By Cristina Trette
People often want to know, what is the one thing I can do to turn my marriage around? There are many way couples can create positive change within their relationship. Yet, if I had to share just one thing to STOP doing, it would be this: stop blaming your partner for your troubles.
I say this with immense care and respect. Blame is protective response. We all do it from time to time. Yet, the more we blame others for our difficulties in relationships, or life in general, the more unhappy and stuck we will remain.
Blaming is how we have coped
Most of us started blaming when we were kids. If you are a parent, you have probably seen your own kids blame siblings or circumstances when they are "in trouble".
Even adults want to avoid being "in trouble".
So, from time to time we might blame to protect ourselves.
Blame protects us from feeling the uncomfortableness that comes from getting yelled at, being shut out, or upsetting someone else.
But is also stops us from having the kind of relationships and life we want.
And unfortunately, blame can keep is stuck in a state of powerlessness. Because if I am convinced that it is his fault, the kids fault, or the traffics fault, I will never even see all the ways I can change my situation, inner experience, relationship, or life for the better.
Excuses are the gateway to blame
Excuses sound like this,
I snapped at you because I was stressed out with the kids.
I am late again because I got held up at work.
I am passive aggressive because my husband is not emotionally available.
I am critical because my wife does not want to have sex.
Excuses stop us from having to acknowledge and do something about all the ways that we have become complacent, unorganized, controlling, boundaryless, demanding, perfectionistic, undisciplined, timid, passive, superior, condescending, or rescuing.
It is hard to face these kinds of truths. Many of us will do almost anything to avoid seeing all the big ways and small ways we skirt empowered living.
Yet, knowing the ways we contribute to the difficulties in our relationship, and all the ways we fail to take action to improve the situation, is the perfect starting point for turning around a failing marriage.
A great book to help move past excuses is, Excuses Begone by Wayne Dyer.
Also, you may want to consider attending a personal growth course offered by Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company. These programs can help you dive deep into letting go of blame. To learn more about these programs, click here.
Yet it is possible to start letting go of blame now by moving through the four step process below.
1. Take a look at all the mistakes you are making in your marriage without judgement of self.
The Carl Rogers quote, "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change" reminds us that transformation can begin from seeing with precision and acceptance exactly how we show up.
We cannot change what we don't see.
Consider how you talk to your spouse, the words you use, body language, tone, how you spend your free time, your loyalty, honesty, and how you speak about them when they are not around.
Often when we are not content in our life, we point the finger at everyone and everything around us, instead of looking within and at the choices we are make on moment to moment basis. It may help to take a wide lens look beyond your marriage and consider how you feel about your overall health, career, support system, environment, and friendships. Check in to see if you are living your best life possible in all aspects of life, or not.
2. Explore what is going well.
At the same time, don't forget to focus on what is going really well for you. Certainly there are some aspects of your relationship and life that are working well. Express through compliments what it is that you are grateful for. Go out of your way to extend appreciation to your spouse. If you journal, on a regular basis write down all the various aspects of your marriage and life that are flourishing.
3. Soak in your vision.
What do you want your relationship to look like? Consider all of it. Allow yourself to see your relationship and day to day life working well, exactly as you want it to be. Spend time in this vision as much as you can. Although this may sound woo-woo, its not. Our brain does not know the difference between what is actually happening and what we imagine to be happening. So taking the time to imagine your best love and life possible on a regular basis actually changes the neural pathways in your brain making it more likely that you will begin to operate from this vision.
4. Do the work.
If you are unhappy in your marriage, and want to change it, it is time to take action. This means inner work, such as learning new ways to engage with thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and feelings. A great book to read that helps illustrate the empowerment that comes through knowing how to navigate our inner world is "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl.
It also might mean making changes in other areas of your life such as waking up earlier, teaching the kids to do chores, hiring a nanny, making a career move, or starting an exercise plan.
Lastly, there are highly skilled couples therapists who specialize in helping couples create deeply satisfying relationships. I recommend therapists with training in Emotionally Focused Therapy. I provide couples therapy and am happy to help you find a therapist in your area. In addition, I offer couples workshops that help couples turn their relationship around. To learn more about my workshops click here.
Have you gone from blaming to not blaming? Have you discovered the joy that comes with making this change? I would love to hear about this in the comments box below.
Cristina Trette, MA, LMFT is a busy mother and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her passion is centered on helping couples and parents create thriving relationships, families, and wellbeing.
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