How Recognizing Your Own Flaws Can Help You Deal With Your Partner’s (Part 1)

Have you ever judged someone for making a choice or acting a certain way and then found yourself in that same situation faced with the same choice? It’s a lot easier to be critical when you’re not the one going through the problem. You never know what you would do or what “the right” thing to do is until you’re in that situation.
Along those same lines, you don’t know what your spouse is going through on the day he doesn’t pick up his clothes or take out the garbage. And he doesn’t know what you’ve been through on the day you didn’t have energy to make dinner or do the laundry. The point is, how much more peaceful would your marriage be if you had empathy for your spouse and if you looked at your own shortcomings before seeking out his? The following points outline how evaluating and working on your weaknesses can help strengthen your marriage:

1. It helps you develop compassion.

Think about one of your faults or flaws—one that’s a little deeper than, say biting your nails or snoring. Maybe you’re a little obsessive about having a clean house or you love watching hours of television every night. Maybe you like to gossip or you’re especially good at holding grudges.

Whatever it is that might be keeping you from progressing into a better person, ask yourself this question: Would you want your spouse holding a certain flaw against you all the time? Would you want him to judge your entire character based on one or two of your flaws? What if he brought it up every time you got in an argument?

It’s not exactly pleasant having your own faults getting thrown in your face. So how do you think your spouse would feel if you did the same thing? Putting yourself in his shoes and seeing things in a different light can help you feel less angry toward your spouse for one his flaws. It can help you feel the compassion you need to look past something that’s been bugging you.

Compassion is based on love and when love is guiding your actions instead of anger and resentment, you’ll have much more success in all aspects of your marriage. Compassion grows when you develop a sense of understanding, and when you genuinely try to grasp how it would feel to be someone else. Compassion comes from getting to know someone better, which means you need to take the time to really talk to and communicate with your partner.

End part 1

Strengthen Your Marriage with a Healthy Marriage Perspective

A healthy marriage perspective is important in maintaining a happy relationship.  Recently, I heard a man use the all too common phrase “the old ball n’ chain” in reference to his wife.  Oh, how damaging thisStrengthen your Marriage phrase can be.

While at times, this phrase may seem to accurately describe the feeling of being tied down, held back, or limited in freedom by our spouse, in reality, it is quite false.  The first inaccuracy is that it likens your spouse (a living breathing human being) to an inanimate object with no will of its own.  A second inaccuracy is assuming that you are attached to this object by a shackle to which you have no key. Any marriage perspective that dehumanizes your spouse and removes your personal accountability is bound to damage the relationship.

It would serve you well to remember, and reinforce through your thoughts and actions, that your spouse is not an object.  Your spouse is in fact a person just like you, who, rather than deliberately anchoring you to the ground is simply striving to live his/her own life.  Any resistance you feel on your end is felt equally on your spouses end.  Additionally, whether you realize it or not, the shackle was not forced upon you as a punishment.  You chose to bind yourself to your spouse and you still have the key.  Ultimately, remaining with your spouse is your choice so take accountability for that. Humanizing your spouse and retaining your personal accountability in these ways will certainly strengthen your relationship.

I propose, that in order to reinforce a healthy marriage perspective, adopt a more accurate analogy.  For example, how might things be different if you were to replace the notion of being attached to a ball and chain with the thought of you being two mountain climbers.  As you and your spouse navigate the rocky and ice-covered paths of life, you have chosen to bind yourselves together with a rope for safety. If you feel resistance from the other end of the rope, it means your partner is stuck and needs help, or that they view the path differently than you and feel that a course correction is in order.  Either way, if there is resistance, it means that you get to pay more attention to your spouse and consider his/her thoughts, feelings, and needs as you press forward on your journey together.

With this healthy marriage perspective you will find that there is no mountain you can’t climb together.

Acceptance and Accountability

One of the key moments in any marriage struggling to get better comes when one partner or both begins to seriously consider a certain relationship conundrum or paradox. The paradox is this:

To truly find joy in a relationship, we must feel accepted and offer our partner acceptance. Yet we are fallible humans who make mistakes and missteps, hurting ourselves and our partner. How can we be accepting of an imperfect person without enabling them in their wrongdoings?  Acceptance Accountability Paradox

Most people worry that if they accept and love their partner as they are, they are inviting that partner to continue making the same mistakes and will end up inhibiting the partner’s growth. And so we resort to criticism, complaints, and demands, believing that if we point out our partner’s weaknesses and foibles just one more time, with a little more forcefulness, they will finally get the message and shape up. This has been the failed pattern of relationships for thousands of years, yet we still choose to knock our heads against that dead end.

Many years ago at a time when our marriage was struggling in many ways, largely due to my own mistakes and selfishness, my wife, Margo, came to me and said something extraordinary. She told me, “I want you to know that I accept you. I love you just the way you are.” She left it at that, she did not add, “But I can’t wait for you to get better!”

You might think that this extraordinary act of generosity might have given me license to behave in any bad way I wanted since my wife would love me anyway. But it was the exact opposite for me as I felt freed to change in positive ways; I was inspired to get better for myself and for Margo.

That is the miracle of accepting someone as they are. Research shows that it is this acceptance that seems to generate the greatest positive change in others. While threats and anger might force temporary change in someone, it never lasts long and damages the relationship in the meantime.

Here is the great balance to that gift of Acceptance: the additional gift of Accountability.

While it might seem counter-intuitive,  experience proves again and again that we can be lovingly accepting of a person (whether our partner, children, friends, etc.), while still holding them accountable for their behavior. Acceptance of a person is NOT acceptance of their negative behavior. When Margo expressed her love and acceptance of me, she in no way resolved me of my accountability for any negatives I was bringing into our marriage.

We can deal with a person’s mistakes in effective and healthy ways without attacking or labeling the person. In doing so we help our partner to feel safe in taking their own accountability, and more open toward us.

Hint: This lifestyle of Acceptance and Accountability will become easier and more effective as YOU are prepared to always take accountability for your own failings and mistakes. As our partner senses our willingness to be an accountable person, they will feel safe and invited to be the same.