Most sports teams now spend time examining film from their previous game. The goal is to identify ways the team can improve its play in the next game. The danger is that the team can start to parcel out blame for their poor performance. This then can tear the team apart which can lead to more poor play.
The coach's job is to keep the players focus on the future, how they can play better, not who is responsible for losing the last game. So, what does this have to do with marriage? As a marriage counselor, my job is to keep the couple focused on improving their interaction, not parceling out blame for their relationship problems.
When you dish out blame, you inevitably trigger a defensive response. Your partner doesn't want to be held accountable for your pain and doesn't want to be labeled as a bad person. Yet the defensive stance leaves you feeling unheard and that your partner doesn't care about your views and feelings. So you turn up the heat and become more aggressive in delivering your message. This aggression then triggers distance, the team comes apart.
Successful couples are able to focus on what it will take to have a better relationship in the future. They address their feelings but ask for improvement. They do not shame. Shame triggers a defensive response; a request for improvement asks for accountability. Be accountable for your part in our relationship, while I accept my part.
Just as the sports team must focus on specific ways they can play the game better the next time, you must address specific measures you can take to improve your relationship. The team can't say, "We need to play better the next time." The couple can't say, "We need to communicate better." Both are too general. What specifically needs to change to improve your communication?
Imagine you are seeing your improved relationship played on a television screen. What would you see? How are you behaving toward each other? What is your contribution to this? Notice the details, these are the things you can change which will ultimately lead you to win the relationship game.