Avoiding the Blame Game

When negative issues surface in a marriage one of the first things that both spouses typically do is begin to identify the ways in which their partner contributes to or is responsible for the problems. This is a natural and instinctive process. Very few people possess the humility and insight to perceive their own role with respect to marital discord. However, this is both an unproductive way to deal with problems and a destructive force that may put the relationship in further jeopardy.

Here are some things to consider regarding assigning blame for problems that arise in marriage.

(1) Take ownership. There are virtually no negative issues in marriage for which one partner deserves exclusive blame. There is usually enough to spread around. Even in those rare instances in which there is one spouse who is mainly responsible for a particular situation, the way the other spouse reacts may also be contributing to the problem. For example, withdrawing, nagging, appeasing, enabling, attempting to control, and so forth can all make the issues much worse than what they would otherwise be. Evaluate your own role and take ownership of it.

(2) Assume responsibility. Being aware of your part in marital problems and discord is not enough. You must assume responsibility for your part in the issues. This means not merely admitting that you are a contributor to the problem, but also includes taking steps to change your own behaviors. Sometimes effort in this regard sets the stage for your partner to become motivated to also make changes.

(3) Take initiative. Couples must deal with significant marital issues by addressing them together.  But someone must take initiative to start the process of working to resolve problems together. It doesn’t matter if your spouse thinks you are more to blame or you think he/she is more to blame. The Gospel teaches us that that we are to go to the other person not only when we have offended them but also when they have done something to offend us (Mat. 5:23; 18:15). In both cases we are to take the initiative to gently confront the individual and start the healing process.

(4) Stay United. Never think in terms of “your problems” or “my problems”. When you are in a loving relationship, all problems should become “our problems”. Always remember that negative issues in your relationship are “marriage problems” – never “spouse problems”.

(5) Exercise self-awareness and humility. It’s critical to remind yourself that your own perspective is almost always biased or skewed. It’s easy to see the faults with others, blame others, and take a position of superiority and judgmentalism. But it’s much better – both morally and in terms of effectiveness – to assume a humble demeanor and seek to be compassionate and understanding regarding the faults and shortcomings of your spouse.
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