The ability to decide what we like or dislike is an important part of being an individual. It is enriching to have choices about what to eat, wear, do, etc. Many of our choices become our identity. While it’s important for all of us to have choices as individuals it’s also important for partners to be tolerant of each other’s differences. This is especially true during the early years of a relationship when it is time for partners to work together to define their relationship. The early years of a relationship are about building a new family that is different from either partner’s family.
If one partner is judgmental and critical of the other partner problems will occur. Being highly critical can be a defense that prevents intimacy. The tendency to be critical and judgmental often develops during a difficult childhood. Judgment can lead a person to develop feelings of disgust toward the person they judge. Disgust is very hard to conceal. We all have micro-expressions that cross our faces so quickly we may not even know we have expressed that feeling. Our partner will most likely see those expressions and feel deeply hurt by them. The feeling of disgust is fed by critical/judgmental thoughts. If the person having those thoughts is not aware of him or herself the expressions will show and his or her partner will feel hurt. This destructive cycle can be prevented by the judging partner deciding to think less judgmentally.
The most important relationship skill in any close relationship is the ability to understand and empathize. Empathy is the opposite of judgment or disgust. The way to have empathy for another person is by working to understand them. Judgments block understanding. Understanding a person takes a lot more intellectual and emotional work than judgment does. True understanding comes from active listening and appreciation of who the other person is. True understanding comes from realizing that our own way of being is just ours and not everybody will want to be as we are.
If you try to listen to understand another person but cannot, it is probable that your own way of thinking is preventing you from relating well to that person. Your way of thinking and being is different from their way of thinking and being. Can you accept that? Can you accept that a person you believe you love is different from you in some ways? Loving someone involves being able to accept their differences. Accepting his or her differences will help you grow and accept different people. We cannot change another person the only person we can change is ourselves.
Practicing acceptance will help you become a better-rounded and mature individual. Maturity is not something that happens to us as we get older in years. Maturity is something we work toward through self-awareness, self confrontation and efforts to grow and become kinder, more accepting and at peace with differences.