We tolerate bad habits and unhealthy behaviors for way too long for a variety of reasons. What's your reason? What do you allow that depletes your joy? And what excuses do you make? How do you let yourself off the hook and postpone creating a better life?
Many times tolerations and compromises live in our marriages and most cherished relationships: Disrespect. Sharp words. Busy schedules. Small omissions. Unresolved and painful conflicts. Broken promises eroding trust. Why do we make suffering our bed partner?
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Many years ago, I overheard my mom tell someone in an unhappy marriage, "You've made your bed, and now you have to sleep in it." It never made sense to me. This saying conveyed a message that no one gets to choose differently or learn from their mistakes. This phrase indicates that we are powerless to recreate a better outcome, and therefore we should just get used to settling.
Tolerating is the acceptance that life and our relationships can't grow. Yet, we are not victims. We create the quality of our lives and relationships—one thought, one feeling, and one action at a time.
Related reading: "Love Is a Choice—the Best Marriage Advice!"
Relationship Advice: Don't Tolerate Unhappiness— Make Loving Behavior a Habit
Feeling stuck or putting up with a bad habit or behavior, especially in relationships, helps no one and holds our love hostage.
A tiny example of toleration of mine years ago occurred while visiting hot springs with a friend. As we talked, an annoying spurt of hot water from the fountain kept hitting me in the face, like an oscillating sprinkler whipping the side of a house. After five minutes, I finally moved out of range to avoid the squirt. My girlfriend remarked, “I wondered how long you were going to tolerate that slap of water in your face.”
Why did I wait so long to be more comfortable?
We use all kinds of justifications when we tolerate something: “I'm too busy." “It's no big deal.” "Just push through." "They didn't mean it." Yes, my discomfort was minor, but it represents how we give in to the lower road in love and marriage, too. By ignoring what was happening, I was submitting to my conditioning—doing what was familiar (suffering) and not paying attention to the present moment to make a different decision.
The psychological term is Operant Conditioning first introduced by B.F. Skinner. Conditioning dulls our senses through familiarity and previous stimulus and choices made to avoid unpleasant experiences. Conditioning is one of the biggest reasons for tolerating another person's unkind words, disrespectful behavior, or an unhealthy habit that we know isn't good for us.
The Power of Conditioning to Weaken or Strengthen Marriages
One thing I find so fascinating about our brain is that whatever becomes routine is delegated to the unconscious mind for speed and efficiency. So if we’re not consciously choosing, the unconscious takes over. The efficiency of the brain is an essential insight when it comes to keeping our relationship happy.
It takes conscious awareness to be present to our partner and to change bad habits. And when we raise our awareness and heighten appreciation of our partner daily making it habitual, we reignite honeymoon feelings, yet they grow at a deeper, more mature level.
Unconscious habits can work for us—or against us.
If you develop healthy relationship habits, like creating regular and quality time together as a couple, the bonding strengthens your relationship. If you allow distance and strife to grow between you, it will become a habit that works against you. If you do small random acts of kindness for your partner, it will show your love; if you take for granted the love between you, the distance will increase.
Changes—big and small—are forged by making smart choices. One key I’ve found to be helpful is to focus on a small action first, make it a habit, then another. If we do one thing regularly that increases connection in our relationship (an enthusiastic welcome, an unexpected gift, a compassionate word when our partner lashes out), it becomes a habit and gets easier. Find those small actions that become the glue to your relationship and make them habits!
We can choose to yell at our partner or bite our tongue and be quiet until we calm down. We can choose to snap at our partner or be patient. Every moment and each day is an opportunity to invest in our love and connection.
Make loving behavior a habit!
Related reading: If You Want a Successful Marriage, Increase Self-Mastery
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