As we learned last week, the first thing couples should do when they’re having issues in their relationship is to start with the heart. After all, the heart is the center of everything we do, feel, think, and desire — it should be honored and treasured. The next logical step then is to take personal responsibility for our thoughts and behaviors.
Taking personal responsibility might sound obvious on paper, but how often have you been in a heated argument and focused all your energy, anger, and emotions on what your spouse is doing or not doing?
The answer is all the time!
“She started it!”
“I can’t believe he is so stubborn!”
“For once … just once … I wish he’d listen to me!”
These are all signs of an unsafe relationship. It’s the people who flip the script and take responsibility for their part in all these difficulties who are better positioned to deal with relationship problems in a more constructive way. We must take the focus off of our spouse and take personal responsibility for our actions and choices.
Instead of asking, “How do I get them to change,” ask instead, “What kind of person do I want to be?”
There are generally three principles to follow when it comes to personal responsibility
- I am responsible for MY thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and beliefs.
- I am NOT responsible for my spouse’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and beliefs.
- In marriage, we impact and influence one another’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and beliefs.
In his book, Desperate Marriages, Gary Chapman talks about reality living as it relates to this conversation on personal responsibility. According to Chapman, reality living requires you to take stock of your life situation in an honest way and refuse to shift blame for your unhappiness to others. Reality living says:
Reality Living & Taking Personal Responsibility
- I am responsible for my own attitude.
- My attitude affects my actions.
- I cannot change others, but I can influence others.
- My emotions DO NOT control my actions.
- Admitting my imperfections does not mean that I am a failure.
- Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world.
See yourself objectively — put YOURSELF in the picture
While we are not responsible FOR our partners, we do have responsibility TO them. And one of the best ways to do that is … you guessed it … taking personal responsibility! Challenge yourself to see yourself as part of the problem and then concentrate only on your own part. So if your husband isn’t listening to you, what are you doing or not doing to communicate better with him. If you’re mad because “she started it,” does that mean you have to finish it? And did she really “start it” to begin with?
Remember, we will remain paralyzed as long as we define the problem or goal in terms of what the other person is doing or not doing. The greatest goal in all of us that has the highest likelihood of success is to become the person God has called and created us to be.
As long as you think of everything that’s going on as “outside of you,” you remain a victim.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself so that you can understand your role better:
Role Definition/Taking Personal Responsibility
- For what things am I fully responsible?
- In what areas do I have a shared responsibility?
- In what areas do I have no responsibility?
- How can I learn to take the appropriate level of responsibility in any given situation?
What we’re saying is, if you want to overcome the difficulties you are facing in your marriage, there are skills that can be developed. The first is to always look to the heart first. The next logical step is to resist the temptation to put all the blame for what’s happening on your spouse. Take personal responsibility and put yourself in the picture, too.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to cherish each other’s heart and listen to it when it’s talking to you. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
What do you think? How can you take more personal responsibility? How has that benefitted your marriage? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.