Taking Responsibility in the Relationship

One of the hardest things I see couples struggle with is the idea that each person in the relationship is responsible for his or her own part of the problems that surround them.  It’s not uncommon for people to want to blame the other person for how they feel as if the partner did something to cause the upset.  Something bad happens and people start pointing fingers at the other person.

Many couples actually live this way for a long time; looking at their partner as if he or she is the tormentor.  When couples live with this pattern it keeps them feeling helpless to change anything in the relationship.  Each person keeps waiting for the other person to do something different to make them feel better.

It’s as if both are waiting to feel more appreciated, valued, important to their partner and loved.  But the longer they wait, the more tempting it is to blame the other person for not supplying those good feelings.  Sometimes couples will even spend the next few years building cases against each other.

You know you’ve done this if you say these kinds of things to your mate, “You did this to me so I had to do this to you.”  “You didn’t do this for me so I did this to you.”  “If you had only done this than I wouldn’t have had to do that.”  All these phrases hold the partner responsible for how you feel.  They leave the person blamed feeling helpless and the accuser feeling empty, a sad place for both.

When the relationship has turned into two separate camps, I like to encourage couples to think about a couple of things. The first has to do with intent.  What is the intent of your partner when he or she does something that makes you cross?  Do you know?  Sometimes people just assume they know what their partner intended and it’s usually not very good. I like to encourage people to find out if there is any ill will coming from the mate.  To do this all a partner has to do is ask.

It could sound something like this, “Hey, when you left those dirty socks on the bed did you do that to make me mad?”  I know this probably sounds silly, but chances are if you got mad because your mate left dirty socks on the bed you might want to find out if he or she did it on purpose just to piss you off.  If they didn’t, don’t they deserve to forget, make a mistake or just be oblivious once in a while?  Find out what they were trying to tell you, if anything, with the action before you explode. 

The second thing is understand how you impact your partner.  If you accuse him or her of doing something to harm you, you are blaming them for something.  Ask yourself what it feels like when you get blamed.  It feels terrible.  Usually we get defensive and want to argue back.  Try and put yourself in your partner’s shoes before you level the criticism.

If you say something you feel bad about, apologize.  That’s what considerate people do.  This does not make you weak.  This makes you a good person.  It also sends a message to your mate.  It tells them, “I don’t want to stay mad at you.  I want to get closer to you.”

And that’s what all couples want, closeness, connectedness, love.

Send your comments linda@lindanusbaum.com


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How to Talk to Our Partner So They Can Hear Us

One of the most common difficulties I see couples struggle with is miscommunication.  Each person has something he or she wants to say to the other.  They do their best to get their points across, but they never quite feel heard, and therefore they can’t get relief.   This is frustrating for both.

So why does this happen?  It may be because of how it’s presented. It might seem as if you are saying everything in a way your partner can hear it, but chances are you may be using words that make the listener feel like he or she is under attack or being blamed.

The partner can’t respond except to defend him or herself.  That can lead to an argument and then everyone feels bad.  Both people end up exhausted and spent, and the last thing they want to do is talk to each other.

So instead of miss-communicating, how about learning to re-communicate?

Sometimes in sessions I teach couples how to talk to their partners.  I know this may sound silly and possibly juvenile, but with just a few word changes people can really learn to express themselves, say everything they need, have their partner hear them, understand them and even feel compassion for them.

So here is my list of Do’s and Don’ts.


Anything that starts with:        

I don’t want

I won’t do

I’m not going to

I can’t because

I refuse to

Anything that starts with: 

You need to

You should do

You can’t do

You must do

You aren’t going to

Anything that starts with:

We need to

We should do

We have to

Sentences that start with:

It can’t be

Don’t do this

Don’t say that



 Any statements that start with:

I would like it if you would

I want to have you

I am happy when you

I am hopeful that you

I desire that you

I wish that we could

I am happy when

Any questions that start with:

Would you be willing

Are you open to

Would you like to

Can you join me in

Is it possible

Are you interested in

Would you enjoy

With the Don’ts, you can feel the blame or attack.  It’s as if the speaker is already mad.  The Do’s have no blame or attack.  They are coming from a place of wanting instead of already being unhappy.

Practice this with you partner.  Think of a topic you would like to discuss and try it out using the Don’ts.  See how it feels.  Try it on each other.  Now try the Do’s.  Use the same topic.  Just see if you feel different when you use the Do phrases.  You might feel open, less threatened.

When we are open we have a chance for true communication.  That’s when we feel safe enough to lay down our defenses.  That’s when we can have a true exchange with our partner.  We might even learn something new about our mate; we might even be able to get our point across.

Send your comments to linda@lindanusbaum.com

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