Have you ever known someone who refused to accept responsibility for their part in anything? When you tried to point out a mistake, they always blamed someone else or some circumstance outside of themselves. They were always the victim and never to blame. If we look to the Bible we can clearly see where this blame game originated from.
1. Take Ownership
God comes calling in Genesis 3 after the forbidden fruit has been consumed. Adam blames Eve (and God for giving him ‘that woman’) and Eve blames the devil. This act brought sin into the world through mankind. When sin entered our being, it brought shame with it. We hate looking at our own sin and shame. Naturally, we want to pass that blame on to someone else. It reminds me of the darling video on YouTube where two little brothers find Dad’s blue paint. Dad comes home and the bathroom walls and floor are smeared with dark blue paint. The two little boys look like mini versions of the guys from the eighties band Blue Man Group. “Who did this?” Dad asks while trying to keep a straight face. Both boys point at each other and say: “He did it!”
Not wanting to take ownership of our sinful behavior is a normal part of childhood. However, a healthy part of becoming an adult is the ability to take responsibility for our own actions – both good and bad. Unfortunately, not everyone had this modeled for them in acceptable ways during childhood. If they didn’t learn it somewhere along the way most likely their interpersonal relationships suffered. Step 10 in the Twelve Steps says: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admit it.” This dovetails with the recovery model’s lifelong process of ‘sweeping off our side of the street.” In every problematic situation we learn to look at the part we played in the situation and “promptly admit it.” Then we take corrective measures when necessary. I’m convinced this is not only the key to an emotionally healthy life, but it’s also one of the keys to a healthy marriage.
With selfishness and narcissism on the rise it’s no wonder divorce is so prevalent. Matthew 24:12 tells us that in the end times “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” Marriages are healthiest when each person takes responsibility for their own foibles, admits when they are wrong, and learns to apologize. The beauty of doing this is it helps us become more self aware. By becoming more self aware we learn corrective measures and thus become better people in the process. Those who cannot admit fault are incapable of changing. It is change that helps us become the best versions of ourselves.
2. Be the Best Version of Yourself
This bring me to the second thing sobriety has taught me about a healthy marriage. I was listening to Dennis Prager years ago (one of my favorite talk show hosts) and he said we owe it to those we love to be happy. Obviously there are times when we all struggle with sadness. Some of us even battle clinical depression and we need to seek help, which I have done on more than one occasion. However, I agree with his statement for the most part. I might change it a bit and say we owe it to those we love to be the best version of ourselves we can be.
Prior to getting sober I remember asking God why my emotions were out of control and why I was still single. He literally said to me (not in an audible voice): “You are the problem with your life.” Now that may not seem like a very nice thing to say but I needed to hear it at that time. It wasn’t long afterwards that I started going to A.A. meetings and went through the Twelve Steps with a sponsor. I have been sober now for 16 years. Ten years into my sobriety I realized the alcohol was merely a band-aid for my real problem which was Co-dependency. That discovery set me on a journey of continued inner healing. I wanted to be the best version of myself not only for me, but for God and my husband. Sometimes I fail miserably but I try to pick myself up the next day (or week) and keep going. And of course, “when I’m wrong promptly admit it!.”
3. Play the Tape Forward
The third thing sobriety taught me about a healthy marriage is the ability to “play the tape forward” as Dr. Henry Cloud talks about in his book Integrity. What this means is before we take an action (or inaction) we think ahead to possible outcomes that action or word might cause. For instance, whenever I think about drinking again I ‘play the tape forward.’ If I start drinking again chances are I will be arrested and possibly destroy my marriage and damage family relationships.
As it relates to my marriage today, before I say something to my husband that could be construed as hurtful, I try to think about how it could impact the future of our relationship. This can be done in both big things and little things. Here is a somewhat whimsical example. We were hiking the other day and he was moving very slow toward the end of the trail. I almost turned around and yelled: “Hurry up slowpoke!” which I have done before. Instead, I thought about the implications and decided I would keep my mouth shut and patiently wait for him. When he caught up I gave him a kiss and said “I was waiting for you.” It was a small and more loving gesture than calling him a slow poke!
I hope you found these three suggestions helpful. If you enjoyed this post you definitely don’t want to miss Wednesday’s Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens Podcast where I talk with Life and Marriage Coach Joyce Zook about even more ways to improve your marriage.