A sure way to create distance in a relationship is to participate in the blame game. This “game” requires you to hold your partner responsible for something dissatisfying in your relationship. Perhaps it is something he or she said, did or failed to do and often is packaged as criticism.
This negative feedback triggers your partner to become defensive. This leads to endless hours of arguing with the only outcome being that you and your partner feel more distant. How do you avoid playing the blame game while still asking your partner to address an issue of concern?
The blame game begins by you making a statement about your partner. We are wired to be sensitive to criticism. Men in particular see any negative statement made as criticism versus an effort to address the relationship. So how can you address your partner without triggering defensiveness?
Talk about yourself, not your partner. The best method is to challenge your partner to care about you rather than focus on defending themselves. Express your view, feelings and desires. Let your partner know how his or her behavior appears to you and how you feel. Here are some examples:
- When you didn’t call, I felt hurt and uncared for.
- I enjoy your helping me with the dishes and feel used when you walk away from the table without helping…or more simply, I need your help with the dishes after dinner.
- When you are reluctant to have sex, I feel pushed away and hurt.
Notice that the message is about you, not your partner. This challenges your partner to care rather than defend his or her behavior. Try personalizing your complaints and requests for change, you may find that it results in fewer arguments!