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Misplaced Tolerance and Respecting Differences

“To see fully that the other is not you is the way to realizing oneness. Love is the appreciation of difference.” ~Swami Prajnanpad

LindaWe are attracted to another who is quite different from us. Some deep, wise natural knowing draws us to someone who is strong and developed in ways we are not so we can learn from them and become more whole. Opposites attract. Compliments attract. Our partner will have a different history, perspective, signature strengths, weaknesses, undeveloped areas, sore spots, style of doing things, and sometimes even different values.

Those very same qualities that were so magnetic at the beginning of the relationship are what can drive us crazy as the relationship develops. We are challenged to release our grip on the desire to change them to become who we think they should be so we can see them and accept them as they are.

It is not a matter of settling for less, giving up, or being defeated. It is a matter of growing in patience, tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness, which allows for us to become our higher self and invites our partner to be their genuine self as well.

There is a line that at times may be hard to discern between being patient, tolerant, accepting and flexible and putting up with violations of our boundaries. We all want to feel autonomy and freedom to make the choices that feel right to us and to not have to pay consequences for living the way we choose to live. We do not want to have to adhere to rigid rules that compromise our freedom. And we do not want to be bossed and controlled by another person. We certainly don’t want to be exploited, taken advantage of or to be in a relationship that lacks reciprocity.

If there is injustice, inaction is an unskillful response. Inaction would constitute what the Dali Lama refers to as misplaced tolerance. It is a dubious honor to endure negative treatment by another. To be passive and allow the injustice to continue is reinforcing unskillful behavior on the part of our partner. Our distressed feelings are present to inform us that things have to change. One form of taking action is giving feedback to our partner about our distress. If our feedback does not impact the situation there may be some behavioral changes that need to be made on our part to show that it is unacceptable to us. We become part of the problem unless we are solution focused and negotiate for our needs.

People often silence themselves to keep the peace and to avoid risking losing the relationship. But using self-discipline to silence ourselves also puts the relationship at risk. There are ways to bring dissatisfaction to our partner is a way that is not critical, shaming, or blaming. Speaking about our own experience when we give them feedback is a more effective communication form that can be refined over time with diligent practice.

We can learn a great deal about respecting the differences that show up in our partnership without accommodating to the point where we are giving up to much freedom and well-being. It’s a piece of work, but misplaced tolerance will never bring us to the point of enjoyment of our partnership. In the long run, it will contaminate the relationship, so the only viable choice is speak our truth without the blame and judgment and to lobby for our needs to be met.

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Misplaced Tolerance and Respecting Differences


Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at:

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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2018). Misplaced Tolerance and Respecting Differences. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Dec 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.