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Avoiding the Blame Game in Relationship

Taken from:
LETS TALK with Paul Beckow
Goldstream Gazette, July 2010

Dear Paul,
Out of your experience working with couples what would you say is the most important skill in making a relationship work?”

Les, there is a skill that makes all the difference.

In my counselling couples, I notice a big trouble maker. And that is, most of us are not “responsible” for our feelings - - and it produces a lot of mischief.

What do I mean by that?

I mean when we have uncomfortable, upsetting, feelings we tend to blame the other person. We say .” “You did it.” You “made me feel.” As an example, we come home late, we’re hungry and there’s no dinner as we expected, we may become upset and announce, “I’ve worked late and no dinner ready! That makes me furious. What is everyone doing around here?” We blame others for our experience.

When we communicate this way we create a lot of upset and defensiveness, distancing, protection. Others can’t hear us very well nor respond to us.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, when we blame others for our upsetting feelings, we give up our own personal power to look after our well being – our own happiness and the good feelings within us. We give this up to the situation.

You are responsible for your well being. Each one of us is for ourselves.

By “responsible” I don’t mean you are at fault, or to blame. I simply mean we can take care of our good feelings much better than we usually do.

Consider this. Any specific situation can’t “make you feel” anything. Not having dinner on the table when you get home, in itself, cannot upset you. The traffic tie-up on the highway doesn’t make you angry.

I know it sounds funny. But it doesn’t.

When you arrive home and dinner isn’t prepared, you can be perfectly fine. Make a cup of tea. Order pizza. Make dinner. Call the team (husband and kids ) together. And you can be perfectly okay in a traffic jam too. You can.

To see this, can bring about a miracle. Why? Because understandiing this, compels you to look after your well-being - independent of the circumstances in your life. You become responsible.

And that Les, in my view, is one of the most important skills in relationship. To be responsible for our own experience and well being.

Well, you might ask, if the events, the particular circumstances, themselves don’t “make us feel” a certain way, then what does?

Look closer and you will see your experience is given by the personal meaning you give TO the events. Your experience is caused by what you make the events mean- what you believe to be true about dinner not being made.

In order to be upset, the dinner not being ready must mean something significant to you. Perhaps it means “ No one supports me around here!”, or “No one listens to me.” If that is what dinner not being ready “means” to you, you will be upset.

It’s your meanings that gives your experience. What we are saying to ourselves about the events - not the events themselves. Many rarely notice this simple fact.

And notice we are constantly saying lots of things to ourselves ! We often become lost in our personal meanings. They create the drama to life. They are the drama in our life.

Will Rogers once said: “I’ve had many terrible experiences in my life. Most of them never happened.”

Look in the places in your life where you are feeling stuck and not happy, and I will bet you are blaming someone. With blaming, we get to avoid responsibility. It has a pay-off - and it has a big cost.

The good news is we can take charge of own well being. How? By taking responsibility for what you make the events of your life mean.
By questioning our meanings.

When dinner isn’t ready as you expected, does it really mean “He doesn’t support me. I’m on my own around here.” Really? QWhen were upset, it’s a perfect opportunity to look and see. What am I making this mean? How am I upsetting myself about this?

We can drop trouble-making meanings. Invent new meanings. We do it all the time. It’s called “gaining your perspective”.

When you’ve “gained your perspective” you have looked after your well-being. Then you can act and communicate easily and effectively.
Life works. When even one person lives this way in a relationship it produces magic.


Paul Beckow is an individual marriage and family counsellor in the West Shore. See wwwpaulbeckow.com

For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

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