Responsibility is a big word.
You were probably taught to be responsible from a very young age. Whether it was in terms of helping out with a younger sibling, owning up to spilling milk on the floor or– now– keeping the agreements you made with family, friends, employers and even the laws of our community and country.
Responsibility can seem to be about taking whatever it is on your shoulders and doing what “should” be done. Responsibility is often associated with being dependable and reliable.
That description sounds more like a car or even a trash bag. How can that help bring me closer to those you love, you may wonder?
When you re-think responsibility and realize that it can be so much more, then you can experience changes for the better in your communication and relationship overall.
If you can stop seeing responsibility as who is taking the blame for the argument, mistake or whatever it is, you’re starting to shift around this heady concept.
We’ve probably all been in a similar place… You and your partner are remembering an agreement you made in the past differently. Perhaps your love feels sure you said you’d pick your daughter up from violin practice this week and you are certain you said you had to work late that evening.
After an embarrassing and regretful moment with your tearful daughter stranded for an hour, you and your mate are having it out trying to assign blame for what happened– wanting to determine who is responsible!
You both are sure you communicated what you thought you each did. In fact, you both could argue for days about how sure you are that “I know I said…..”
When it comes down to it, your daughter was left alone and that was unfortunate. Now, she’s over it and it’s time for you and your partner to move past it too. But in this moment it seems so important for one of you to bow down and take responsibility.
If you take responsibility for the mistake, just to be done with it, it might make your mate feel vindicated and right but it won’t bring you two closer together. In fact, it may create more distance between you.
He or she may fixate on your irresponsibility and you may feel resentful of the accusation. It is possible to resolve a situation like this AND end up feeling more connected than before.
Re-focus and re-frame
It’s time to re-focus your attention around the topic that appears to be causing trouble. After all, is it most important to play “he said, she said” or to do what needs to be done to address and let go of the hurt feelings and move on?
In the scenario above, the couple could apologize to their daughter and make sure she knows how important she is to them. She can forgive them and they can forgive each other. Put the focus where it needs to be and then let it go.
Re-framing responsibility can look like setting aside the question of who is to blame and, instead, express to your daughter how sorry you are that this happened.
You don’t have to be the one “who did it” in order to let someone know you care they were inconvenienced or pained in some way.
In many situations, it is truly unclear who the absolute blame should rightly be attached to. Let that question go and allow yourself to soothe and love those involved– including yourself.
Create a plan
When the couple above re-focuses their attention on their daughter and re-frames responsibility so that everyone involved played a part in what happened, a sense of openness and greater love fills them all.
The partners are able to create a plan to help avoid a similar mistake happening in the future. They decide to use a calendar to help remind one another when they’ve each committed to dropping off and picking up their daughter at lessons and social events.
Both feel ease and relief as the tension between them resolves and connection increases.
During a difficult conversation, when you care most about who is to blame you cannot fully see a solution or a way to come together around the issue. Ask yourself what is most important to you– being right or your relationship?
Of course, almost all situations are complex. But when you take responsibility for loving yourself and your partner and allow that to guide you, you can more easily let the mistakes go and move on together more closely connected.
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