My husband and I attended a marriage conference recently. And they had a breakout session where the wives went in one room and the husbands went in another room. The purpose of the session was to have an honest and open dialogue about being a husband or a wife.
We were encouraged to ask questions and share our heartfelt experiences about our marriages—all within a secure atmosphere outside earshot of our spouses.
At the beginning of the session, the ground rules were set: “This is not a husband-bashing or wife-bashing session. We don’t want to spend 45 minutes venting about the shortcomings of your spouse. Instead, let’s take this opportunity to discuss the challenges you are facing as a husband/wife and how you can improve in those areas.”
While I’m not sure what went down in the men’s breakout session, the wives did not adhere to ground rules. Every…single…comment, from the first to the last, was about something their husbands were doing wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, it was still a great session, as it allowed us to learn from each other as wives. And we received great advice from our panel of experts on how to handle those situations.
However, I feel like we missed an opportunity for growth—the type of growth that you can only get from taking personal responsibility for your own actions and your own happiness in the marriage.
Here’s what the The National Institute on Marriage has to say about taking personal responsibility in marriage:
“We find in our Intensives that one of the most challenging concepts to grasp is the idea of personal responsibility. In fact, one of our therapists refers to it as “the best marriage advice that no one wants to hear.” It seems that most couples who enter marriage therapy are looking for ways that their spouse needs to change for them to feel better and the marriage to work out. Imagine the surprise when one of the first things that they learn here is that each individual is actually responsible for their own well being and what they choose to contribute to the relationship. We believe that when two partners in a marriage make this choice the marriage will benefit greatly. Marriage researchers Scott Stanley, Howard Markman and Susan Blumberg seem to capture this when they say, “A great marriage is predicted not so much by your finding the right partner as by your being the right partner.” Overall, it appeared that those who responded to our survey would agree with them.
If you are walking into every marriage workshop, counseling session or ministry meeting with the sole objective of finding out how your husband can do things better, then you are going to miss the opportunity to learn how you, as a wife, can do things better in your relationship.
Sometimes, we get so focused on what our husbands are doing, we don’t take the time to notice that we’re bringing some junk to the table too. I know, because I’ve been there. (If I’m still honest, I’m still there from time to time.)
And I know it can be hard for you to not focus on him. Especially when I frequently hear complaints like: he’s messy; he’s not doing his fair share around the house; he yells; he doesn’t help with the kids; he’s controlling; he’s forgetful, etc. And I can go on and on and on with examples.
But what about you? What are you doing? Are you communicating properly, are you being passive aggressive? How about controlling…are you trying to make sure things are being done your way and only your way? Are you spending too much money? Are you on social media too much? Are you worried about his socks being on the floor when your bathroom counter is messy? Are you moody or disrespectful? I could go on and on too. But I won’t.
My point is that we all are human, and we all fall short. And I’ve personally found that when I take some time to focus on myself I am able to:
- Put things into perspective – his socks are on the floor, but dang…look at all of those natural hair products on my sink.
- Become solution oriented – so we both are messy, let me think of some ways that we both can improve in this area. But I better come correct if I am going to be blaming him for being messy.
- Have more empathy – my spouse extends me grace every day, and I need to do the same for him.
- Focus on my own happiness – whether he changes his actions or not, this is what I want and need; and I am going to take control of making sure I get it.
- Be a better wife and mother – when I do the self-work, not only to I benefit, but my husband and my kids do too.
“A great marriage is predicted not so much by your finding the right partner as by your being the right partner.” — Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, & Susan L. Blumberg, Fighting for Your Marriage
And I know you can’t do this alone. As the The Marriage Institute says above, each person in the marriage should take responsibility and contribute. And when you both do that, your marriage wins.
So fellas, I kind of tricked you. You probably read this article thinking, I need to send this to my wife because she needs to read this. But it’s actually a message for you too. And ladies, if you got to the bottom of this article and the only thing you can think of is that my husband needs this because he needs to work on himself, then you need to read this article again.
BMWK, start today. What aspect of your relationship can you take ownership of and then work on improving?