Year ago in my marriage, my wife and I were at a birthday party for a toddler and were mingling separately until we sat down in the kitchen to reconnect. She leaned over and discretely whispered that some parent must be missing the fact that there is a stinky diapered child running around the party. I said, “Really, why do you say that?” “Well,” she concluded, “I keep smelling this stink wherever I go throughout the house.” “Really?!” I said, getting a little suspicious. “Wherever you go you keep smelling the same stink?” I continued. “Yes,” she said, “and I’m smelling it now!” I lifted up her shoe to find she had stepped into a little doggie “deposit” in the back yard.
Think about if for yourself. How often do you first think that you might be wrong or a contributing factor when there is a problem in life or relationships. It’s always the other co-worker, friend or spouse who is can’t seen to “get thier act together,” right? Certainy it couldn’t be you, could it? I deal with this often as a psychologist, especially doing marriage counseling couples who confuse, or are blind to, how thier own “stinky” issues are affecting thier partner. The frustrating patterns of relationships keep repeating themselves as we become more and more confounded at how we keep finding ourselves with the same problems. I suppose our first inclination is to think the problem exists with others for fear of owning our own issues and what others would do with us if they saw what a mess we were. After all, is there really any driver that thinks they do a bad job driving? Yet, if the problem existed solely with others then success in marriage would increase with each remarriage or at least get no worse as we picked a “better” person this time. The rate of marriage failures increases with each new attempt, probably because our own painful way of doing relationships seeks out a familiar “dance” partner. If you keep finding yourself facing familiar frustrations in relationships and life, the “stink” just may be you. If you want to get a better picture of what part you play that helps or hurts your marriage, check out this idea.