Remember Lucy in the cartoon “Peanuts” by Charles Schultz? She would always ‘tee up’ the football for Charlie Brown, convince him to try to kick it, and then pull it out before he did. Charlie Brown always ended up flat on his back. For all the times Lucy convinced him to try again, she always turned the blame back on Charlie Brown. It is often this way with couples and their relationship, the focus for change is in the wrong direction.

Cade and Bea had difficulty talking, and when they did it would escalate and get negative quickly. They each had a laundry list of things the other did, didn’t do, said, thought, assumed, and needed to change. They could never reach agreement, and they certainly couldn’t find solutions for their problems. Why? Because their conversations consisted of critical complaints toward the other, blame, and an endless cycle of trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong. They didn’t have the ability to just listen to each other and try to repair their relationship.

When we were able to get them to speak to each other from their own perspective, expressing their own feelings and not blaming each other, they began to change the dynamic of their relationship. They looked at what each of them could do to make it better for the other and stopped seeing only their partner as the problem.

Like Cade and Bea, the focus in many relationships is often toward, or ON, the other partner, a direction that skirts personal accountability or responsibility. When difficulties arise, the right direction to focus our effort and energy is toward ourselves. We do this by taking personal responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors.

In his book “Desperate Marriages,” Gary Chapman calls this Reality Living.

“It requires you to appraise your life situation honestly,

and refuse to shift the blame for your unhappiness to others.”

Think about it. What we actually control in our lives is a very small piece of our world. We are really only responsible for and have control of, our own thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors. We don’t control our partner’s thinking, emotions, or behaviors; but we certainly do influence them. The skills of compromise and persuasion take personal responsibility and effort toward using “sober judgment” on ourselves. Trying to control something or someone that we really CAN’T control means we beat our heads against the wall and relationships become overwhelming.

Focus In the Right Direction for Better Relationship

Great relationships are about focusing in the right direction, empowering yourself to influence the relationship, rather than seeing your partner as the problem and expecting them to change. At the core, blame and fault-finding are both full of criticism and judgment. It’s “pointing out the sliver in your partner’s eye while there is a log in your own.”  Try putting things in terms of “I” statements, not “you” statements: how “I feel” and what “I think” and “what I need.” This puts the accountability and responsibility where it belongs-on both people in the relationship!