The Happy Wanderers

How to Accept Your Partner

Episode Summary

We care about our partners. We also judge them! Matt and Sunaina share what it means to accept your partner for who they are, and how they’ve learned to move past their judgments to find acceptance, gratitude, and even love for the qualities that they sometimes struggle to face.

Episode Notes

We care about our partners. We also judge them!

Matt and Sunaina share what it means to accept your partner for who they are, and how they’ve learned to move past their judgments to find acceptance, gratitude, and even love for the qualities that they sometimes struggle to face.

Find the feelings and needs list we talk about here.

Read the transcript.

Watch on YouTube!

Sign up for Matt and Sunaina’s mailing list for new episodes and 5 word-for-word scripts to instantly defuse any fight.

Schedule a relationship coaching call or free discovery call with Matt.

Visit for more helpful resources.

Thank you and happy journeys!

Episode Transcription

The Happy Wanderers Ep. 13 How to Accept Your Partner

Sunaina: Hello and welcome to the Happy Wanderers Podcast with Matt and Sunaina. Today we're going to be talking about how to accept your partner.

Sunaina: So I'm guessing you can relate to the idea that we all struggle with accepting certain things about our partners. And today we're gonna be sharing some of the things that I've struggled with accepting about Matt, and Matt has struggled with accepting about me. And we're gonna talk through how we passed that and got to acceptance.

So, Matt, did you wanna start?

Matt: I guess we should say the things that we have trouble accepting about each other. Man, there's so many, so many to choose from.

Sunaina: Oh my God, shut up.

Matt: If I had to choose just one to talk about today, I don't know exactly how to describe it, but I know we talk about it as your desire for safety. Yeah. Your desire for safety has been a bit of a challenge for me to accept.

Sunaina: Yeah. And just to give some context and background, I think ever since I've been pregnant three years ago and my daughter's three now I think I've had definitely a heightened sense of the dangers in this world, especially for my daughter. And so I've been really particular about the types of products we buy and use and the places we live in and, and things like that.

And it's definitely not always convenient or potentially never convenient. And so Matt's laughing at that. And so that's been a challenge for me to accept about myself. But it sounds like obviously, clearly it would be a challenge for you to accept as well.

Matt: Yeah, now do me.

Sunaina: Okay. This one for me kind of goes back further than just the last few years since we've had a child. But I, I've struggled to see kind of a difference in, how do I say this?

Matt: Yeah. It's, it's hard, right?

Sunaina: It's hard, yeah. A difference in how we approach work and our days. And what I mean by that is, I think I was raised in my family to really see pushing yourself and squeezing out every bit that you can out of every day as a virtue, as the way you should be living your life. And I think when we got married I was surprised that you needed a lot more rest than I was expecting somebody would need. And when I say a lot more rest, it's just what I mean is more than me. Right. And I used to feel judgmental about that. Like when is he going to do X, Y and Z? Why does it take him so long or whatever? And I guess this is a, maybe a good segue to talk about what that experience is like when you're struggling to accept.

So when I had these judgments around like, oh, I'm awake. Why isn't Matt awake yet? Or I'm doing this, why isn't Matt doing this yet? I would have judgments: good, bad judgments, the right, wrong judgments, and it was distancing. And it was painful because I was, in my head, angry, resentful, and frustrated.

And I was judging you for it. And I've noticed any time judgment comes into a relationship, for me at least, it causes distance. I think almost by definition, for me, judgment is pushing somebody away and, and putting a label on them instead of really understanding them. So it was painful and I think it, it affects, it affected our relationship.

Do you wanna share about how it was for you to struggle to accept that need for safety in me?

Matt: I remember being scared about your need for safety because it was during the beginning and height of Covid in 2020 where you were pregnant. We had flooding in our house.

We found asbestos and other dangerous chemicals in our house we'd been living in and preparing for our daughter. And we were just so scared. It just seemed like, I mean, it, it never felt like we could do enough already. And then I remember there were times where it seemed like you just couldn't sit down and relax and be okay.

