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Tracking down the 'bad guy'.

I don't know about you but most of the time in my life when something does not go to plan, or when things go completely wrong or when the dinner I have just spent an hour preparing falls to the kitchen floors and splatters everywhere, I look for a 'bad guy'. Who is to blame for this problem in front of me? And boy did I get good at tracing back to where things first went wrong and how to find the real culprit! Sadly that 'bad guy' often was somebody I was closest to, like my spouse or my children. Now to get honest that person may not have been anywhere near the problem, not in the kitchen at the time of the disaster or even on the property. But I could absolutely find a way to connect this situation all the way back to them. This is where I went so wrong!!!

Let me tell you what I mean about this 'bad guy' in case you have never been in this harmful pattern of thinking and behaviour like me. Making your spouse or children or parents the "bad guy" in a relationship refers to a pattern of behavior where you consistently attribute negative motives or actions to one or maybe all of these people, even in situations where they may not deserve such blame. Because I have been focussing on mariage recently I want to continue this theme and look at ways we can make our spouse the 'bad guy' but remember this can happen in any relationship.

Warning! The following might hit your heart hard.

Making your spouse the BAD GUY can manifest in various ways:

Blaming: You frequently point fingers at your spouse for issues or conflicts, often without considering their perspective or involvement. They become the target of your accusations.

Criticism: You habitually criticize your spouse, focusing on their perceived faults or shortcomings, which can lead to them feeling consistently attacked or devalued. We may criticise the dinner, or how the dishwasher was stacked or their driving or the choice of movie. It may seem insignificant but each little fault stacked on top of another can lead to an insecure and miserable spouse.

Assuming Negative Intent: You interpret your spouse's actions or words in a negative light, assuming they have harmful intentions, trying to punnish you even when there may be a more benign explanation. Never assume anything. Treat your spouse as innocent in intent until otherwise shown with truth.

Overgeneralization: You use past mistakes or isolated incidents as evidence of your spouse's overall character, viewing them as inherently flawed or untrustworthy.

Overgeneralization shows up when we use the words always and never in our conflict or arguments. "You always..." or "You never ever ..." Ouch! Remove these from your dialogue immediately to see some change!

Lack of Empathy: You have difficulty empathizing with your spouse's feelings, experiences, or point of view, which can lead to a lack of understanding and connection. As the disconnect builds you look to your spouse as the 'bad guy' for making you feel this way. However your spouse can never make you feel anything without your permission. Choose to see things from your spouse's perspective before you discount their emotions.

Reluctance to Accept Responsibility: You tend to deflect blame away from yourself and attribute problems to your spouse's actions or character. This is something I have worked on lot. Before allowing my mind to start the search for someone else to blame, I now look and say what could I have done differently leading up to this problem? I could have slowed down. Or I could have shared how I felt earlier. Another question I ask is, How am I reacting to this problem that is related more to the past, to history and not this immediate moment?

Exaggeration: You may exaggerate or magnify your spouse's errors, making them appear worse than they actually are. Again like overgeneralization, this relates to the always and nevers. Here is an example. Mark and Sarah are married several years. One day Sarah forgets to pick up the groceries on the way home from work. Instead of recognizing it as a one-time mistake, Mark began to magnify Sarah's fault. He started to view her as consistently unreliable and forgetful. Every subsequent incident, no matter how minor, became a piece of evidence in Mark's mind, reinforcing his belief that Sarah was lacking in responsibility. This became an exagerated story that Mark began to tell himself about who his wife was.

Constant Conflict: This pattern can lead to ongoing conflicts and tensions in the relationship, making it challenging to find resolutions and maintain a harmonious connection. Everyone is on the offense or defence and can't see a way through without an argument. We end up shutting down or walking on eggshells. Marriage cannot be lived like this. I would highly recommend couples therapy if you feel like you and your spouse are in constant conflict. You need to learn how to focus on the issue not the person! You need skills and tools to work on this together and an open mind to a new way of being married.

Phew! Are you still here? I am so proud of you if you are. It shows your commitment to being better in yourself and your marriage.

We are simply turning the lights on to get real with ourselves and experience the truth.

Making your spouse the "bad guy" is a harmful and destructive behaviour in a relationship. It can lead to trust issues, communication breakdowns, and emotional distancing. It can lead to lack of responsibility, isolation, resentment, intimacy issues and potential for seperation.

But its not over yet!

  • Start looking at your spouse as the 'good guy'.

  • Look at her as 'the one you choose to love'.

  • Look at him as 'the one you choose to respect and honour.'

  • Look for the things they are doing well.

  • Look for the times when you are connecting and if there aren't any, it is time to intentionally book some connection time in where you can explore common ground.

  • Only use the words always and never when you say things like, "You always make me smile!" You always put so much effort into looking after our family/home." You never forget to ask me about my day." You never give up on me!" You are always on my mind."

  • Get real! Do not expand on or inflate the truth. Don't tell stories inside your mind that do not love and respect you spouse.

  • Be empathetic. Put yourself in your spouses shoes.

  • Lastly be patient. Good change takes time.

Back to Mark and Sarah. In a coaching session where Sarah had signed them both up for some support, Sarah finally broke down and said she couldn't take the constant criticism and being the bad guy anymore and felt like this was the end for her. This was a massive wake up call for Mark. He knew deep down he wasn't the best husband to Sarah but always felt she either deserved his comments and judgement and told himself it wasn't as bad as she said when she brought it up. Until now he was in denial and had not taken responsibility for his words and actions. Sarah desperately needed her husband to love and support her. She needed her marriage to be the safest place for her to be in her life.

When we shared this with Mark and the deep needs Sarah had that were not being met, he wept. He acknowledged his criticism was taking over everything and asked her to forgive him. Mark shared that he really didn't know any other way as his father had been the same with his mother however he committed to learn better ways to communicate and to love his wife. What changed in that moment was his heart for her and hers for him. They saw past the mess and onto the mission.

A door to another way of being together opened up and although the journey towards a healthy marriage was only just beginning, there was now hope and a willingness to be better together. Sarah and Mark walked out with red and swollen eyes but also holding hands. The team was getting back on track! No more 'bad guys'!

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Delwyn Randall
Delwyn Randall
Nov 15, 2023

You're so right Rebecca - how often we blame the people we are closest to! How crazy, when we're considerate and understanding and polite to people we work with and meet but mean to people we care about!

For me, I think I shouldn't HAVE to make an effort with my husband - it should just all 'work' - but actually I need to. He deserves that, just like I do.

I really like your list of points. I especially like 'turning around' the always and never statements. :)


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