Accountability: Fixing Relationships Not People

The Story

When I finished teaching “Personal Accountability & the QBQ!” to a fine group, Monica approached me. She said …

“I read QBQ! a couple of months ago … it saved my marriage.”

Taken aback, I thanked her and asked, “Can you tell me the story?”

“Sure. Before work one day, I loaded my trunk with some stuff because I planned to leave my husband after work. That morning my boss gave me the QBQ! book, so I read it over lunch. I immediately knew my mistake … .”

I encouraged her to continue with, “Which was?”

“I’d been trying to fix my husband.”

I responded, “I appreciate you sharing this. How’s it going now?”

Monica said, “It’s not perfect, but we’re still together.” 👏🏻

The Challenge

Recently, my wife, Karen, and I have heard from a bunch of people about relational stuff. Folks who want or need to vent—which we understand.

A man angry at his mother for her manipulative behaviors.

A wife resentful because her husband won’t curtail his drinking.

A son unable to comprehend his father’s coldness.

A dad troubled by a grown child’s financial decisions.

A woman hurt over being “gaslighted” by a friend.

A mom frustrated by her teen’s sullenness and introversion.

A couple unhappy with an offspring’s career move.

To give these scenarios context, not one of these frustrated, bewildered, hurt, or angry people is under 30 years old. We’re not talking ‘tweens and teens here—or even Gen Zrs—but rather those of a “mature” age.

To be clear, I’m not saying humans should never feel frustrated, hurt, or angry. Real-life scenarios like these can be very challenging. But, when we embrace the truth shared below, well … everything is better.

The Truth

In 1991, eleven years married, Karen came to me to say, “Johnny, I’m going to marriage counseling. You coming?!”

Um ………..

But, we went. Why? Because this relationship is the most important relationship in my life. And—

I hoped counseling would fix Karen. 🙂

Instead, I learned a truth that I’ve discovered again and again: I can only change me. Period.

That’s what Personal Accountability is about. It’s difficult, though, to get straight in our heads because it’s tempting to believe accountability is for others. However, accountability in relationships is about me changing me.

Back to our seven examples above and the obvious theme:

If only others would listen to me, understand me, and change!

So, when people share with Karen and me and then ask, “So what should I do???” they’re gonna hear the message of the QBQ! book, over and over again:


I’m sure it gets repetitive, but as we say in QBQ!, “Repetition is the motor of learning.”


Now, if this fundamental yet life-changing idea of striving only to change self is one you need to apply today, go for it. The rewards will be great—promise!

Question: Other than yourself, who have you been trying to fix? 😊


2 Responses

  1. I love the message of we can only fix ourselves. But in the situation of a spouse drinking too much, how do you change your own behaviors to help that change?

    1. Thanks for asking, Monica These are hard situations. Obviously, no one can cause an addict to stop whatever he or she is doing but the addict. What we need to be concerned with is ensuring we are NOT enabling this person in any way. Natural consequences MUST be allowed to happen based on the choices that a person (the addict) makes. Letting go … and taking care of yourself is important. Be well, Monica.

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