Friday, October 24, 2008

Blaming Yourself for Your Partner’s Distance


“If I was sexier, slimmer, smarter, wealthier, etc., etc. my partner would remain devoted to me forever.” This sounds unreasonable, yet this is the reasoning many adopt when their partner’s commitment to the marriage becomes uncertain. Why do folks tend to examine their faults and assume unnecessary blame when their partner distances?

At times the distance you experience in your marriage is a signal. It signals that the relationship has become dissatisfying for your spouse and the distance is really a way of communicating a desire for change. If you are willing to examine your contribution to the relationship problems, then you can inject hope that the relationship can improve. A typical example is a husband who becomes too devoted to his job or a wife who becomes consumed with mothering, each neglecting to care for the marriage while they nurture their career and children.

But even when their spouse is involved in an affair, a rejected partner can question what he or she has done (or failed to do) to cause the distance in the marriage. Even when the distancing partner says, “It’s not you, it’s me” the rejected partner will continue to search for something they have done that caused their partner’s distance.

Our instincts make us sensitive to pain, so we can preserve our lives by avoiding the causes of pain in our lives. If we become sick, we consider what we ate that caused our illness. This desire to control our environment in order to avoid pain can lead to self-blame for things outside our control. It feels better to focus on something that is in your control than to accept that your pain cannot be avoided.

Your partner’s commitment to the marriage is not something you earn or can manipulate. Commitment is a choice. Committed spouses choose to work on their marriage.

Avoid holding yourself irrationally responsible for your partner’s lack of commitment to the marriage. Remember that you can contribute to improving your relationship with your partner only if there is a mutual commitment to working on the relationship. It is fine to consider ways that to show that the relationship can be improved, but blaming yourself for your partner’s distance will only lead to diminished self-worth and make you less attractive as a partner.

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