In all of my counselling, I have never seen a couple in which both were not at fault to some degree. One may have committed the overt act of adultery or lived an egocentric lifestyle with little concern for the needs of the spouse, but the spouse also had failures. It is easy for us to identify the failure of our mates, but more difficult to admit our own. I have often given individuals a sheet of paper and asked them to list the faults of their spouses. They will write profusely for ten or fifteen minutes. Some have even asked for more paper. The lists are magnificent and detailed.
When I ask them to make a list of their own faults, they immediately list their one big fault. That is followed with a long period of silence as they try to think of number two. Some never find it, and seldom has anyone come back with more than four personal faults. What does that tell us? That the spouse really is the problem? Hardly, for each spouse has a grand list of the other’s faults. It tells us that we tend to see ourselves through rose-coloured glasses. Our faults do not look very big to us because we are used to them, we attribute the real problem to our mates’s behaviour…
Failures come in two basic areas. First we fail in meeting the needs of our partners, and second we fail by doing and saying things that actually are designed to hurt them. We fail to do what we should do for them and end up doing what we should not do toward them. Certainly it was not our desire to fail. We had dreams of making our mates supremely happy, but when our own needs we’re not met, we became cool and later hostile.
Gary Chapman: Hope for the separated