Do you feel like “the problem” spouse?
I know about this troubling dynamic, because I was the one blaming my spouse for the fault in our marriage—both verbally and in my head. I couldn’t escape the belief that my husband, Gary, was the problem! And if I could just “fix” him or worse … get rid of him, then all my troubles would magically disappear.
Yeah, I hate to admit that ugly fact, but that’s where I let my mind wander in those dark, early years of marriage.
I take full responsibility for that unhealthy and hurtful mindset now, but I think it’s helpful to know there’s an important factor that predisposes a couple to this cancerous issue. Often this type of attitude develops in a relationship where one partner’s wrong or hurtful actions seem more blatant or obvious than the other. Now, notice that I did NOT say their actions and/or attitude were/are more harmful.
I think a spouse who’s passive or passive-aggressive in their actions or attitude can be just as harmful or more so, especially since the problem attitude is subtle and sometimes hard to detect or identify.
In fact, a passive spouse can become really skilled at “spinning” their behaviors and attitudes to everyone, including the other spouse, to the point that all are convinced that they are nothing short of a martyr or victim. And sometimes the attention and sympathy a passive spouse receives from outsiders can be what keeps this harmful pattern in motion—even escalating it.
So what can you do about a spouse who continually blames you and refuses to take responsibility?
- Start with what you can’t do … change your spouse’s mind. Only God can do that!
- So pray for God to soften your spouses’ heart.
- And, most of all, pray for God to open your eyes to ways you can love and forgive your spouse.
- Pray also for God to give you empathy for your spouse … because a defensive spouse like this is often afraid and insecure, maybe even self-loathing. Your spouse wants the blame to fall squarely on you, because it seems too much for them to face the truth about themselves.
- Last of all, model taking responsibility—not just in your actions but in your words. This means making a habit of coming clean with your spouse and others about your failures, being humble, being the first to apologize, and wrapping it all in the sacrifice of being Christ-like.
Yep! This is a lot to ask of someone who is being pegged as “the problem” in the marriage. So look to Christ to give you the ability to rise above it all—like He did for you and me when He, because of our sin problem, was raised up on the cross.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)