Taking Accountability in Your Relationship


Taking Accountability in Your Relationship

It’s easy to point the finger and play the blame game when conflict arises. When tensions run high, feelings get hurt, and the words you settle on are rarely the ‘right’ ones. Combine this communication breakdown with a lack of accountability, and you become trapped in a cycle of point-scoring and history-taking with no way out. 

Knowing how to own your part, apologise when necessary, and work with your partner, not against them, encourages empathy, repairs trust and helps you grow together. So, how can you learn to take accountability in your relationship? First, let’s define ‘accountability’ within this context…

What is accountability? 

Taking accountability means accepting responsibility for your actions, thoughts and feelings and acknowledging their impact on your relationship with your partner.

Whilst it’s integral to your relationship, there are many reasons why holding yourself accountable may feel difficult. You might worry about opening up and being perceived as weak and vulnerable, or perhaps feedback leaves you feeling chastised or discarded. Making mistakes and dealing with the repercussions may also be a sore point or potentially even trigger past trauma. 

On the other hand, you might worry about making the shift from external to internal reflection. It’s far easier to comment on the actions, or lack thereof, of others. Looking inwards can leave us feeling exposed and overwhelmed. 

True accountability is always reciprocal. It needs to be taken on both sides, regardless of what happened or how difficult it seems, so you can continue to build a partnership that thrives on openness and honesty. 

What happens when we don’t take accountability?

A lack of accountability doesn’t necessarily lead to lawlessness. It typically creates a situation where one partner becomes the arbiter of accountability and takes on a parental role where they dish out expectations and dominate the decision-making process. 

The other then takes on a passive, child-like role where they may resist or resent responsibility and doubt their ability to navigate the rhythms of daily life.

This is known as the parent-child dynamic, and it’s often found in couples grappling with the weight of their relational responsibilities. So, how can we challenge this dynamic and restore accountability?

(image credit)

7 Simple Ways to Practice Accountability 

in Your Relationship

  1. Avoid playing the blame game.

Open communication is one of the foundations of healthy, happy relationships. Convivial conversations can’t flourish if you’re stuck in a cycle of he said, she said, and always looking to dredge up past indiscretions or ‘win’ endless arguments. You need to challenge the instinct to assign blame and find fault.

According to Brené Brown, ‘Blame is the discharging of discomfort and pain. People who blame seldom have the tenacity and grit to hold someone accountable because they spend all their energy figuring out fault […] and it’s one of the reasons we miss out on opportunities for empathy’. Ask yourselves what would happen if you dropped the judgment and worked together to better your bond and resolve lingering issues. What would it make space for? How would it make you feel?

Related – 10 Ways to Resolve Conflict in Your Relationship

  1. Vocalise your wants and needs. 

Picture the scene. You return home and begin tending to the housework because you assume your partner will appreciate your attentiveness. Except, that’s not what your partner wanted. They’re now feeling invisible because they quite fancied a chat about their day over a cuppa, and they’re taking your domestic diligence as a comment on their ability to maintain the household. 

Avoid awkward assumptions and create stronger connections by vocalising your wants and needs as a couple. Don’t assume you know what your partner needs and don’t assume they’ll instinctively know what you’re looking for. Get into the habit of checking in with one another by asking simple questions, like, ‘How’re you feeling?’ and ‘What do you need?’, and grow accustomed to asking for help when you need it too. 

  1. Consider your partner’s perspective. 

You can practice compassion by empathising with your partner, even if you don’t necessarily agree with their perspective or fully appreciate their position. Search for common ground and look at ways you can achieve parity by listening without interruption and figuring out how you can both play active roles in the life you’ve built together. 

If you struggle to see eye-to-eye, consider the influences and experiences that inform their point of view and spend time reflecting on things you may have taken for granted. Are they carrying a ‘hidden load’ of daily domestic responsibilities? Do you show them the respect they deserve with both your actions and words? 

