If you’ve ever struggled with taking accountability and don’t know where to start, admitting you’re wrong is a bigger step than you think.
Boyfriends, girlfriends, significant others, BFFs—literally any relationship dynamic you can think of—is destined to have its fights, and if you’re particularly close, there’s nothing you can do to stop it from happening. It’s inevitable, but in a super healthy way. It sounds weird, but let me be clear, arguing with people you care about on a regular basis isn’t normal, it’s toxic.
What is normal is having strong disagreements because you won’t agree on everything, lashing out because you don’t understand something the other person is feeling even if you don’t mean to, or feeling a type of way when someone calls you out on your bullshit (more on this one later).
I don’t say these things are normal as a synonym for healthy, especially since they can become toxic traits and red flags hella quick, I mean they’re normal in the sense that they’re human reactions.
For better or for worse, we’ve all been in these situations and that’s okay. What’s not okay is how many of us choose to respond. Sure, there are people who’ve learned to be mature and talk through their issues, but a lot of us don’t do that (as much as we pretend we do). The truth is we’d rather ghost someone and ignore the confrontation needed to fix things or internalize our mistakes instead of taking accountability for the part we played, both of which are toxic as fuck!
Owning up to your shit isn’t easy and it’s one of the hardest and most uncomfortable things to do, but if we’re being honest? It’s the most important thing you need to master if you ever want a solid relationship.
Whether you want to change your habits or want to fix something you broke, here’s some shit to remember that I know will help (brace yourself for some tough love baby):
1. There’s a BIG fucking difference between defensive actions and deliberate ones.
Defensive action: any unintentional actions that take place in the heat of the moment without concern for the offense they’ll cause, or consequences they’ll have, once the tension dies down.
Example: You’re fighting with someone and decide to say something you really shouldn’t, because you know it’s a sore spot for them. Or alternatively you bring up things that piss you off about them so you aren’t the only one under fire.
Both options feel good in the moment (don’t deny it, we’ve all been there), but when the smoke clears and you get that post fight clarity, they'll feel like shit, and you’ll feel like an asshole. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t mean a thing you said, the words that leave your mouth can’t be unheard. I guarantee you never meant for your issues with them to come out in anger (or at all), but it did. So how do you fix that?
Change defensive actions into deliberate ones.
Deliberate action: any action that is taken intentionally with consideration of the emotional state of both parties and full awareness/acceptance of consequences that may follow.
Example: If you find the conversation getting heated then find a way to excuse yourself from the situation, even if the fight is important.
The angrier and more frustrated you are, the less likely any of you will be able to reach any real solutions. Take a walk, go on a drive, do whatever you can to de-escalate the situation. And if that doesn’t work then it’s okay if you need to table the conversation for another day. The saying “don’t go to bed angry” is bullshit as long as you both are committed to resuming the conversation when you’re calmer.
Another great way to replace defensive actions with deliberate ones is to have those tough conversations sooner, not later.
They’re still not fun, but taking the initiative to talk about things someone does that annoys you or hurts you is ten times more productive than blowing up at them out of nowhere. Plus, it opens the floor for more emotional vulnerability, understanding, and problem solving on both ends, without unintentional and potentially harmful jabs .
2. No one likes being called out but, respectfully, we all need to learn how to shut up and deal with it.
When people you care about call you out on your shit, it’s not because they’re trying to be dicks. When your partner/friend takes the time to tell you that you hurt them, it’s because
A. They trust you enough to believe they can voice their concern and communicate in a healthy manner and B. They respect your relationship and don’t want to lose it.
Yet even with that knowledge we find it so hard to let someone tell us we were in the wrong.
Like I said before, we’d rather ghost someone and ignore the confrontation needed to fix things or internalize our mistakes instead of taking accountability for the part we played. Here’s the thing though, hiding from your shit gets you nowhere, and you’re not a bad person for messing up as long as you own up to it and try to be better (I know, easier said than done, but still).
You need to break the habit of being on the defensive when someone is asking you to take accountability.
Defensive emotions turn into defensive thoughts, which turn into defensive actions, and if you can’t get that shit together, you’re gonna find yourself burning bridges in your life faster than you can put them out.
3. Accountability can’t be SUBJECTIVE.
Real talk, you can’t do it for some people and not do it for others, that just makes it harder to grow as an individual. I can firmly say taking accountability never gets easier, but learning to be uncomfortable and sit through those conversations, regardless of who it’s with, has made healthy communication easier to gravitate towards instead of defensive action. On top of that, it also sets a standard in my life on what I expect from others. If I can deal with those uncomfortable ass conversations so can they, and if they can’t, they’re not worth my time.
Which leads me to my final point:
4. Accountability doesn’t have a time limit (but putting it off DOES have consequences.)
If you’re someone who ran from your problems instead of talking it out, it’s not too late to go back and do the right thing. Not everyone’s the same, and if someone else doesn’t want to hear your apology then so be it, at least you’ll know you tried. There are many people who’ve hurt me and left without so much as an “I’m sorry”, and though a few of them did things that burned our bridges to ash, some of them still have some wood left.
If you wait too long, you might not be able to fix what you broke.
When I hurt someone, it’s hard not to feel their anger and frustration towards me, however I was always surprised at how forgiving they could be once I showed them my willingness to do better.
No one is saying that in fights someone has to be 100% in the wrong and someone else needs to be 100% in the right. Should you have fucked up in the first place? Definitely not. But you did anyway, and guess what?
You’re not perfect, you’re human, fucking up is what we do!
But it’s your job to talk about it. If you don’t get why they’re upset then talk to them about how they feel until you do. Take time to figure it out on your own if you need to. Go to therapy, read some books, but for the love of god talk.
I say this in the name of your future self, and on behalf of all the amazing people you will meet in this life, so that you can embrace them body, mind, and soul.
Some connections are too precious to lose over fights.
With maturity and perseverance,