And it was scary because there was definitely distance because I felt like I was locked out. Like you were dealing with something that I was just a spectator to. I just didn't know how I was supposed to help you. And I think it was also scary because I didn't know how long it was gonna last. I think there was a real fear. It's like, is this, is this forever? And what do I do? How do, how do we, how do we support each other? Because clearly it just didn't seem like you were getting all the support you needed, and I just didn't know how to give you it.

And so, yeah, I was, I just remember being very scared.

Sunaina: Thanks for sharing, Matt. None of what you're sharing is a surprise to me. I remember that time it was really tough. And in some ways we've moved past that, but in other ways I still have the same concerns about keeping our family safe. And so I'm wondering what's changed for you, because it seems like we're in a better place now, so I wanted to hear what's changed for you.

Matt: I mean, life has changed. Think we feel safer going out and doing things. We still take precautions of course, but I think some pressure has been released. But I know that's still something that you still have a high need for and it, it, sometimes it does surprise me. But, I've talked about this with my therapist a lot. In just learning like, how do I be okay with this? How do I accept it? And it has been a process definitely. But I know at some point I did make a conscious decision that I wanted to accept it. I wanted to accept you for who you are.

I think there's this feeling that people get in relationships where you're like, man, my partner would be so great if only for this. And maybe for a time, that's how I felt. But I think after a while I realized, look, this is whether for now or forever, this is a part of her and I want to be okay with that.

So I did make a decision to, to learn how to be okay with it. Did you do that too?

Actually, we've never really talked about all this.

Sunaina: Yeah. Yeah it's pretty raw.

Matt: This is kind of a new, yeah. Front row seat to this.

Sunaina: I think my evolution was less abrupt. For me it was less of a choice and more of a gradual unfolding realization that..

Matt: Are you saying that like eventually you just became resigned to being with me as as I am.

Sunaina: I mean, I definitely tried to change you. I definitely said what do we need to do?

I mean, I still try to support you. I think the difference is I'm trying to support you now as opposed to change you. Like, I think before it's like what do we need to do to get to bed early so you can wake up earlier so you have more energy during the day and, and all of that.

And I think what I started noticing that my judgments of the situation were coming from my programming as a younger child. From being raised to think that people should be a certain way, that there is a right way to live your life.

I remember growing up that my parents kind of judged my brother for wanting to wake up late on the weekends and, and later than me, and I would get out of bed earlier than him and like feel like the good girl, like proud of myself. Look at me, I'm living life the way it should be lived. And he's being lazy or whatever it is.

And I don't know what caused me to realize one day, wait a second, the reason I get out of bed earlier in the mornings than him is because it feels good to do so. I wake up and I know if I get up, I'm rewarded with this feeling of I'm a good girl, I'm gonna be productive or whatever. And it hit me that when my brother opens his eyes in the mornings, he might not feel the same way. His body may feel more tired, he may not be programmed with those unconscious judgements of I am bad if I stay in, and what a beautiful thing that is when you think about it, you know that he was listening to his body and what he needed, and everybody's different.

Like they say, you need eight hours of sleep on average. That means some people need more and some people need less. And just to see my brother as a human being who is doing the best he can.

And so similarly, like I started realizing these things that there is no right and wrong way to live life and how beautiful it is that you know what you need and that you're taking it. And now I, I feel like I've switched to like, like being nervous if you don't get enough sleep, like back to my need for safety, I want you to be well rested.

And so I try, I do what I can to support you in getting in getting what you need and trusting that supports you. So it was this gradual kind of unraveling, questioning, my own reason for judging you for, for needing more sleep and more rest throughout the day than I do.

Matt: Was there like any kind of conscious decision to do any of this, or did you just kind of feel like something had to change?

Sunaina: It was just so painful. I was just judging you so much, and it was so painful that it forced me to look inward, I think, to figure out what was going on. And I, I, I think that's the best way for me to describe it.

And then, you know, once I know, okay, Matt needs x number of hours of sleep a night, and that means he might not be able to wake up early mornings with me and Inara to help me with breakfast and stuff, then I can figure out how to get the help that I need. While still honoring your need for rest, whether it's doing something easier for breakfast or whether it's asking your mom to come over to help or even hiring someone like asking somebody to come by to help with cleaning and stuff so that the mornings can go more easily.

