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No Confessing Our Partner’s Sins

Mutual accountability

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Linda: For so many of us, the tendency to think in judgmental terms and to see ourselves as a victim is strong.

So much of the time our minds are judgment machines. We can get attached to the notion that the way we see it is the way it is. When actually there is much more to the story than what is immediately apparent.

If there is a shift in orientation away from the destructive mindset of being a victim of our partner, that new orientation is sure to be mutual accountability. It’s never so neat and even that the responsibility in any given breakdown is 50%-50%. It can be 60%-$40%, 70%-30%, 80%-20% or 90%-10%. Even if it’s 95%-5%, a good guideline is to search out the part that we contributed to the breakdown.

It’s so easy to notice what our partner is doing or not doing, or saying or not saying, that is contributing to the trouble. Their part in the problem is so glaringly obvious. It’s harder to self-observe to see what we are doing that gets in our own way. That’s where accountability comes in.

We are not denying our partner’s contribution to the problem, but we are intentionally seeking to discover our own. It may be a piece of work to train ourselves to reach for the part that we play, but the effort is frequently rewarded manyfold.

The less responsible, blaming stance I often refer to as “confessing our partner’s sins.” Speaking about their contribution to the difficulty invites their defensiveness and arguments. Sincerely taking responsibility for our complicity allows defensiveness to subside so that a productive interchange can take place.

Of course, it’s scary to do this because we fear that we will take responsibility for our portion and our partner won’t take theirs. We may even fear that they will use our openness as an opportunity to exploit us by saying, “See I told you it was all your fault,” “I told you so,” or some other version of continuing to blame.

It is enormously helpful when both partners agree to mutual accountability. Then when one person gets vulnerable, there is more safety to continue this process of exploration.

Once we find the courage to admit the part that we are playing and then admit it out loud, vulnerable communication is occurring which tends to invite vulnerable sharing from our partner. Only then can a positive shift take place in the conversation.

The understanding that comes out this kind of interchange is likely to heal the rift. Such learning will position us both so well that in the future, this particular breakdown is less likely to occur. We are then free to go on to other challenges.

The old form of competition where we were vying for who was wronged and who was the perpetrator of that wrongdoing begins to subside. When we succeed at so called winning, it leaves us being right, a dubious honor that comes with a big price tag. The new completion becomes who can go first to get vulnerable to take responsibility for their own part in the struggle. That’s a competition of the highest order.


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