Tol·er·ant – ˈtäl(ə)rənt/ – adjective
Showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. E.g., “a tolerant attitude toward other religions”; ‘we must be tolerant of others.’
It was January 2nd, and I was driving with one of my closest friends to Pasadena to look at the Rose Parade floats. Naturally, the topic of new year’s resolutions came up.
We went over the usual things. Grow our businesses, spend more time having fun, travel to more exotic places. Blah blah.
Then we got personal.
I started talking about a relationship that ended badly—someone I loved very much who cheated on me. Over and over and over again.
It’s not something I’m proud of. Each time he had a different reason, each time there was a different excuse. The first time happened right after we got together—it was with his ex, and he was just “solidifying their breakup.”
The second time was right before we went on vacation, and he made it feel like it was my fault.
The third time he actually started using a dating app and only confessed what he had done after a four-day “self-help” seminar.
I was always devastated, of course. My heart would drop to the floor. I would feel sticky and cold. My brain would tell me to get out of the relationship now. But then he’d start talking. About how much he needed me, how worried he was that I’d leave him, how sorry he was. And I’d lose myself in a cloud of self-delusion. I’d take him back over and over again.
I broke up with him, though I’m still dealing with it today. And as I talked it over with my friend, as she kept saying “Wow, I’d never put up with that,” I suddenly realized it was a trend of mine. A pattern. I’ve been too tolerant – not of people of other races or other beliefs and creeds, but of people who take advantage of me.
I put up with too much, and I stick around in relationships and situations I know are bad for me.
And I finally had my real new year’s resolution:
Tolerance. Being tolerant. I’m done.
I know—that doesn’t sound like the most positive way to start off the new year.
Generally, tolerance is assumed to be a great thing. It’s viewed as an unbigoted, open-minded perspective, kind of like an undiscriminating crushed velvet blanket that warms everyone and anyone. Tolerance doesn’t work with the word “deserving;” it assumes respect for all.
All of this is well and fine. But tolerance has another side as well.
I was too tolerant when I was trying to have sympathy for all his supposed childhood issues each time he broke my heart. I was too tolerant each time he crawled back and I accepted his lame apologies. I was too tolerant when I lost myself and worried about his life more than putting myself back together.
That’s what I’ve been suffering from. An overload of tolerance left me feeling bland, mediocre and not living up to my fullest potential. I’ve been so incredibly tolerant that I refuse to hurt anyone’s feelings — even if mine are being hurt. Instead, my feelings are injured, my needs go unmet, and the chaos is in my own stomach and head.
In matters of the heart, we need a large dose of ego strength, or intolerance, to make decisions, rather than simply live by default. Intolerance is what allows you to quit your job, self-select out of a relationship, or finally get strict on your diet.
You’re done and you’re not going to put up with this anymore. No questions asked. Something clicks in your mind and you suddenly feel ready to pull the cord and let go.
Am I there yet? No, of course not. New year’s resolutions are just that – resolutions, a beginning. But without beginnings we never reach a great conclusion, or have a midpoint where we look back and remember a time in the not-so-distant past when the struggle felt like a seesaw teetering in either direction. So for this year, I’ll be working on my intolerance or boundaries. I’ll be feeling my gut when it says “leave now” and speaking from my mind. I won’t be so timid when it comes to my needs. I’ll be able to confidently express my desires. I will look at options as an invitation to choose to accept or reject something.
By the time 2018 comes around, I plan to be the most intolerant person you and I both know. In other words, next in line to be the President of United States.
Okay, so maybe not.
But I will say that next time my friend and I are discussing our relationship stories, I’ll be able to laugh about my struggles while firmly saying, No, I did not tolerate that.
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Nina Rubin is a Life Coach and can be reached through email. Please contact her for accountability and coaching programs. She will be offering her accountability program, The Purpose Passion Project, in 2017.
This essay originally appeared in two parts on Nina’s blog, afterdefeat.