A Road Map to Acceptance

When you’re upset by your partner’s actions or behavior—maybe he goes for a walk when you want him to do yoga with you—you can use this practice, offered by longtime yogi and clinical psychologist Richard Miller, to work past your initial reaction of disappointment, anger, or frustration and into a state of deep acceptance of yourself.

Start by observing within yourself that you’re upset. Recognize that you’re experiencing some resistance to “what is.”

Then pull back and ask yourself, “What is my expectation?” If you’re upset, you can be sure that some unmet expectation is driving your disappointment or frustration or anger.

When you identify it, ask yourself if your expectation is true. For instance, is it true that your partner shouldn’t go walking? Is it true that he should be interested in yoga? Obviously, if your partner is walking, it’s not true that he shouldn’t be. You can’t argue with reality! So much struggle and suffering comes from clinging to expectations that aren’t supported by reality.

Once you’re able to accept that reality shouldn’t be different than it is, you can ask yourself whose problem it is that your partner went walking. Is it his problem? Ask him, and he’ll probably tell you he has no problem with his decision to go for a walk. So whose problem is it? Hint: If you’re upset, then you’re the one with the problem. When you face the situation as it is, you’ll see that he likes doing what he’s doing—if you don’t like it, you’ve got a problem.

Now comes the hardest part: You have to decide what action you need to take to solve your problem. It might be as simple as deciding on a deep level that there is no problem; he’s happy going for a walk and you’re happy doing yoga and that’s that. So you commit yourself to not seeing the differences as a problem, to not judging your partner for the choices he makes.

There are many possible solutions to any challenge in a relationship, but they all involve letting go of judgment and expectations. Only you know what to do to eradicate your judgment and upend your unmet expectations. Once you recognize what is needed to achieve a judgment-free zone, you have to be committed to the actions and thought patterns that will take you there. When you are able to release your partner—and yourself!—from all your expectations and conditions, you’ll experience the sweetness stemming from true acceptance.