If you’re in a relationship, especially a marriage, you have a built-in scapegoat. The tendency to focus on what your partner is doing (or not doing) is an easy trap to fall into. Anytime a complaint is lodged against you, the ease of the “what about you” response is often too hard to resist. Unfortunately, “whataboutism” isn’t any more productive in your marriage than it is in politics.
I can’t tell you how many times I have pointed out what one partner is doing that is harming the marriage, or made a suggestion to do something more productive, and have been met with “what about what he/she is doing?” Or, “why do I have to do that when they aren’t doing anything?” These may be legitimate questions, just not helpful ones. Especially if your goal is to have the marriage you want.
This can be especially hard if you actually have been making positive changes and things don’t seem to be getting any better. It feels like you’re putting in all the effort and not reaping any rewards. I want to acknowledge that this is often ABSOLUTELY TRUE.
My somewhat flip response is, “So what?” Just because your partner is doing something unproductive doesn’t mean you can be equally irresponsible. That way lies the path to the end of your marriage. You made certain promises to your partner and it’s your responsibility to keep them. Yes, it’s their responsibility to keep theirs as well but you only have control over you. In addition, you don’t have a strong leg to stand on in requesting change from your partner if you are breaking your word.
The other benefit? When you start making lasting and positive change, it can serve as an invitation to your partner to do better. It’s a law of physics that like attracts like. When you step up and behave better, it makes it easier for your partner to follow.
The key word here is lasting. This is where the challenge comes in. Unless you are committed to the change, it is easy to fall back into the old ways. If there is a history of this in your relationship, the length of time for your new behavior to be recognized and trusted by your partner increases. There indeed may come a time when your partner’s lack of positive action becomes a stumbling block to a better marriage, but most people bail on their own better behavior before that happens. This just perpetuates the cycle of unhappiness and dissatisfaction and triggers the blame game all over again.
It takes courage and commitment to step up and be the hero of your marriage. It takes perseverance to honor your promises in the face of hurt and disappointment. It’s much easier to point fingers. That’s the reason many marriages aren’t all they could be.
Marriage is for adults and adults take responsibility for their own behavior. They acknowledge their shortcomings and, if the goal is important enough, do what it takes to make things better. This doesn’t mean doing everything their partner asks. It means honoring the vows they made on their wedding day. What would get you to step up to the plate?
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This post was previously published on The Hero Husband Project and is republished here with permission from the author.
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