And so I think, yeah, that's, that's one of the beauties of like truly accepting our partner's needs instead of judging them is then we can learn how to make life work to get both of our needs met.

How are you doing?

Matt: I don't think I realized all of this had gone on for you. I did notice a change. And like you said, it was gradual, it just seemed like a lot of this stuff went on behind the scenes.

Sunaina: Mm-hmm.

Matt: I definitely wasn't fully aware of it, but I also don't think I could fully appreciate it until we're talking about it now.

Thank you for, for doing that. I feel like you did it for my sake. For our sake.

Sunaina: Even, like, if you think about it for our daughter's sake. Because she deserves to be loved and accepted exactly as, as she is. And so if I'm learning to unravel my judgments, like there's a right and wrong way to live, I can support her in what she actually needs in her life.

Matt: Man. So much of what we learn. I think for me, it comes up because of me thinking about how I want her to be growing up, like what I want her to be able to do. And it so often it challenges me to make those changes in myself. And I think this is one of those too.

Sunaina: Speaking of how we want our daughter to experience life, I want her to have compassion for all parts of herself. Something that I struggle with, I'm sure all of us struggle with. And I definitely judge my need for safety. I judge the impact it has on others around me. It's one of my, one of my sources of anxiety.

Like if I ask for this, are people gonna think I'm too much? Am I gonna get people mad? Are they going to feel like I'm a stick in the mud or whatever it is that I'm making things hard when they don't have to be.

You've told me this in I think probably just the last few weeks or a month or two, to hear you say to me, I love every part of you. I love your mind. I love your need for safety.

Like, first of all, I don't believe you sometimes. Like I'm like, you are psychotic or something. Sorry. I hope that's not offensive to say, but sometimes I think you've lost it. I just don't trust you or whatever, but, but the other part of me feels so soothed by that, that if he loves it, then maybe I can love and accept it too.

Because I don't think it's going away. Like there's some things you can change about your life and there's some things that are just part of you and, and I am working with somebody to help me, you know, keep things in perspective and stuff. But, but I don't think it's gonna go away completely. And so to be able to love it is healing.

Yeah. Is anything coming up for you?

Matt: I'm just so grateful to hear that. It feels really good to hear that. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that.

It does bring up something I, I wanted to talk about also, which is, how to get to that place of acceptance. How did we get here?

And I mentioned earlier, for me it was a conscious decision and then a lot of work. I meet with the therapist just about every week and it's something that comes up a lot because I care about you and I want you to feel good and I want to feel good and once I made that realization, like you said, that's not going away, I really wanted to figure out how do I be okay with that?

The process was just the same thing we just always do, which is really try to understand. That was something my therapist was really good at. And we didn't do it the exact same way, but it's more or less the empathy dive, really trying to understand the feelings and needs of why you do some of the things that you're doing.

And what kept coming up again and again and again this is like over the course of months, maybe even years, is that you wanted me to be safe. Inara to be safe. All of us to be safe. And I think when I kept coming to that realization so many times, I just realized like I, I can accept that I can be okay with that.

Like of course, of course you want us to be safe. And I think that was the first step is to just see the benefit to it. And it's taken longer, I would say, but I think I've also started to, like you said, love that part of you because, like I wish it were easier on you. I wish it wasn't so painful for you, but I appreciate it.

I'm grateful that you have that care. And consideration for our safety.

I'm not gonna lie, and say that it's always easy, that I'm always just happy to go with everything.

But the need that's beneath it. I accept that and I welcome it. I would say. The different strategies that we take sometimes, yeah, maybe I don't agree with them and we talk about that. But when I know where it's coming from, it just makes such a big difference.

Sunaina: And I'd like to add, Matt, that earlier you said you wish it wasn't so painful for me to have these needs, but when you tell me that you love me, you love my mind, you accept that need. You accept me. It makes it less painful for me to do what I need to get those needs met. So a lot of my pain comes from are people gonna get angry at me or whatever?

