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Blame Game
Mom with a View

Blame Game

Is your spouse behaving in a way you find disturbing? The first place to look should be in a mirror.


Imagine how many marriages could be changed if we would apply the basic principle: Don't blame others; take responsibility instead. Whenever things aren't working out perfectly, our immediate reaction is usually to blame our spouse. "If only he didn't do that." "If only she would change."

The wiser and more effective step is to focus inward. What is it about my action that causes him to react negatively? What could I do to get her to respond in a more positive fashion? The responsibility is mine, not theirs.

If I continue to nag my husband to clean the garage, it's not surprising that not only is the garage messier than ever, but my husband is snarly and resentful.

But if I (dare) clean the garage myself, or phrase my request in a more pleasant manner -- "It gives me so much pleasure to have a clean garage." -- or "I'm really grateful that you took time out of what I know is a busy schedule to clean the garage," then the desired behavior is more likely to occur. And in a good-natured fashion. (This is not reflective of a personal obsession with a clean garage; we don't even have a garage!)

Blaming our spouse is the easy way out. Adam tried it and look where it got him!

If my husband comes home grumpy at the end of the day, I could a) complain about my day, pointing out that in comparison he has nothing to be upset about, b) yell at him for being so grumpy and inattentive, thereby deepening his miserable mood or c) greet him with a smile and give him the opportunity to relax and unwind in a safe and nurturing environment. If we don't choose the full credit answer, we don't get the full credit response.

Everyone has a wish list of changes they'd like to see in their spouse's behaviors -- from the trivial (Why don't we enjoy the same movies?) to the deeper (Why can't she be more patient?). But there is only one person in the marriage whose behavior we're responsible for: Our own.

Whenever our partner is behaving in a way we find disturbing or unattractive, the first place to look should be in our mirror. What am I doing that may possibly elicit such behavior? How should I act to discourage it?

Bashing our husbands, criticizing our wives, may make us feel briefly better, but it is ultimately destructive. Not just because of the ban on gossip. Not just because of betrayal of our spouse. Not just because it fans the flames of discontent. But because it displaces responsibility. It suggests that all would be perfect if it weren't for their annoying habit of...

We all know this is an illusion. Blaming our spouse is the easy way out. Adam tried it and look where it got him! A good marriage begins with each side vowing to take responsibility for the state of the marital union, for their personal behaviors. A great marriage is created when they really do.

February 24, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Rani, March 12, 2007 8:33 PM


I have been married quite a number of years so I have a small opinion on this topic.
1- Everyone is entitled to a bad day (and the spouse is entitled to avoid that person)
2- You catch more bees with honey, i.e. sometimes not being nasty back will prevent things from escalating and your spouse will calm down when he's in a loving atmosphere.
3- Couples that never argue or carry on (I am not refering to physical violence etc.) do not have the communication skills needed in a marriage and so avoid fighting at all costs.
4- You can get away with being a nag and worse (the "b" word) quite often, when most of the time you are in love with each other and each other's best friend.
5- Especially now for women "He has a temper, he yelled at me (horrified)". Big deal, men do that sometimes, (they have more testosterone than you do you know). You won't break and he still loves you. This might be the time to go do something you like and just give it a little time; he's not proud of his behavior either.

(7) Dvirah, February 28, 2007 4:55 PM

Depends on the Situation

Emuna Braverman's advice is excellent for a marriage between two rational individuals but not in the case of an abuser, who is usually irrational in his/her abuse. There the problem is not the occational "bad day at the office" or the least-liked household chore. Also, in some cases always taking the blame on oneself gives a selfish spouse an excuse for yet more selfishness. In such cases one should stand up for one's rights but, as Mrs. Braverman points out, it is best to do this with reason and wisdom and not anger.

(6) Anonymous, February 27, 2007 10:09 AM

Women Playing The Submissive Role To Any Male..

I would like to add additional comments:
I always remember my Mother admonishing me to never answer back to my brothers or father because then this would mean that I was causing the problem, when in fact they were causing the problem, I was just defending myself. I remember one day when my older brother decided to interfere in an argument between my Mom & I; my brother commented that he did not like how I was talking to my Mom, so we exchanged words to the point where he pushed me to the floor; I had a lump on my tailbone that required 12 ttheraputic medical visits. Guess what my Mom said? She asked me, "What did you do to invite this? I could not believe it!!! I turned around & responded by saying, "He is lucky that I did not call the Police, because that was an assault. To this day, I wish I would have called the Police. This way of thinking is warped. We are all responsible for our actions, moods, & behaviors; there isn't a person on this planet that can "make us" or "force us" to be in a given state.

(5) Anonymous, February 27, 2007 8:50 AM

Do You Want Us To Walk On Eggshells?

I understand your point about measuring our words carefully, but, it seems like individuals would be walking on eggshells all the time. We cannot control the behavior or reactions from other individuals, & I refuse to constantly take the blame everytime someone decides to be grumpy or nasty, especially if I have not seen them all day.

(4) Anonymous, February 26, 2007 1:02 PM

excuse for abuse

No, Emuna, sometimes we should NOT look in the mirror. You are echoing the advice given by fools to abused spouses - "you should be more patient", "you shouldn't get her upset", "you were asking for it". NO, NO, NO -- If one spouse is abusing another, the first place the abused should go is OUT of that house to a safe place where help is available.

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