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On today’s show, we discuss how to avoid blame in marriage. The episode begins with a disagreement Laura and Vincent had the night before.
The scenario: Vincent comes home late from a very long, challenging day at work. Laura, meanwhile, has had a tedious day working from home. Needless to say, both were “done” with the day. This set the tone for their interaction when Vincent got home.
Vincent comes home to find Laura in the living room, feeding the baby to vocal trainers on YouTube. This wasn’t exactly his idea of a relaxing atmosphere. What was helping Laura wind down, was not Vincent’s cup of tea. Vincent said that he wanted to watch something else, but Laura continued to watch another video.
Vincent got angry. Laura left the room. Laura admits she did not put forth the effort to communicate clearly.
She made the assumption that if she left the room, Vincent would follow. Instead, he sat in the living room with the tv off, waiting on her. Meanwhile, Laura is in lying in bed, waiting on Vincent.
Be Mindful of How You Are and The Atmosphere
Operating on little energy, having a rough day, and being tired and hungry are the times where we need to be the most mindful of how we treat our loved ones. However, these are the times we struggle the most with using our communication skills.
How does this tie into blaming? Laura admits to blaming Vincent that night. She had gotten stuck on a comment he had said about wishing he could have been home that day instead.
Laura felt that Vincent was saying that she had an easier job than him, which influenced what she said and how she behaved towards him. She admits that she has struggled for the entirety of their marriage with wanting Vincent to read her mind.
For Laura, it has taken time and practice to develop communication skills in being more direct and learning to better express her feelings.
Laura and Vincent introduce today’s topic of blaming as the first in a series of episodes on anger.
Blame In Action
Vincent uses “The Three Stooges” as an example of blame in action. They are three brothers, and they are not bright. Moe is the leader and the aggressor.
Curly makes the worst decisions or behaves the silliest. Curly was known for saying, “I’m a victim of circumstance.” Curly was continually not taking responsibility for what was going on in his life and blaming others and circumstances for his poor choices.
There is a set of unhealthy behaviors that we see in The Three Stooges and in real life couples: victim mentality, codependency (when you think your feelings are contingent on another person), and poor communication.
“Thanks, But No Thanks”, The Gift Story
Laura uses another illustration of blame in action. A couple has been married for years. The husband gives the wife gifts that she does not like.
She never understands why he doesn’t give her what she likes. She complains about what he gets her, but she is never direct about what she would like. She assumes he should read her mind; that it would show that he “knows” her.
She is being passive and passive-aggressive. She is expecting him to mind-read her. Saying “if he truly loved me, he would know what I want,” is an act of codependency.
You cannot know what another person is thinking. You’re basing your relationship on an “untruth”, if you believe that you should know what the other is thinking without direct communication.
The Dishwasher Is Broken, But My Day Was Worse – The Dishwasher story
A stay-at-home mom has been at it all day. She has tried to accomplish cleaning while caring for the children and other tasks. The dishwasher breaks down. She has not had any adult interaction.
Her husband comes home after a frustrating day at work, tired. The wife begins to talk; it comes across as complaining. She is explaining what happened during the day.
The husband hears the first part about he dishwasher. He immediately goes and finds his tools to work on the dishwasher. All the while, she is still talking about her day. What does that do to the wife?
She gets frustrated. She wants to be heard, maybe even more than she wants the dishwasher fixed. She was looking for emotional support, empathy. Her blaming is that he never listens. If she were to communicate directly, the husband would learn that she wants to be heard right now, not have the dishwasher fixed this instant.
“This is a Madhouse” – Perfectionistic/Workaholic Men Story
In abusive relationships, it is not uncommon to hear blaming. Common blaming remarks would be, “I would not have hit you if you had not…” Oftentimes men who behave this way are workaholics, or are perfectionistic, alcoholics, or have some sort of compulsions. The abuse towards the other spouse does not have to be just physical. More often it is emotional.
Vincent gives the example of a workaholic man who comes home to find his home, as what he would describe as “a wreck.” He finds things scattered all over the house, half-done projects everywhere, and dinner is not cooked.
He starts to complain, stomp or make snide, indirect comments. He has unrealistic expectations of the wife when he really does not know what happened that day.
All he knows is that at his workplace, he has everything in order. His calendar is organized; his desk tidy. Everything goes swimmingly. He is in control of everything at work.
He comes home to what he perceives as chaos. He thinks, “This is a madhouse.” He believes that if his wife could keep the home neat and the kids under control, then he can relax and be happy. It is her fault that he is unable to relax in the evening.
TIPS TO OVERCOME BLAMING
For the husband just mentioned, he feels that he needs to be in control over everything. As a result, he is constantly striving for perfection and he misses out on quality time with family.
Mary and Martha in the Bible (Luke 10: 38-42) provide a great example of this mentality. A “Martha mentality” keeps you from being in the present with your relationships. The man mentioned above seems not to be comfortable with the idea of taking time with his children and wife, while things are seemingly left undone.
In the gift scenario given above, if the wife AND husband were more assertive, the situation would be less rife with conflict. She needs to be more direct and express her feelings clearly. This could mean saying, “green is not my color.” Or, “I’d really like to have a spa day.” For him, being more assertive may mean him asking, “What do you what? What do you like?”
In the dishwasher scenario, she feels like she’s not being heard, and he feels like he is helping her. For this situation to play out with less conflict, instead of blaming him, she would need to slow down.
She would have to be direct and say, “I really need for you to listen to me. The dishwasher is okay. I really need a hug and you listen to me.” She needs to slow down, not launch into a litany, and show him that she needs emotional support.
In order to overcome issues with blaming, you need to learn to accept personal responsibility for your part in conflict or issues and be more assertive. Take responsibility for your part in the breakdown of communication.
You have to be genuine and honest with the other person, but first you have to be genuine and honest with yourself. It is helpful to identify the walls you’ve put up or the negative coping mechanisms you have established in order to better your communication.
Sidenote: If you are coming to the end of this podcast episode and you find it was not helpful, you probably are blaming us for your issue. Time for self-reflection.