Although this is “# 4” in my series of Relationship Essentials, it really should be NUMBER 1. Studies show that blaming your partner is by far the most damaging, toxic thing that couples do. It’s also one of the major reasons that marriage/couples counselling is ineffective. As long as couples continue to blame each other, the counselling doesn’t go well and counsellors that allow couples to do this are inadvertently supporting the conflict. This is why so many couples who’ve been in marriage counselling complain that it was “one big bitch session.”
The more you blame your partner, the more likely it is that they will treat you badly. Believing that your partner is more to blame than you is like a nuclear weapon in relationships and the odds of things improving when you believe this are slim to none.
Most of the blame in relationships comes from core differences that are NOT SOLVABLE. Over 60% of fights and arguments are related to fundamental differences in temperament and personality and are therefore NOT amenable to change. Most of the time when someone gets upset, we automatically tend to think someone has done something WRONG. This is usually not the case; most of the time your partner hasn’t done anything wrong, they’ve just reacted differently than you would have in the same situation. We all have different ways of maintaining emotional stability and what tends to make one person feel emotionally stable often makes the other feel anxious and stressed out.
For example, some people are planners while others are more spontaneous. I was working with a couple recently and I was talking with her about these core differences. She said to me, “the best holiday I ever had was when I went to Greece on my own with nothing but a credit card and a pair of sunglasses!” Her partner, a planner, was stressed right out, just hearing her say that! For him to feel emotionally stable, he needs to plan things in advance.
Another common difference is how people express their feelings. Some people are expressers and in order to maintain emotional stability, they need to “vent” in the moment. That usually makes them feel better right away but it tends to create conflict, especially if their partner is an easy going, slow-to-upset type. These folks have more laid back, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” attitude and don’t like or need to express themselves until things have reached the boiling point. Neither are right or wrong, they just reflect different ways of maintaining emotional stability.
Studies show that successful couples DON’T BLAME OR MAKE EACH OTHER WRONG for these differences. Instead, they find ways of accepting and accommodating these differences.
Of course some things are WRONG – lying, sexual unfaithfulness, dishonesty, not keeping agreements, etc. I’m not talking about these situations and they need to be dealt with in a different manner.
Studies overwhelmingly show one consistent thing – the only thing you can change in your relationship is yourself. If you want your partner to treat you better, then you must relate to them in a way that is predictive of being treated well – you must learn to think and behave the way successful couples do – they have a NON-JUDGEMENTAL ATTITUDE.