Take Personal Responsibility to Build a Happy Marriage

The phrase personal responsibility has a lot of meanings so let me be clear about what I’m talking about. It means that you take ownership of your life. You’re not a passenger but in the driver’s seat of your life. Life does not simply happen to you. Rather, you shape your life by your ability to make choices about how to think, feel, and what to do in each circumstance of your life. By recognizing your responsibility, you accept that you’re the creator of your life, not only your fate but even your inner experience.

So, you may ask, what does this have to do with marriage? Everything. Your marriage works when you take personal responsibility for your mood, happiness, self-esteem, needs, and well-being. All of it. Marriage doesn’t work when you sluff oman avoiding his girlfriend ff your responsibility or expect your partner to be responsible for your mood, happiness, self-esteem, needs, or well-being. Likewise, marriage works when you allow your partner to take responsibility for his or her mood, attitudes, needs, happiness, self-esteem, needs and well-being rather than thinking you are responsible for his/her moods and feelings.

Sluffing Off Your Responsibility

As simple as this concept seems, I want to suggest that it is easy to put your responsibility on your partner. We do it all the time. For example, you:

  • think you wouldn’t be in a bad mood so much if your partner were more willing to have sex.
  • believe you can’t be happy because your partner doesn’t like to sit on the couch and watch TV with you.
  • didn’t realize before you got married that your partner was into video games.
  • are upset that your spouse likes to spend money.
  • are so disappointed that your spouse doesn’t take more leadership in the family or perhaps lacks the ambition to get a better job.

Sure you’re going to react when things like this happen. You’re human. Part of a good marriage is learning to talk through issues (which I teach in my marriage course). Part is learning to accept your partner for who he or she is. And part is learning to accept responsibility for your moods rather than holding onto anger and resentment for long periods of time. You are then likely to start controlling, punishing, coercing, guilting, and in various ways, manipulating him or her so you can feel good. All this because you have it wired up in your own head that your partner has to do and say and be a certain way in order for you to be happy.

Please don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t mean to imply that what your partner says or does doesn’t affect you. It does. Nor do I mean to say that you won’t sometimes have negative feelings about your partner’s decisions or actions. You certainly will. You are not a robot who can simply turn your emotions on and off like a switch.

Accountability vs. Blame

What I do mean to say is that, ultimately, you are the decider about how your partner’s behavior will affect you. You have to take accountability for your reactions and emotions and not simply blame him or her for what you’re feeling. Until you understand the meaning of personal responsibility, you’ll not give yourself the emotional freedom to enjoy your relationship. You’ll be on a roller coaster, going up or down depending on your partner’s actions. You end up being under responsible for yourself and over responsible for your partner. And trying to be responsible for each other’s moods, happiness, or self-esteem is exhausting.

Stay in Your Lane

I like to say, “stay in your own lane.”  There is a boundary between the two of you and you have to respect that boundary.  If either of you starts controlling your spouse or allowing them to control you then you’re going to feel resentment, not a good foundation for a happy marriage.  You feel resentment when you make decisions to please your partner but without pleasing yourself. You’ve allowed yourself to be held captive by someone else’s moods, behavior, or expectations rather than taking responsibility for your own life.

All of this reminds me of a common saying from the world of Alcoholics Anonymous. “We don’t have relationships. We take hostages.” When not responsible for ourselves, we try to manipulate our spouses into being responsible for us.

It doesn’t work. What works is when you accept personal responsibility and grant your partner the same right. This allows each of you the emotional freedom to be who you are rather than living to either change and control or appease and give in to each other.

This is not about not caring for your partner. I believe we need a lot more unselfish caring in our relationships. It is about knowing that, ultimately, your spouse will never make you happy if you don’t also take responsibility for yourself.


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