Or are they gonna think I'm too much? And so when you reassure me that I'm not, that you accept me the way I am, it gives me that confidence to ask my mom or ask your mom to like change cleaning products or whatever it is. And so. Yeah. Again, I just wanna say that acceptance is healing and it helps me ask for what I need to get my needs met.

Matt: Hey guys, just taking a quick break to tell you if you'd like to learn more about how to live with more compassion and joy in your relationships and life, sign up for our newsletter at /newsletter. You'll also get updates on the latest episodes of the Happy Wanderers podcast. Thanks for listening.

I think you mentioned this earlier, but I do think it's kind of funny that the things that we have struggled to accept in each other are the things that we also struggle to accept in ourselves.

We're talking about me needing more rest, I definitely judge myself on that.

I have a friend who needs like five hours of sleep and I'm like so jealous because if I don't get seven, eight plus hours, I have a headache, and then that's like my default state. And I hate it. I really struggle with that because I want to feel good.

I want to feel productive. I want to feel like I'm capable of doing all the things I want to do. That's a struggle for me just on my own. And knowing that it's a struggle for you, that's hard too. And, and knowing that you've come to a place where you're accepting me for that and encouraging me to do what I need to do, it is definitely just a weight off my shoulders. I still care about it. I still sometimes judge myself for it, but not to the degree I did before.

Sometimes in the past it feels like there's no answer, like nothing's possible. Like I'm just like trapped because to get the rest that I might need to feel good it means not being there for you or our daughter. And, and then it's just like I'm stuck. Like, okay, there's no, no answer to this. But when you're able to accept that and, and support me with that, like you said, we can start looking for strategies. We can figure out, okay, when am I going to bed?

What do I need to do? I drink more coffee now.

And that helps. Like, I'm glad this is the thing I can do and I can look for solutions and not just feel defeated all the time, which is the way I know I can feel sometimes when I don't feel accepted by myself and, and sometimes by you too.

Sunaina: This conversation is reminding me about when you spoke to John Kinyon about your chronic back pain and how he helped you for the first time have empathy for your back and, I feel that way about your body.

Like I'm grateful that you're getting these signals from your body saying, that was not enough rest. I need more. So in addition to drinking coffee to help you get through the day, we're also trying to get to bed earlier and trying to figure out how to get you the rest that you need. I so want to support your body. And support you in, in getting what you need. And so I'm learning to have that compassion. And I think you had said something about earlier when we were talking about recording this podcast about how the more you talk about this stuff, the more you realize that compassion is just the absence of judgment.

Do you wanna say a little bit more about that?

Matt: I do think that's true. I think compassion is in large part the absence of judgment. And what I'm realizing is just how pervasive judgments are in how we think about ourselves and our partners. And it's just almost invisible, you know? It really takes that effort of trying to understand without judgment, really trying to get to that place of empathy, and when you can do that and have that curiosity and care as well. I think that's where acceptance comes from, is being able to kind of let go of those judgments.

And they don't go away completely. We still argue, we still disagree about how much rest I might want or, what you might want to do to keep us safe, but I think one thing that we really do try to do is talk to each other, just how much we do care and how much we do accept each other.

Because we're human. There are gonna be times where we're gonna roll our eyes. We're gonna kind of scoff, we're gonna be disappointed or upset because of these needs. And it's just so important that we're also saying how much we care, and also saying how much we love and accept each other for that.

Because you can still be frustrated and upset and disappointed and still love and accept it, like generally.

And I think that's really something that we've been getting better at. And I think it's really made just a huge difference in helping us feel capable of like living our lives and not being held back by these things. Hearing you talk about your acceptance for like my back pain and my sleep, I think you might have more than me.

Sunaina: I feel the same way about your acceptance of my need for safety, because I'm the one who's experiencing the turmoil, inner turmoil, and you're the one who's experiencing the pain of your back and the need for rest and stuff, so It helps to hear the other person say it's okay.

So thank you for doing that and for teaching me that that can be done and that's something that is possible in relationships. I just wanna say how much I'm learning about relationships being in this relationship. I didn't know any, any even little tiny bit of this stuff beforehand.

So, thank you.

Matt: I didn't either.

Sunaina: Yeah.

Matt: Yeah, thank you as well.

