We all know that if you’re driving a car with imperfectly aligned wheels, it may have a tendency to drift toward the right… or the left. So it’s important to keep gently steering back toward the center! Otherwise, you’ll end up off in a ditch somewhere – or crashing into the median strip or another car. Most of us human beings are not perfectly aligned, either – so we too need to recognize where we tend to drift, and correct our course.
For instance, we’ve found that when feelings or challenges come up, some women tend to blame themselves, while other women tend to blame their partner. Neither pattern is better or worse. But both can cause huge problems in a relationship, if you’re not fully aware of what’s going on, and correcting for it.
Right now, we’d encourage you to stop reading for a minute and think: When something comes up, who do I blame? If you’re in a relationship now, ask yourself: do I tend to see things as my fault, or my girlfriend’s fault? And if you’re single now, think back on your last relationship. When something didn’t feel good, did I tend to think it meant she should be doing something different – or did I blame myself?
Now, we’re talking here about your automatic response. Rationally you may say to yourself, “It’s no one’s fault” or “We both contributed to the issue.” But before your wiser brain kicks in – whether that takes 3 seconds, or 10 years – you probably blame someone. Either her, or you.
Michelle is a self-blamer. Although she has a lot of self-love now, she grew up feeling like she was somehow wrong, broken and unlovable – so when she’s triggered, that’s where she goes.
On the other hand, I (Ruth) tend to blame my partner – in this case, sweet, blameless Michelle. Although I’ve done a lot of work on taking responsibility for my own part in things, and am much, much, much better at it, when I’m triggered, I still go to focusing on what I think the other person didn’t do right. But because we know this about ourselves, we can adjust for our biases. When something comes up, Michelle reminds herself to relinquish responsibility for my feelings…
… And I remind myself to take responsibility for myself and look at my part in whatever’s going on.
If we weren’t constantly correcting for our inner drifts, things between us would soon be a big, painful mess. But we are, and so they’re not! (And the constant correction has become totally automatic for us, so it’s not hard work at all.) If you’re single now, it’s important to get clear on and learn to correct these kinds of drifts before your next relationship. Otherwise, you’ll re-create painful patterns you really don’t want. If you’re in a relationship now, course-correcting is even more urgent!
Either way, we’d love to help – so if what you’ve read here hits home, we hope you’ll look into getting support!