I overheard someone ask a friend of mine if there were any secrets to her 60-plus years of marriage. She replied with two things: Give your partner the benefit of the doubt, and never say “You always…”
Both of these things are what I would call blame-fighters. Blame will kill a relationship faster than anything. Blame is the way we avoid responsibility for our own errors. It’s as old as Adam and Eve, and it keeps us from learning from our mistakes. To give someone the benefit of the doubt is to not pass the blame. Maybe there are factors you don’t know about or issues you can’t see or understand because you are not in the other person’s shoes.
I know the dean of a highly-respected Christian college who when interviewing for the pastorate was presented a blank sheet of paper by the selection committee and asked to write down what he needed. They were thinking salary. Instead, he wrote down, “The freedom to fail.” He was a smart man and they turned him down. He was happy about that, because he didn’t want to work for someone who couldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt.
My wife sometimes nags me about things I keep avoiding. I could blame her for that, or I could give her the benefit of the doubt and realize she has no choice but to hold me accountable, because I keep making the same mistakes. Besides, I’ve given her permission to do this, so how can I blame her for it? Take responsibility for what is yours and give the other the benefit of the doubt.
Secondly, never say “You always…” (at least not in a negative way!). That only locks a person in and doesn’t give room for growth or improvement. It’s also another form of blaming — putting the onus on someone else.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7). If you want to deal in “always”s, these are the ones to use. In other words, love always expects the best instead of the worst. It makes sense that if you get what you expect, you’ll want to expect the best.