These are two needs that we kind of singled out. There are many more, there's so many more, and you kind of touched on this, but what does it feel like to be accepted?

Like what, what has changed? I know, I, I mentioned I feel more capable. I feel so supported and loved, and I feel like we're a team. How do you feel about it?

Sunaina: I just feel worthy. I went to the board meeting of my daughter's school because they're spraying pesticides near her school and I was going to go in there with this like smallness of, oh my gosh, I'm gonna be raising concerns that are going to make things harder for others.

And I was thinking, I'm a problem, but I need to do this for my daughter. And I think both you and my therapist were saying, I'm not a problem. I'm offering a service. I'm helping to keep the kids safe by bringing this up. And, and so that's what I feel when you tell me that, I love and accept you for trying to keep us safe.

It's easier for me to take ownership of those needs and feel that that that matters. Like this is the thing is my needs matter, dammit. And I think most of my life I've been going along thinking that my needs are a problem.

Even if I wasn't doing a service to the other kids, even if, if I was just raising hell and it was gonna make other people's lives more difficult, my needs matter. You know?

And so it, it helps me get to that place of just taking ownership and, and living bigger knowing that you support me. And feeling safe in our relationship. And more willing to speak up when I have something I, I want to share.

Matt: I think I get like contact good feelings from you, like secondhand feelings. Like when I see you take on these challenges and then meet them, it feels amazing. I feel so proud of you. I feel like you're not my child, obviously. But I just, I feel like we're a team and it's like you're succeeding and I'm succeeding.

Sunaina: And course, I'm so glad you brought up the fact that it's not always just love and acceptance. We roll our eyes and we judge. It's just not like we've figured everything out. And there are other needs that, that are hard for us to accept in each other that we're still working on. But just wanna highlight, I think, like you put it earlier, Matt, that there is a choice in it.

There is a choice that if you want to accept, you can move toward that by trying to find the need underneath your partner's behavior and, and accepting that that need is there. That we're all human and we're allowed to be human. And, and loving that humanity in each other.

Matt: I completely agree. And if people take anything away from this, I hope it is to realize that they have a choice. That's just what I keep realizing, that there are choices in just almost every aspect of our lives that we have, and this is one of them, do you want to accept your partner?

Yes or no? You can, you have a choice.

Sunaina: You can choose. Yeah.

Matt: There's some things that you probably don't want to accept. Like if, if you're in a painful, abusive relationship, you don't have to accept it. And there are a lot of factors, a lot of things that might make that more difficult.

But there is a choice in there and you can choose to try and see what happens. When you do make that choice, when you do decide, I want to try and accept my partner, the way we've done it is to really try to understand where is this coming from?

Why are they doing this? And really try to understand what are the feelings? What are the needs, really the needs, right? What are the needs beneath it?

And once you can identify it, you can start to appreciate it. And then eventually maybe love it.

Sunaina: And I recommend using the feelings and needs sheet on our website to try to identify those needs because we're trying to really dig deep here. And, and that list really is kind of like a map of what are those deeper, underlying needs that everybody has.

Matt: Yeah, that's I think it's resources. I really should know that, but, but the feelings and needs sheet is on there.

And this has not been a, a straightforward process.

It doesn't happen when you snap your fingers, it's taken months and years. But when you do kind of make that decision, I think it, it, there's an immediate change. I don't want to discourage people. I don't want anyone to think that, oh gosh, I have to be willing to put in years of work. I mean, yeah, it might take it to get to a certain point, but the more you're committed, the more you just kind of want to make that change, it's gonna happen and it's gonna pay immediate benefits.

Sunaina: And by the way, if you want any support in this, Matt is really good at listening and understanding what's going on beneath the surface, can help you understand your partner, help you understand yourself. He's been offering coaching calls and if you'd like to book some time with him, even a 30 minute discovery call or longer coaching calls, you can go to to do that.

Matt: Thank you all for listening to us getting pretty deep and pretty raw here. If there are any other topics that you want us to cover, please email me at

We're so excited to share the things that matter to us and the things that matter to you. So yeah, please tell us what, what you'd like us to, to go into.

And until next time. Thank you.