Day 12: Responsibility

This post is a part of The 15-Day Relationship Challenge. If you’re just now tuning in, click here for the whole series.

Responsibility! Taking Ownership.

Good morning. Welcome to Day 12! 

The first failure of humanity is recorded in Genesis chapter 3. After all the Earth was created and enjoyed, something terrible happens. The husband and wife are confused, and turn against each other and against God. There’s a chance for them to accept their failure, and they both point the finger and blame. 

Regardless of your religious background, that story gets repeated over and over and over again in almost every house, hut, and dwelling place on earth. We humans do not take kindly to being called on our faults, and do not typically humble ourselves to our failures. 

Responsibility is an ability to respond on account of an action taken. Typically what happens in our ability to respond is that we cast ourselves in the best possible light, and respond accordingly. If are faults, the major ones are with the other, and the minor ones are with myself. We complicate the problems of our failures when we don’t take responsibility. Like the creation story and the fall of Adam and Eve, when we are asked to account for our actions and we don’t, we must find a scapegoat. Typically in marriage, the scapegoat is our spouse. 

Do you remember from last week when we talked about family roles, and the role of the scapegoat? No one wants to be that person who is carrying the weight of all the families responsibility. That’s an impossible burden. The same is true for marriages, as well. No one wants to be blamed, yet we have been blaming each other since the very first blunder.

Blaming is hard-wired into our fibers as humans. Everyone is going to blame someone else, at many points of their life. Which means, it’s ok! Not “ok” in the excusable sense, but “ok” in the sense that it’s impossible to not blame. It’s going to happen, and that is ok. Sometimes we even blame ourselves out of self-pity and appear as though we’re contrite, but our self-pity keeps us from owning our failure to love. My question to you is how will you respond to someone blaming you, or your own blaming of someone else? Will you be victimized in it, or will you accept it as a human limitation? 

Responsibility is not about pointing fingers. It’s about holding your hands open and accepting what is yours to accept, and then humbling yourself in order to make amends for how you have wronged someone. 

The last two assignments have covered a lot of ground in your relationship: The highs, and lows. For all of us, the glorious and difficult landscape of marriage is vast. The aim for today is to get really specific about what you need to say or do about that vast landscape. It is in the specifics of the pain that we can take responsibility, resist the urge to blame, and account for our actions. Today begins the process of transformational healing that we all desire in our intimate relationships. 

Reflection Questions

  • What did I think about my spouse in reading today’s material? Was it kind? Was it thoughtful? Was it loving?
  • Did I have feelings, thoughts, questions, or stories that came to mind?
  • What is something I can do for them today?
  • How can I welcome and receive what they have done for me today?

Of the stories that have been shared in this challenge so far, which one needs your care and attention? Which one needs you to move into humbly seeking responsibility for how you contributed to hurt or harm in your marriage? On an intensity scale of 1-10 try to pick a story in the middle (4-6 intensity). When you’ve identified that story, answer the following questions about the story: 

  • What happened? (describe the setting, events, actions. Be detailed. Fire your personal “PR Firm”, don’t try to make yourself look good)
  • What did you feel about what happened?
  • How did Anger, Shame, Guilt, Fear, and Sadness show up?
  • Who did you blame, point fingers at? 
  • In what ways did you hurt your spouse? 
  • What does it look like to make this right? 

After answering the above questions, it’s time to write a letter of ownership and responsibility to your spouse. This is not an apology letter, and it would be better if “I’m sorry” is not said at this time. (“I’m sorry” is often a way we escape the feelings of regret, guilt, and shame in regards to the poor choice(s) we have made.)

This letter does not need to include resentments or attacks at your spouses behavior, this is solely about you and your own actions. It does not need to justify your actions, or defend what you said or did. This letter does not need to be long, but it does need to be specific. Name with detail how your actions have hurt your spouse. If you do not know how you hurt them, ask God to show you, or humbly ask them to tell you.

When you’re done with the letter, keep it until you’re ready to share it later this evening (or when you and your spouse agree to share the letters together).


Hello! Welcome back. Great to see you again. How was your day?

Today is a huge step for you and your relationship. Taking the time to remember painful stories, your own participation in them, and write a letter is a really courageous step for you to take.

Remember, we cannot heal what we do not acknowledge. Good on you for seeing and telling the truth. This would be a moment to make a monument on one of those rocks from Day 10. Celebrate courageousness in addressing these hurts in your relationship. 

