Taking Responsibility for Yourself in Your Relationship

September 7th, 2011

Free Will—we all have it.  It’s our capacity to choose a course of action from various options.  But do we take responsibility for our actions?  Are we “moral agents?”  How does this relate to making your relationship healthy?

Being a moral agent means we have the choice to do what is good or right or do what is bad or wrong, etc. We are each responsible for our choices whether it be to love someone, to get angry, to be offended, or to be understanding.

For example, a common phrase you hear people say is, “I have a short temper.” The funny thing about this phrase is that it literally doesn’t make sense. Is there a temper muscle or bone that is shorter on you than on others? No, in a way, it’s just an excuse. Instead of putting the responsibility on yourself to control your temper, you tell others that you “have a short temper” and put the responsibility on them to not make you angry. And essentially you are saying to others, “This is how I am, so now you deal with it.”

But this is not how it should be. Instead, we need to understand that we have control of our emotions and our actions and our choices. We can choose to get upset easily or be more understanding.

This became essential to me in my relationship when I realized I was constantly using the excuse, “I’m really sensitive.” Though it’s true that I don’t respond to criticism well, it is something that I can have control over. Previously every time my husband and I would get into an argument, I would immediately get offended, blame my husband for hurting me, and tell myself it was his entire fault. Even though my husband probably could be nicer, a lot of times after I calmed down and we would discuss things rationally, I would realize that he was trying to be nice but I blew it out of proportion. I chose to be offended by his words, got defensive, and didn’t listen to his side of the story.

In short, I blamed him for not remembering that I was sensitive and he was supposed to adjust his actions accordingly.

How often do we do this in relationships? We tell ourselves that it’s not our fault for our reactions and emotions. But what we should be really saying to ourselves is, “I tend to get angry quicker. How could I do better?” Of course, it’s probably a good idea to let our partners know that we have some weaknesses, but not so they can beware, but instead to let them know that we are aware and trying to do better.

Most problems can be solved if we: 1. Realize we are in control of our emotions, 2. Take responsibility for our actions and behaviors, and 3. To be mature and have perspective in the relationship.