Critical to having a peaceful conflict-free relationship is an attitude we refer to as total acceptance. Understanding that the other person is a full and separate individual, with different ways of expressing themselves and unique preferences, is a necessary foundation for peaceful relating. Total acceptance is the practical application of this understanding. It is an act of trust in the other, a belief in their positive intentions.
Unfortunately, this is something that many people are not familiar with. This is an experience rather than a concept, and so it is something you must learn about through doing. How can you approach this?
If you are unfamiliar with total acceptance or don’t understand what that might mean, then you will have to apply belief and intention. Since you may not have direct experience of this yet, you need to believe it is possible and then be willing to apply yourself to it. It is a radical way of being, yet in return, it brings radical rewards.
First, there is the issue of core values. Our attitude is that once your core values match and there are no deal-breakers, then the rest is just preferences. Andy Warhol sums this up quite well when he says,
Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, So what. That’s one of my favorite things to say. So what.
This can be a great exercise to apply. The challenge is how you react when your partner does something that irks you. Every time something comes up that bugs you, isn’t your version of “right”, or might cause an argument, say to yourself “So what?” This is the time to look inward and examine what it is exactly that upsets you. Think of it as a learning opportunity or an exercise in non-attachment. What is the underlying button that is being pushed? Why do you want to hold on to that one? This is a great opportunity to look at yourself and potentially to change and drop a behavior that may no longer fit you. It could be a perfect time to say “So what?”
In your relationship, once your core values match, then the rest is just preferences #relationships Click To TweetIt will require effort on your part because a new position is inevitably not the old comfortable one. This is where belief and intention come in. You have to believe a better, more peaceful relationship is possible and you have to want that. Whatever your previous relationships or even your present one is or were like, choose something better. The new position is very easy to sit in because your obligation to manage someone else is gone. This is described in our first book, where Phil wrote:
For me, it starts with non-interference — the position of allowing you to act as you choose, without my attempting to influence your decisions, big or small, as you travel through life.
- I do this because I do not want to control you. Why would I take on the burden of that responsibility?
- I do this because you are not a child who must be taught the ways of the world for your own good.
- I do this because of the pleasure of experiencing your views, pleasures and desires. Why would I want to narrow my world by making those more like my own?
- I do this because I do not feel threatened by you, physically, financially, emotionally. I started with an assumption of trust, and the more time passes the more I am confirmed in this. Another way to put this is that you are practicing the same non-interference.
How cool that you do this too! I am not assailed by criticisms or put-downs; I feel accepted, seen, honored. Because of this, I am able to express myself, be myself, live my life without feeling in any way diminished. On the contrary, I am enhanced by the communication between us that flows so effortlessly because your complete acceptance means there is nothing to inhibit its passage.
Non-interference is the basis of total acceptance. There will always be disagreements: areas where you both have different views of what to do in a decision or in finding a solution. These disagreements are not the same as arguments and fighting. They need not cause alienation, separation, anger or distrust. If both of you are committed to being in a fulfilling and truly peaceful relationship, and you have matching core values, then you can find mutual solutions.
So the practice of total acceptance is actually very easy; far easier than conflict and fighting. This is the start of a fabulous adventure! Once you can trust that your partner’s values are yours, too, and you can accept that they are their own person, then your relationship becomes a dance that encompasses the world.
Photo credit: Maude Mayes