Tolerance in Love

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

“In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair…the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.” ― Dorothy L. Sayers

Just a few short years ago I never would have envisioned that I would have shifted my career trajectory, had a parent die, shed my ego-based image for more passionate pursuits and practical possessions, and most of all fallen deeply in love after many years of living in an emotional fortress. This “falling” led me to feel accepted in a way that I never had before, creating the desire to accept another too. My relationship forced me to confront outdated beliefs about myself, which ultimately dictated what I would come to find acceptable from others, including my romantic partner.

Almost from the start, I was met with an abundance of opportunities to accept another individual for their shortcomings and process the continued jewels inherent in “getting to know someone”. Unbeknownst to me at the time, everything I believed I had accepted, was in fact not being accepted at all but like a dead-end job was merely being tolerated. Not dissimilar, I was left hoping there was better but feeling immobilized to go after it due to the daily erosion of my belief in the future. The slow murmur of discomfort continued to pulse, slowly leaching joy with each movement of the hand on the clock.

The things that were tolerated ranged from the innocent to the heart-wrenching, making the innocent like ants on an open wound. Soon the big and not so big blended together to create a cushion for my high horse and pedestal. Falling into childlike traps I would try to fix everything, thinking the more I threw at it, the better it would get. The more I “taught” my partner through anger filled glances, sighs, and unsolicited lectures, I would advance to the front, in some invisible know-it-all perfection board of love chess. I would become victim yet again of someone seizing my kindness for weakness, reaffirming my story I had created and keeping me trapped in a cycle of enmeshment.

I failed to see that my tolerance was not only a lack of boundaries, but a lack of clear guidelines of what was acceptable for me within the bounds of love. Just because you love someone does not mean that you must tolerate certain behavior or acts. Accepting someone for who they are, does not mean tolerating them to hurt you or repeat toxic behavior in the name of love. Just because you want to be accepted for who you are, does not mean that you should tolerate other people’s actions and label it acceptance. Which leads me to my point. There is no tolerance in love.

According to Merriam-Webster, tolerating is by one definition, “the capacity to endure continued subjection to something”. By contrast love is by one definition, “a great interest and pleasure in something.” To gain great pleasure in enduring something is almost by definition a masochist, “a person who enjoys an activity that appears to be painful or tedious.” Although it may seem required of you to endure certain discomforts in a relationship, there are a few guidelines that may help you to see if these are healthy discomforts that create growth, or if they are discomforts that are detrimental to your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.

Guideline #1: Has my passion for life, experiences and accomplishments increased or decreased?

· Do I look forward to my future independently and/or with this person? Make sure that this gut check is in comparison to what you know to be true about yourself. Was I goal oriented in the past; did I explore my passions before being in this relationship? E.g., Did I go to art classes before, read books, trips, look forward to career milestones?

Guideline #2: Do I feel freedom to grow, explore and most importantly be myself?

· Am I able to do basic activities I was able to do before I was in this relationship without receiving guilt trips or resistance?

· Do I have the freedom in this relationship to try new things that are not harmful to the other person? Am I met with support or objection? *This objection can be overt or covert with subtle body and expression cues as well.

Guideline #3: Do I feel confused often whether I should continue to be in this relationship?

· Am I often left questioning my own feelings or questioning if this relationship is for me? Am I often hoping it will get better or reminiscing on how much better I felt in the beginning or prior to the relationship?

Bonus Guideline: Am I getting back what I give?

· Does this person respect and honor my concerns and feelings, expressing their own? Or do they often disregard my concerns and press their agenda? Does this person take more than they give, do I give more than I receive?

For anyone that has been in a relationship whether romantic, platonic or professional, it is common knowledge that they can indeed have challenges. Challenges push us to grow and come out the other side better than when we came in, stronger, more polished and confident in new found strengths. Accepting what is offered in relationship and in turn reciprocated is fine-tuned through years of building confidence, self-esteem, acceptable boundaries and baseline standards. Some young people seem to come out of the gate with this knowledge, good for them (and their parents)! There have been many people that have had to tolerate treatment without the consent that acceptance requires. They have had to endure mistreatment because of race, gender, handicaps and at other times for maybe more subtle reasons.

Love always provides the opportunity to accept another for exactly who they are, it does not however ask us to tolerate them, or tolerate an unhappy, undesired reality.

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