It’s easy to want the other to change when we want our relationships to improve. And it is so much easier to blame the other when things are going wrong, whether with our children, our spouse, etc.
It’s easy because it is so much easier to find and see the fault in those around us and much harder (because our egos are so strong!) to look within ourselves and say ‘hmm…what do I have to change about me in order for my relationship with my teen or my spouse/significant other to work?’
Just this morning when I woke up early to make our children’s school lunches I noticed that my husband forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer for it to defrost overnight. In that moment I felt resentful toward him. I mean, I did ask him very politely last night to ‘please take the chicken out of the freezer’, so why couldn’t he just do it? Why do I have to do everything myself? I thought. (‘This sound familiar to any of you?)
A few minutes later I realized that I had come up to the kitchen with him last night to have some dinner together and that it was not only he who forgot about the chicken, but I did too.
In that moment I realized that I too was responsible for not taking out the chicken. But even more significant than that realization, was the understanding of what I would have said to him just moments before my ‘aha’ moment of taking responsibility – which went something like this: “You forgot to take the chicken out! (Again.) And now I am setback for what I wanted to cook for dinner this evening!”
That is what I would have said if I would have stuck to my thought that he should have taken out the chicken. However, once I recognized and took responsibility for what was real and true, as well, that I too forgot to take the chicken out, my comment to my husband was this instead: “We forgot to take the chicken out last night.”
This story may sound simple, and it is, but there is a deeper message in it that I experienced. Me taking responsibility for my actions (taken and not taken), and looking within myself, allowed for my expression to my husband to be about connection, rather than rejection and blame.
In his book, Choice Theory, William Glasser makes this suggestion to his readers: “Before you say anything [to people you want to connect to in your life] ask yourself: Is what I am about to say or do going to bring this person closer to me or push them farther away?”
When we look to ourselves and take responsibility for our own actions, it becomes easier to let go of our harsh judgments and high expectations of others. Doing so then allows us to pave the way for respectful communication and loving connection with our loved ones.
So, what is it that you can take responsibility for and change in order for you to have a better and stronger relationship with the people you care most about?