It’s the usual, a couple walks into my office for the first time and after discussing informed consent and confidentiality, I ask them what brings them in for couples counseling. I would say and that’s where it starts, but really it is only a continuation of their usual behavior and it is just the first time I am seeing it. It is a behavior that tricks you into looking in the wrong direction causing you to become more and more deceived. Blaming and finger pointing is what I am talking about.
One of the first things I have to explain to couples is that the nature of a relationship is that we are constantly interacting and communicating. We may want to say that the problem is all our spouse’s because he/she engages in a certain behavior, but have you really ever wondered why they engage in that behavior? For instance, maybe he is always snappy with you when you remind him to take out the trash, well why is it that he does that? Could it be that the way that you “remind” him is by nagging? Well, we could take this a step further couldn’t we? Perhaps you have learned over time that he always forgets to do things that you ask (and that you shouldn’t have to ask for him to do) unless you remind him constantly. So although you may point your finger at your spouse for the “wrongs” they commit in your relationship, there are always previous behaviors and interactions that fuel the reaction you are getting, and it becomes nearly impossible to find the actual starting point to the problem (although you may be able to identify several things that help fuel the fire).
Knowing that there is no real beginning to an issue may help you to see how fruitless it is to play the blame game (and a game it really is!) Instead, the most helpful thing you can do for your relationship is to look at your own behavior. I know, I know, it can be quite hard to look at yourself objectively (I mean, you are ALWAYS right aren’t you?) But it must be done. So after you look at yourself and determine specific behaviors may be contributing to the problem at hand, there are some follow-up questions that you may want to answer. For instance, how does this behavior affect your spouse? You may want to look at the reason you feel compelled to respond in the way that you do, notice the behaviors in your spouse that lead up to your behavior, and how you can react to your partner in a more beneficial manner.
I love the saying “It takes two to tango” to help illustrate this point. Couples often get set into certain patterns of behavior. But once one person changes the way they react, it changes the whole dance as the other person will typically respond in a different way as well. Will this solve all problems? Of course not, but nothing will. But how refreshing it is to know that as a single person you do have some power to influence your relationship, and all you have to do is look at yourself instead of your partner!
Do you and your spouse need helping going through this process? If you are in the Brevard County area you can give me a call to schedule an appointment (see the about me section for more information and contact information).