  1. Reflect before you respond. 

We’ve all said and done things in the heat of the moment that we’ve lived to regret, and it makes for a complex cleanup effort when unkind words are shared and feelings are hurt. Take time to think things through before you react, and let your mind catch up with your mouth to avoid adding fuel to the fire.  

On the other hand, you might be well-versed in reflecting and instead struggle with responding. You can’t sing from the same hymn sheet if one of you is reactive and the other is passive. Hold yourselves accountable by allowing one another space to process your thoughts before convening for an honest, level-headed conversation. 

  1. Own your part and apologise.

It’s easy to dismiss your partner’s feelings or feel defensive when they raise an issue with you. It’s far healthier to own your part and reflect on the influences that have impacted your behaviour, from societal expectations to the example set out by those who raised you. 

By acknowledging and accepting one another’s experiences and appreciating the intent behind what your partner says and does, you start to see things more clearly and allow one another autonomy and the benefit of the doubt. 

Learning to apologise caveat-free when you’ve upset your partner, whether or not the fault lies entirely with you, is hugely important. Saying ‘I’m sorry if what I said/did upset you’. Accountability only works when both parties reciprocate and acknowledge any hurt they’ve caused the other.  You aren’t on the battlefield. There are no winners and losers. Grow together by allowing for autonomy and apologies. 

  1. Hold regular accountability check-ins.

Accountability doesn’t have to be a fear-fuelled, animosity-addled beast. Make space for regular, non-combative check-ins and they’ll soon become a natural part of your relationship. Set aside time to talk to one another without distraction, and start by taking stock of where you’re at and what’s not working. For example, step one of the conversation may look like…

Partner 1: ‘I feel like the only adult in the relationship and always have to ask for your contribution. I know I’m often reacting from a critical place, but it’d be good to feel like we were a team again.’ 

Partner 2: ‘I would like that too, but when I try to do anything I get criticised, so I avoid it or wait to be asked as I fear you won’t be happy either way.’ 

This back-and-forth encourages you to express your feelings and offer insight into your behaviours. Once you’ve got those basics out in the open, you can move on to step two and seek to take ownership of your part. For example:

Partner 1: ‘I appreciate that I’ve been treating you like a child, and I apologise for not communicating with you in a healthy, respectful way. I want to change how I vocalise my needs, and here’s how I’m going to do that…’ 

Partner 2: ‘I recognise that I’ve not been pulling my weight, and I apologise for the undue stress it has caused you. I want to take more responsibility, and here’s how I’m going to do that…’

Taking time to check in with one another is an excellent way to increase intimacy and reset your relationship because it helps to eliminate confrontation and extensive downloads on every single way you’ve ever rubbed your partner up the wrong way.  

Related – How to Increase Intimacy in Your Relationship

  1. Set realistic goals you can work on together.

Real change arrives when the two of you set joint goals you can work towards instead of focusing on what the other is or isn’t doing. Find time to plan your week, share your intentions and allocate tasks so you know where you stand. Review your progress once the weekend rolls around, and use that awareness to set goals for the following week.

These goals may be solely practical at first, covering domestic duties and tasks at the top of your to-do list, but you could delve into relational goals too. For instance, you could seek to re-introduce some romantic gestures that have fallen by the wayside or plan a faff-free date for the two of you to enjoy. 

Related – 8 Creative Date Ideas for Busy Couples


Taking accountability can be a powerful step towards a happier, healthier relationship with your partner. It’s not always easy, especially if it means owning up to the hurt you’ve caused or bad decisions you’ve made, but there’s a wealth of perspective and healing on the other side. 

Experiment with the practical applications above, or work with me in the therapy room to learn specific tools you can use to reset your relationship this year. 

Bookmark my blog, or follow me on LinkedIn or Instagram, for even more relationship therapy insights. 


I’m Carla Devereux, an experienced relationship psychotherapist helping couples and individuals explore challenging emotions, behaviours and deep-rooted issues with an integrated therapeutic approach. 

Book your therapy session by emailing carla@carladevereux.com or calling 0121 745 9044.

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