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Want Marital Success? Quit Tackling Each Other!

January 12, 2018

Sometimes I meet with couples where there is a real tit for tat. Each person does do things that upsets the other. Sometimes it is overt and other times it is more sneaky, although both know what’s happening.

In couple counseling, each likes to point the finger at the other.  It as if that justifies one’s own poor behavior. The circular arguments continue and it is as if they want the counselor to determine who is right and who is wrong, who really started it and so, who is to blame.

The counselor will never really know in this instances and just to be clear, ascribing blame in these circumstances rarely improves a relationship.

If you really want a better relationship then the challenge becomes resisting tit for tat behavior – not using the untoward behavior of the other as an excuse to condone your own retaliatory behavior.

I use a sports analogy, which is interesting because I am not really a sports person. However…

Consider football. The quarterback throws to the receiver who has to run the ball to the goal line. The other members of the team try to block and tackle the playing of the opposing team who are trying to steal the ball or thwart the play.

In the unworkable marriage, couples are playing a game where they are blocking and tackling each other – members on the same team. If you want the relationship to improve, quite doing that!

Instead of blocking and tackling each other, run interference to clear the path for your partner. Help your partner achieve their goal. At the very least, if you can’t run interference, then at least steer clear and don’t get in the way.

In real life terms this means;

  • Clean up after yourself;
  • If you get home first, consider preparing the meal;
  • Find a way to share in all the chores and household responsibilities or at least divvy them up reasonably;
  • Follow through on your responsibilities;
  • Do not defend the indefensible. Sure you may love your own parent, but if they are at risk of creating harm in your family, respect what may be a need for a reasonable boundary;
  • Do not scare or engage in behavior or activities known to create upset/tension/fear in the other;
  • Do not leave clutter in areas your partner needs to access – clear they way;
  • Provide each other positive feedback and demonstrate appreciation.
  • Change the toilet paper roll;
  • Check the kids’ homework and maintain appropriate expectations and monitoring;
  • Don’t talk badly of the other to family or friends;
  • Spend time together even in the midst of stress, kids and work;
  • Don’t keep score between each other;
  • Share affection;
  • Do kind and unexpected good deeds for each other.

It is only when each prioritizes the other does a reasonable relationship follow. If it is lop-sided or each only acts in their own interest, the relationship is apt to fail.

So, instead of blocking and tackling each other, run block and tackle FOR each other. Clear the way to make life easier for each other. Set each other up for a touchdown.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW for counseling and support – to build your successful practice


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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.


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