True tolerance of others, especially of those we love, is a virtue that all romantic partners enter into their coupleship hoping to achieve. The actual attainment of this virtue however, proves to be a most difficult and challenging feat for many of us to accomplish.
It is very challenging at times to truly tolerate the limitations and differences of others, especially when their limitations and differences impact us directly. It can become very easy to slip into an external show of tolerance on our outsides while secretly harboring and building resentment and intolerance on our insides. The good news is that we can learn how to show true tolerance to others, not just on our outsides but inside as well.
John and Elaine Leadem John and Elaine Leadem are licensed clinical social workers whose combined investment in the field of addiction treatment spans more than sixty years. Their commitment to helping recovering families has provided the core inspiration for the development of a "A Decision to Be IN Love"© which has helped many couples move from the traditional parallel model of recovery to strong united core support group.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
When we tolerate our partner because of who they are, we accept them without reservation. But when we tolerate someone in spite of who they are, we are actually reserving judgment inside ourselves until it is to our advantage to use it at a later date. When we are harboring judgment on the inside, our outward show of tolerance becomes a weapon to hold in store for the day that our partner finds fault with us. Then we get to react with our rebuttals about all the good things we have done that have gone unnoticed (like our “unconditional tolerance”, for example).
Genuine tolerance does not work that way. True acceptance allows us to love others because of what they are, not in spite of it.
This is not an easy task! Yes, we know. It feels so easy to find our partner’s faults. This is far easier than constantly remembering their assets. This is especially true at times when our relationship is going through a difficult patch.
Why is it so easy to concentrate on our partner’s faults? Perhaps it is because if we do that, we do not have to look at our own limitations and shortcomings. Whatever the reason, it becomes a dangerous habit. We no longer see the strengths that attracted us to him or her in the beginning or helped to create the successes we once had.
The antidote of course, is to begin – and sustain – the habit of learning how to focus on our partner’s positive attributes. Notice them. Acknowledge them. Write them down. Thank your partner for them.
And now for the quote we stole the blog title from: Cicero said “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” The parent for the virtue of real tolerance then, is going to be our ability to feel and show gratitude to our partner.
A very helpful tool for sustaining this change in attitude is to make a concerted effort to write about your partner’s attributes in your gratitude list. If you are not in the habit of writing a daily gratitude list, start now! Here is how:
Once a day write down one or two gratitudes about your partner (or three…). Read your gratitude list out loud as an affirmation or prayer. Share your gratitude list with someone you trust, like your sponsor or a close friend.
Then share your gratitude directly with your partner. Tell him or her what it is specifically that you appreciate about them. Tell on yourself – that is, let your partner know that you took the time to write those gratitudes down on your own time. Sometimes the fact that it was important to you to make the time for this will mean more to your loved one than the actual gratitude itself.
Lastly, make the effort to periodically go back and review the gratitudes you have written over the past week or two. This will help cement the daily positive efforts you have been incorporating into your long term emotional memory bank.
As we practice awareness of these gratitudes each day, and as we concentrate more and more on our partner’s positive attributes, we will be able to see how our life has been enriched by his or her presence in it.