When your partner is upset at something you have done, do you remind him or her of all of the horrible things that he or she has done in the past, or do you validate your partner’s concern?
When Suzy told Matt that she was angry because he picked her up late, he reminded her of a recent time when she, too, came home late. By doing this, Matt took the heat off of himself and the current situation, and put it back on Suzy. Suzy then began to defend herself, leaving her feeling frustrated and discounted. The couple entered the same merry-go-round of blame that they enter every time one of them is upset with the other. A lot of blaming and nothing is ever resolved.
When Tony told Cindy that he didn’t appreciate the way that she belittled him at the dinner table, Cindy responded by reminding Tony of the many times that he had done the same thing. The conversation then turned into “remember when you did this, and remember when you did that” and nothing was resolved. The blame merry-go-round went around and around.
Many of you can probably relate to these two stories. Instead of taking accountability for your actions in the here and now, you bring up all of the frustrating things that your partner has done in the past. This may take some of the heat off of you in the moment, but it is detrimental to your relationship.
If you want to build positive momentum in your relationship, begin by having a meeting with your partner when neither of you are upset. Agree that you both will focus on the present event, and only the present event, the next time one of you becomes frustrated or upset with the other. This means that there is no bringing up past grievances. It means that you and your partner will make a conscious effort to stick to the issue at hand.
This will be difficult and it will take a lot of practice if you have been relating to others in a merry-go-round of blame kind of way for years and years. It means that the next time your partner asks you not to roll your eyes at her, you have to resist the urge to throw back at her the 100,000 times that she has rolled her eyes at you. You must listen to her concerns and acknowledge her feelings without turning the tables back on her past actions. If she rolls her eyes at you in the future, it can then be addressed. The key is to stay in the present.
If your partner is upset because you have tracked mud through the house, apologize and clean it up. Try not to go into a defensive mode and bring up all of the times that he left the bathroom a mess. Stay with the present issue. The next time your partner leaves the bathroom a mess, politely ask him to clean it up. Stay in the present!
Merry-go-rounds of blame do not lead anywhere. They actually create a downhill spiral in relationships. If you want your relationship to snowball in a positive direction, stop the blame game and take personal accountability for the present moment. When you think that you are being criticized, your brain may be programmed to attack back. Retrain your brain to stay in the here and now, and you will be happier, your partner will feel validated, and your relationship will thrive.
I hope this helps some of you break free from the merry-go-round of blame that goes nowhere but round and round.
Have a great day!
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