconditional love is the ultimate goal of most committed relationships. To love and be known for your true self is a gift that keeps giving, providing endless fulfillment and happiness that permeates all corners of life. It gives you the confidence to achieve your fullest potential, and in turn, gives the safety and security you need to encourage your partner to do the same. Miller writes in her book, “There is no such thing as meeting him halfway when it comes to Radical Acceptance. Radical Acceptance means you always have his back—even when he is wrong. Radical Acceptance is unconditional love—even when it feels unbearably difficult, when you feel deeply hurt or disappointed, or when you feel he is at fault.”

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Make time to truly listen to your partner

Making time to really see your partner communicates that you value them and appreciate all that makes them who they are. Miller encourages couples to slow down and truly hear what their partner is saying on a daily basis. She explains in her book, “One of my favorite quotes is by Paul Tillich, the Christian existentialist philosopher, ‘The first duty of love is to listen.’ How often do we really do this? How often do we actively listen to our partners?” She advises her readers, “Do me a big favor: the next time your partner is speaking to you, no matter what it is, just listen. And when I say just listen, I also mean with your eyes; i.e., look at your partner’s face and body. Drop your need to interrupt, or to think about something else, or to steer the conversation in another direction. Just focus on what he is saying, even if you don’t agree with him. Especially if you don’t agree with him.” Are you really listening? Here are the skills every good listener needs.