photo relationships work couple blaming out blame game

When you blame others, you give up your power to change.
– Robert Anthony

Mattie: You forgot the milk. Again! What’s wrong with you?! I give you a list of chores every weekend and you either don’t get it right or don’t finish. It makes me so angry I could scream. I’m home all week with the kids – cook, clean, food shop, do laundry. I manage thousands of details and you can’t even follow a list.

James: Honey, I’m sorry. I’m doing my best. You know I’m not great with details. What else can I do? At least I apologize! You are constantly yelling at me and I’m sick of it!

Mattie: I’m so tired of being the one responsible for all the details. I can’t do it all!

James: Do it all? I’m out there every day working my butt off so you can stay home with the kids and maintain the lifestyle you want. You’re so uptight! That’s the real problem. If I forget something, I’ll get it the next day. Calm down.

This was the blowup that brought Mattie and James in to see us for Couple to Couple® Coaching. After they described the fight, we told them they were stuck in blaming each other.

Bob and I interpreted the stories they each played out in their minds:

Mattie thought James was careless. She interpreted his “not paying attention to details” as a disregard for her and lack of appreciation for all the minutiae she had to handle. He hadn’t a clue what her life was like.

James thought Mattie was compulsive and a perfectionist. Her out of control response when he forgot something small or didn’t finish a list, seemed totally disproportionate to the slip-up. He felt she had no understanding of how hard he worked to support her and their standard of living.

We discussed how split their lives had become since they had children. Before kids, Mattie had a successful law practice. She gave it up when they mutually agreed Mattie would stay home to raise the children. Their daily life journeys played out in two separate worlds – one at home and one at work. They agreed each world had its own stressors and life was totally different than when they both worked full-time.

Mattie and James acknowledged they had allowed their connection to drift. Nurturing their relationship had become the last priority – not because they didn’t love each other; they just got caught up surviving day-to-day life, assuming the roles they were supposed to play.

Gaining this insight helped them shift their paradigm from one of “blaming out” to one of “owning the part each played” in creating the difficulty.

Mattie: I can see my part was trying to be super-mom and super-wife and having my expectations way too high. I realize I need to get more help and not just from James. Maybe we can hire a babysitter or pay someone to help me with cleaning or the chores.

James: My part was minimizing and underestimating the job that Mattie had taken on as a full-time mom. And the impact she experienced from the loss of her career.

Both agreed to express more appreciation for their contributions to creating the lifestyle they chose. And last, but not least, they recognized the need to create more connection between the two of them, through having daily conversation and date nights.

So often couples stressed in daily life start to blame and take it out on each other. If this is happening to you, talk with your partner calmly about what is underneath the blame and anger, and acknowledge your own part of the problem. Then and only then can the two of you problem solve.

If you are in a relationship that has drifted and feel disconnected, have difficulties communicating, and/or are experiencing a crisis, Bob and I can help. Call us at 410-363-2825 or email info@relationshipswork.com.

Image Copyright Kristin Baldeschwiler