How To Stop Finger Pointing In Relationships

Image by Martin Stranka

One of the things I’ve found in working with couples over the last 9 years, is that many of them come into session, and the session goes a little something like this:

Jack and Jill are fighting more frequently. Jack blames Jill for being too demanding, and they have stopped having intimate moments. Jill blames Jack for not helping out enough with the house and the children, and Jack is angry all the time.  The arguing in the office starts to escalate in just a matter of minutes. He said, She said. Back and forth.

Like Jack and Jill, many couples start to point fingers at their partner out of daily frustration and years of unresolved baggage between them. However, there’s one thing they’re forgetting: the only spouse you can change, is yourself. By stepping back from the confrontations, you can ask yourself, “How am I contributing to this problem? Where am I going wrong here?”

See, its real easy to point the finger, isn’t it? But when you look into your own issues, it gets a little more complicated. In fact, there are times when I run into couples who hear what their significant other says, and rather than address the issue, they hide behind a completely different issue! So shots are fired across the bow, and even though each partner hears the other, no one is really listening.

So the Result is that rather than digging into an issue and resolving it, we skirt away from it, and run even further away from where we are going wrong in the relationship. So much so, that perhaps we can’t even see it. Sound familiar? Hopefully not, but if it does, there’s hope for you yet!

So how do we fix it? Well, first we start with humility. Get over yourself (and I mean that in as sweetly and as lovingly as possible). You’re not perfect, and neither is your spouse. I understand that it would make you very happy to fix your significant other, but you have to recognize that you can’t control that person. They have to choose to change, and when/if they do, it means that much more. You can, however, control you, which is the next step.

Step 2 is taking a look at yourself, and realize what you’re doing wrong. I know that doesn’t feel very good, but hey, you want to make your relationship better, right? Well, that means work, and when you think of the word “work,” are you really thinking fun? My guess is no. So it means you have to take a second, and recognize that maybe some of your emotions about what’s going on here, might have something to do with you and what you’re doing wrong. Find one thing…just one, and own the thing you did wrong.

Step 3 is apologize for that thing. And please, don’t tell me you’re waiting for your partner to apologize first, because really, that’s just an excuse to not do it yourself. When does someone else’s bad behavior justify your own? Someone’s got to be the bigger person here, and take the first step. Does it always have to be you? No, and it shouldn’t always be you, and by recognizing you can’t control your partner, you’re taking a step toward improvement by taking responsibility.

See, if you’re humble, its hard for someone to be mean to you, unless they really don’t love you or don’t want to work out the relationship (and these people do exist, sadly). Humility is, in my opinion, half of the key to happiness. The other is gratitude.

Finally, step 4 is devising a plan of action. Its one thing to apologize (and if you’ve been reading me for a bit, you know how I feel about I’m Sorry), its another to take it step further by making a plan of action. By taking that step, you show, not just tell your partner that you mean business.

This is what I recommend to the couples I work with, because for many of them, they have been dealing with finger pointing for years. It has to stop somewhere, and with someone, so I usually try to encourage both of them to do it at the same time. That way, both parties are admitting a wrong-doing without the other doing the finger pointing, and can plan toward making ammends from there.

So consider looking at things a little differently. Its really easy when you’re mad to point the finger and shake it a few times. But what if you looked inward and took an account of where you’re going wrong, and then made ammends for it? Would that change your relationship?

I’m all ears.