Fifteen years ago, entrepreneur Andrea Miller launched a relationship magazine called Tango, which has now evolved into the online media platform YourTango.com. Designed to be to love what ESPN is to sports, YourTango offers relationship advice and information to millions of readers.
How workaholism can hurt a marriage
But, behind the scenes, Miller's own marriage was struggling. She freely admits to being a workaholic who finds escape in her work. As a result, she wasn't making time for her husband or her two young children.
Things only got worse when her husband began running his own company about eight years ago. "There was so much tension," Miller told me. "Neither of us felt loved enough by the other."
They fell into a negative, self-perpetuating cycle: Her husband's frustration and loneliness, expressed through anger and criticism, pushed her away. She would then punish him by withdrawing, but that only widened the distance between them.
It came to the point when they were living like "enemies under the same roof."
Radical acceptance offers a different way
Eventually Miller realized that, if their relationship was going to improve, it needed to begin with her. "After going through every possible idea, I realized that I needed to change," she explained.
Her husband was still as charming and brilliant as when they first met, but her workaholism and her own emotional blocks were bringing out the worst in him.
That a-ha moment led Miller to a concept she calls Radical Acceptance, which is also the title of her recently released book. She defines radical acceptance as learning to replace judgment with compassion and empathy, and learning to love the people in your life as they are, not how you want or prefer them to be.
Miller could easily love her husband's charm and brilliance, but she also had to love him when he was angry and frustrated. And when she could love him with his imperfections, it became easier for him to accept her for who she was, workaholism and all.
The competitive advantage of a strong marriage
But this wasn't just about having a better marriage or home life. Miller believes a strong partnership with her spouse actually makes her a better, more effective entrepreneur.
"Entrepreneurs have the instinct to go it alone, to fix it alone," she explained. "But they will have their batteries recharged if they let their partners in."
Having your spouse's support is critical in bolstering your career, but that's only possible if he or she feels loved. "I don't want to get to the finish line with an IPO and a divorce," Miller added.
4 ways to begin practicing radical acceptance
It's not easy to practice radical acceptance when your spouse is upset with you, or if the two of you are stuck in longstanding patterns of resentment. Miller suggests 4 simple ways to begin to turn the tide toward radical acceptance and love:
1. Be truly committed.
Tell yourself: I'm all in. I'm just going to love this person, even when it's hard.
2. Give your partner three bits of daily praise or thanks.
These can be small, such as a thanks for taking out the garbage or an affirmation of a character trait you appreciate. These simple words, provided on a regular basis, can have a big effect, lowering cortisol levels and stress for both partners.
3. Engage in physical attachment.
Miller believes physical contact is essential for significant others to stay present and connected. She recommends that spouses have sex at least once a week and engage in plenty of non-sexual touching, including holding hands, hugging, and sitting close to each other.
4. Practice co-regulation.
A term in psychology, co-regulation posits that we can positively influence another's emotions and behaviors through our own emotions and behaviors. When Miller and her husband are in an argument, she could default to shouting or defensiveness. Or, she could soften her tone, use kinder words, and reach out to touch him--all of which encourage him to do the same. As a couple, they are much more likely to reach a peaceful, satisfying resolution if they can help one another interact in healthier ways.