Who in your marriage is the saint and who is the sinner?
Question – When my husband and I were dating and when we were first married, it seemed we were on the same wavelength. We had the same values and we wanted the same things. When we were dating we had such a good time together. We could talk and just be together. Some months after our honeymoon I noticed that he would spend hours playing video games, sometimes for money. While we were dating I had no idea he did this and I wondered why he still would do that now. We don’t have the money or the time and energy.
Answer – We live in a society where we are all expected to be saints or at least be close to perfect. Yet in our relationships we fall short. In fact, we end up switching being sinners and saints between each of us – sometimes we are good and sometimes we are bad. In a lot of our relationships someone ends up taking the role of saint. This sets up the dynamic that the other person is the sinner and this cycle is a devastating dynamic on both sides. It limits our ability to take responsibility for our part in the relationship. Unfortunately this situation is very common. If you have ever known someone or been in that scenario, you know how agonizing it can be. You feel that you can never be good enough or that your partner will never get his or her act together. It is a lose = lose dynamic
The saint and sinner dynamic can start out very innocently; such as we want to move our lives and relationships one-step forward – we want our house to be a little cleaner and our kids a little more behaved. But then we set our standards and expectations at an unreasonable level and we start this saint/sinner cycle. If one of us fails to make the effort toward these goals, we become the sinner and in the roll of being blamed for failure. While in the middle of this cycle, we often forget our original intent of moving our relationships forward. We start to take the role of a martyr or victim and make our significant other the villain.
Bettering ourselves is definitely desired in our society and rightfully so. Yet it can have a dark side if it is carried out of proportion. How could improving oneself be potentially destructive? Let’s take a look at the roles we can take on when we feel stuck.
Martyr or Victim – In these roles we feel we are not good enough or that we don’t deserve a better life. In this scenario we can start to believe the SAINT is right and that we can’t rise above our lowly state. This belief takes away our power to progress and make our own situation better. Instead of taking responsibility for our own actions, we start to sink more. We can get to the point that we no longer see a reason to get out or that there is even a way to get out of this situation. This continues to plant more seeds of doubt. Yet we can change this cycle.
- Do not see yourself as the victim or martyr.
- Take the time to look deep inside and start taking responsibility for your own actions one step at a time.
- Ask yourself what one thing can I do today to be one step closer to taking back my life.
Villain – On the other hand, we can view others as the villain. For example:
- Are we treating them as the bad guy, instead of encouraging or allowing them to start taking more responsibility for their own lives?
- Are we constantly criticizing every little thing that is not done according to what we think should be done?
- Do we look for the mistakes because we want so much to have things better?
- Do we continually regret that we have been lied to and entered this relationship under false pretense? They hid their true selves from us!
What answers did you give above? In reality these views cause us to also give away our power and not take control of our thoughts and actions. We are stuck in the devastating feeling that we have lost the life we should have. We spend our time in the depths of despair instead of staying in the present to figure out what we can do today to take one more step to a better life.
- The first step would be to look for the good.
- What we focus on is what we get.
- Next, stop the criticism.
- Any and all negative remarks just fuel the fire for an empty life.
- We can find positive ways to kindly ask for what we want. Then, if not accepted, let it go for another time.
Villains can chose to be really good at being really bad when they are feeling there is no hope.
Is there a way to change this scenario? Yes!
This cycle needs to be stopped as soon as possible for the sake of both partner’s emotional well-being. If there are feelings of complete hopelessness, it would be good to get some help and find a marriage coach. Following are some skills that can change your relationships to be much more progressive and peaceful:
- Both partners take a good look at what each is contributing to this negative cycle.
- The saint has a tendency to think they do not contribute negatively.
- The sinner has a tendency to think they are the cause of all the problems.
- In a healthy whole relationship there is a need to look at both sides and start to understand what is really happening.
- Stop blaming or believing one person is responsible for all the bad. It is never all one sided. It really does take two to tango.
- Make a plan.
- This plan can be an end result plan or just a plan for today. If it is an end result plan and therefore more complex, make small steps for each day.
- Take a piece of paper and post it where you can both write on it daily.
- Label one side your name and the other side your partner’s name. DO NOT LABEL THEM AS SAINT OR SINNER, but your personal names.
- You are looking for the good, so write on your side what you see as good in your partner. The other side is for your partner to write down all the good he or she sees in you.
- This is an opportunity to look for the good in each other and an opportunity to hear the good from you partner. This is a “Finding the Good” chart. Do not put any negative findings on it.
- If the decision is to go separate ways, then there is still the need to find understanding and taking responsibility for our own part so that we do not take that cycle with us for the rest of our lives.
The truth about relationships is there is no such thing as line of demarcation for bad or good. These are judgments. It is a very natural expectation for us to want another person to fix all the problems. At times we are filled with so much self-doubt and feelings of loss and pain that we struggle to fix or see the problem in ourselves. Finding a solution can be overwhelming yet it doesn’t have to be. Take it one problem at a time.
When we realize that we have married a sinner, this is our greatest opportunity to be a real saint by taking responsibility for our own actions and to find the good in others. All of us need to realize that our spouses can fall short at times and we can also expect that we will also. When we give each other the freedom to make mistakes, we give each other permission to become our best selves. That is a whole, and happy way of life.
We can do this one step at a time.