Take 10-15 minutes tonight with your spouse to talk through your day. 

  • What were the highs and lows?
  • Where were you surprised? 
  • Was there anything different about your day because of the assignment(s)?
  • From this mornings reading, what stood out to you? 
  • If you’re willing, share your letter from the assignment. 

Some ground rules for this exercise: 

For the Reader – Go slow. You’re sharing a lot of potentially new insight and information here, give your spouse space to hear what you are saying. Sit across from them on the couch or in chairs, close enough to touch, but not close enough to make out (that’s fine for afterwards). When you’re done, give the letter to your spouse and let them ask questions and give feedback. Don’t apologize, don’t ask for forgiveness (That’s for tomorrow). 

For the Listener – Unfold your arms and legs, open your body to listen. Rest your hands palms up on your knees. Receive what is being given to you. Don’t interrupt. When they are finished, the first three things you comment on need to be encouraging and positive. Thank them for writing it, thank them for being intentional, thank them for caring about the marriage to do this exercise. You’re welcome to ask clarifying questions, but be careful. Do so with believing the best about them, not the worst. If you’re not in the right emotional space to do this, simply say thank you. 

Assignment Connection
Buy a blank journal from Amazon, and write letters of responsibility to each other when offenses happen. Follow the same process above. Let this journal be a story book to future generations about how you were committed to one another in ownership, grace, and mercy. 

QBQ: The Question Behind the Question

Book Review for QBQ.
The Premise: If you’re asking the wrong questions, you’re not going to be able to solve the problems correctly. Personal accountability is achieved when we ask “what” and “how,” not “why” and “who.” Marriages thrive when those involved take responsibility by asking the correct questions about their situation. Ask, “how can I solve …” instead of “why did this happen.” 

My Take: This is an easy-to-read book that has great applications for our relationships. He really nails it by addressing the issues of personal accountability. As a culture, we’re far too consumeristic and “me-centric.” This leads to feeling like a victim and not taking responsibility for our actions. It’s just over 100 pages, with many chapters taking up less than two pages. Pick it up and read a few chapters, set it down. Read it out loud with your wife or husband. Spend fifteen minutes talking about it in the evenings. 

Application for Marriages: This is not a marriage 101 book, rather it’s a way of thinking about how and what we do in our relationships. There’s not a lot of practical advice for issues that would arise in a marriage, rather it helps to frame the approach we take in our response to these issues. Too often we get sidetracked with the implications of the questions or statements made to us. Instead we need to focus of what is behind the question or statement. 


Marriage Junk Food

It’s easy to get a Twinkie off the shelf, and eat it. Donuts are great, too. But they are not all that good for the body. 

Marriages have a lot of junk food options: Blame. Contempt. Resentment. Criticism. Name calling. Silence or Stonewalling. 

These actions, or reactions, all taste pretty good in the moment, but they don’t nourish us or our relationships. They are empty calories that make for an obese relationship. 

Getting healthy might not feel good in the moment, but it is worth it. Instead of Blame, take responsibility. Instead of contempt, celebrate. Forgive. Forgiveness chokes out resentment. A cheerleader (not necessarily the school kind) is always better to be around than a critic. 

What marriage junk food do you need to throw away?

Kids Need to be Needed

One of the worst things we can do to our kids is to raise them without ever asking anything of them. My kids love to remind me that none of their friends have to clean the kitchen, or do their laundry. What they don’t realize is that most of their friends’ don’t really know what their value is to the family, because their parents don’t ask anything of them.

Kids who are never needed at home never develop a sense of place and belonging in the world. They grow up thinking one of two things: Everything should be easy and done for me (entitlement); or I am not needed in the world and therefore I don’t know what makes me unique.

Most parents who don’t ask anything of their children are doing so because they don’t want to deal with the mess that comes with asking a kid to do something.

Kids whine and complain. They are like pigs. Put a pig in a stall, and it’ll find a way to get out. They constantly testing the limits of the boundaries: What is a legit boundary, what is a threat, what is a lie. When they find a weak spot, they’ll hit it over and over and over again until they get what they want. Kids want freedom (don’t we all!), but they don’t know what to do with freedom unless they’ve been taught.

Setting your kids up for success depends on how much responsibility you teach them. Parents teach responsibility by giving them responsibilities. By telling them that they are a valuable member of the family. By telling them that their actions impact more than just themselves.

The best thing we can do for our kids is give them a constructive space to fail.