It has been said many times and in many ways that two of the core pillars of a healthy relationship are appreciation and acceptance.
But what if your spouse is doing things that, no matter how appreciative and accepting you try to be, just don’t seem to work and you are rightly and understandably bothered by?
What if he or she is, for example, mismanaging the family budget, abusing alcohol, drugs or doing anything else that just seems to be beyond acceptance and appreciation?
How do you strike a balance between accepting and appreciating your partner on the one hand and steering your partner’s behavior in a more quote-unquote “acceptable” direction?
Well, there are no easy solutions, as the reality is that a lot of people resist change.
Now, granted there are many degrees of resistance and some are more open to counsel than others, but, by and large, a lot of people, at least the ones I get to interact with, are rather resistant to change.
So, because trying to change someone else’s behavior hurts the ego of a lot of people this is really something that requires extreme caution and an above average ability to build bridges, if your spouse has a strong ego.
As I said earlier, one of the tenets of the psychology of intimate relationships is that relationships thrive when there are plenty of appreciation and acceptance.
So asking your partner to change must only be reserved for the most extremely unacceptable behavior, everything else you just have to accept and figure out ways to appreciate.
I have done a lot of inner work to appreciate and accept things like the bahala na attitude of Filipinos, or Filipino time, ningas kugon and other traits that don’t sit very well with my quote-unquote “Western ways”
But how can you go about trying to change your partner without going against the grain of the appreciation and the acceptance that you should be trying to practice to create an emotional connection?
Basically it has to be done in a way that doesn’t come across as blame. Is there such a way?
Well, it’s extremely difficult and a little mistake can cause a huge damage, but, basically, my idea goes something like this:
It’s kind of like when someone gives a lousy speech or presentation and I try to bring to his/her attention that the introduction, the conclusion or some metaphor or illustration he/she used were ineffective, and I know that he/she is likely to react with pride (I give public talks and speech counsel within a non-profit organization, I don’t do it professionally).
What do I do?
If I go straight for the counsel, obviously he/she is going to resent, but if I say something like:
“I really enjoyed the way you introduced your presentation because…..
I also liked a couple of illustrations you used, like, for example……..
and I think you have a great potential as a speaker and if you worked a little bit more on the conclusion you could really accomplish amazing things”.
This approach works way better than if I said in a straightforward manner: “your conclusion was too weak or too abrupt”, or “you made a nice intro but I didn’t like the conclusion”.
How does this model apply to marriage?
If, for example, a Western man tells his Filipina wife in a straightforward manner that she shouldn’t be sending too much money home, and get into debt to be able to send that money, this is most likely going to create resentment.
But if he sugarcoats his message with a lot of appreciation and positive reinforcements he is probably more likely to obtain something.
He could say something along the lines of:
“I really admire how you Filipinos care about your extended family.
You are the most unselfish person I have ever met, you are even providing for your cousins, uncles etc. and put the needs of everyone else above your own.
I love having such an altruistic wife.
I would love it if our family could help even more people and make a difference in other people’s lives.
Do you think we could work out another solution than just accumulating more debt to help many people now and perhaps running out of money in the long run and not even being able to care for ourselves, let alone others? What about for example saving up for a while and then investing that money such that our money increases and we can help even more people in the future?
I really want to support you in helping your family as much as possible and I want us to do it in the most resourceful way possible. What do you think honey?”
By showering our spouses with a lot of appreciation and by showing them that we are aligning with them and their positive intentions and by suggesting in a kind manner better ways in which they can turn their intentions into reality, we can perhaps achieve better results.
Timing is also very important, because if our spouse is in a lousy mood no amount of sugarcoating our attempts to get him/her (especially her when she is having what Filipinos call buwanang dalaw or monthly cycle) to reconsider what they are doing is going to work.
Hope it helps….I actually hope I can make this model work in my own life…. haven’t tried it yet…..