This guest article from PsychCentral was written by Elain Leadem, MSW, LCSW and John Leadem, MSW, LCSW.
How often do I look at my partner and think, "Gosh, I wish the nagging would stop!" or "I am sick of the mood swings and the outbursts!" At these times, it seems so obvious that my partner is the broken one whee.
We can hear our sponsor's voice saying, "What about the spiritual axiom that says whenever we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us?" But we are quick to rebuff that voice by establishing the certainty in our relationships, while we are only somewhat at fault, and our partner is more to blame!
These kinds of arguments tend to become the most difficult moments in our relationships because it is so much easier to run away than to work hard when we are feeling this level of disease. Sure, work needs to be done to rectify these uncomfortable situations between us, and we wish our partner would get to it, but if we would quiet ourselves for just a moment or two, we might have time to reflect on the wisdom of the recovery slogan "Let It Begin With Me."
This phrase is a gentle but affirming reminder that I need to look at myself first.
"Why?" we ask. Many of us have come to understand that we see the defects in others that we can most identify with. The way our most painful defect manifests itself within us may be somewhat different from how it is manifested in our partner's behavior, but we are likely to have similar or comparable issues.
Many romantic difficulties arise when a couple's character defects are compatible; do not be confused by that term when referring to the defects that romantic partners can share. We are not talking about character defects that eliminate each other or cancel each other out. Compatible, in this sense, means that the character defects of each partner continually activate the defects of the other partner. As a couple, each partner's defects are working together to perpetuate and intensify the other's!
A perfect example of compatible defects is when one partner is a bully while the other revels in playing the victim. When defects are compatible like these two, there will be many problems. If there is to be a happy and loving romance, it is obvious that this cycle needs to stop, and the process needs to begin with you.
If this process does not begin with you, the cyclical arguing and finger-pointing will likely never end. This is because when romantic partners share compatible defects of character, each partner is likely to view the hurt they endure from his or her partners' character defects to be proof that the real change has to begin in the other person. If no one starts taking sober actions in the relationship, both partners are likely to become more entrenched and greater emotional injuries are going to be sustained.
If you find yourself in this predicament we encourage you to take one very deep breath (ok, two is also acceptable!) and courageously say "Let it Begin With Me!"