Outrageous Travel Lesson 8

Don’t blame your partner for anything.

Any problems are your responsibility to fix.

There is an important life lesson that I learned late in life.  It says that you can’t fix anything unless you take responsibility for it.  Most people blame something or somebody every time life goes wrong.  It feels so good to tell yourself that it isn’t your fault and that you can’t to fix it.  So many people approach life that way that it seems normal.  You aren’t to blame is such a comforting thought when you find yourself in a bad situation.  But taking the easy path is seldom the road to happiness.

BV5 020The problem with this thinking is that if a bad situation is someone else’s fault, then you are helpless to change it.  You are a passive, powerless leaf in a windstorm and your life is a crapshoot.  It is far better to take responsibility for everything that happens because if you are responsible then you have the ability to change what is happening.  When you look at life with this perspective, luck is irrelevant and blame or excuses are meaningless because you are the master of your life and there is always something you can do to make it better.

Whenever you have a partner there are complications and compromises.  Successful relationships work these out and distribute responsibilities.  From time to time, however, one partner might find that decisions or actions by the other partner cause  undesirable outcomes.  When this happens, it is natural to blame, criticize and argue and it is hard to move on afterwards.  A small disappointment can grow into something serious. A minor situation can grow into a major conflict.

One example from our recent trip was a decision to visit downtown Buenos Aires at sundown and have  dinner before returning home.  We strolled around, selected a restaurant that looked pleasant and settled in for a nice meal.  The restaurant featured Italian food but my wife wanted a steak.  No problem because how could you go wrong ordering steak in Buenos Aries?  To our surprise, the steak was overcooked, my wife was unhappy and the evening was ruined. We sent the steak back and left.    My mind was reeling.  It had been a great evening up to the point the overcooked steak arrived.

In my mind it was all my wife’s fault.  I knew who to blame.  She should have known better than to order a steak in an Italian restaurant.  How stupid!  If she had wanted a steak then why didn’t she tell me to find a Parrilla (Argentine Steak House)?  In Buenos Aires, they are as common as Starbucks here.  We had passed several.  What possessed her to order a steak in an Italian restaurant?  Why did she have to ruin the evening?  You can understand where this thinking  leads and it isn’t pretty.  I wanted no responsibility for this unfortunate experience.  I wanted to blame my wife.  After all she had ordered the steak.  But I stopped myself.

I bit my tongue, gritted my teeth and escorted my wife out of the restaurant and into a cab.  It wasn’t my wife’s fault that the restaurant couldn’t cook a steak.  There was no reason to blame her for ruining an evening just because she wanted a steak in an Italian restaurant.  After three weeks in Buenos Aires we didn’t think it was possible for an Argentine to treat a steak badly.  The truth was that up until the steak arrived at our table, it had been a great day.  Why let an overcooked steak turn it bad?

In the cab ride home we moved on and talked about what to do tomorrow.  What might have been an evening of blame and conflict tuned to the good.  Some wine and cheese on the balcony made the steak a distant memory.

I decided that if there was blame for getting a bad dinner experience, it was mine.  I might have tried harder to learn what my wife wanted- or didn’t want- for dinner.  I might have suggested that maybe an Italian restaurant was not the place to order a steak.  Most important, I decided that a bad steak was not going to ruin my evening, my day or my life.  I took responsibility and resisted the urge to blame my wife for something beyond her control.

By taking responsibility on my shoulders, a bad steak was just a minor event not the ruin of an entire day.   There is even a silver lining.  It’s a great story now that we are back home.  How many people ever get a bad steak in Buenos Aires?

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