It's okay to be intolerant of significant other's intolerance

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

While in self-examination, consider taste in companions

Washington, D.C.: An ex recently told me that out of all the girls he's ever dated, I was the least comfortable with myself. How does one go about starting the process to get comfortable? What does that even mean?

Carolyn: I hope you asked him what he meant. And I wish you could rewind time to that moment, so you could respond to his observation by pointing out that, while it can be helpful to hear constructive criticism from people who know us well (assuming they aren't invested in tearing us down, ahem), phrasing matters. By comparing you with others and finding you wanting — and then telling you so — he basically set you back to the point where you'll have to make an effort to be as comfortable with yourself as you were before he said anything.

No matter. Time travel would just give you the last word. The real work remains the same. And it's deceptively straightforward: peace with oneself.

It really just means you have as objective a view of yourself as possible, and you're okay with it, the good and the bad. Think of it as a two-part process — self-awareness first, followed by self-acceptance — though it's also ongoing, as you edit yourself along the way. It's an individual, internal journey, of course, but if you feel at a loss even for a way to get started, a competent and reputable therapist can give you a kick-start.

By the way, since your ex triggered this crisis of confidence, one thing to examine in your self-awareness process: how your taste in companions reflects who you are, and how these companions historically have fed or eroded your soul.

It's okay to be intolerant of S.O.'s intolerance

California: I am pretty much your stereotypical liberal, tree-hugging pacifist, and I've known from the beginning that my S.O. of nearly a year is a gun-toting Republican. That was fine. I have no expectations of changing S.O., and S.O. has never tried to change me. However, S.O. recently revealed that he is racist. I won't go into the horrific details but let's just say it's bad.

The thing is, S.O. is a wonderful S.O. Truly. He has taken care of me when I've been sick, consoled me when I've been sad, been on my side without question when I'm upset; he cracks me up and we have so much fun together. He treats me like gold! But, it's how he treats others that makes me sick to my stomach.

Anyway, I'm considering ending it over this. Am I being unreasonable? Thanks!

Carolyn: Being nice to you does not make someone nice.

Racism comes from ignorance, anger, fear, lazy devotion to the ideas of the herd, or some combination of these, and each alone would eventually outweigh the "gold."

So, uh, no, you're not being unreasonable. You may in fact have achieved a point of being so open-minded that you've forgotten to be selective. Nothing wrong with closing your mind juuust enough to show that you're intolerant of intolerance.

It's also fine to let him know what a shame it is that he squanders his potential for real decency by having an indecent attitude toward most of the people on Earth.

It's okay to be intolerant of significant other's intolerance 10/22/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 4:55pm]

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