Does your spouse take credit for your ideas? Or do people compliment your spouse for tasks or projects that you did? Do you get the credit where credit is due?
For example, Jill herself maintains a beautiful garden and takes a lot of pride in it. One day, a neighbor comes to visit the couple and comments to Jill’s husband, Joe, that you’ve got a lovely garden and it must take a lot of work to maintain it. Joe promptly responds with a hearty, “Thank you! Yes, in fact it does take a lot of work!” He then directs the neighbor to the beautiful rose bushes, while Jill is left dumbfounded and hurt that her husband didn’t acknowledge that it was she who created the garden.
Taking the credit when it doesn’t belong to you is actually quite a common problem in relationships, but one that isn’t talked about much. Why? Because usually the person that doesn’t get acknowledged feels like it’s petty and stupid to care about getting the credit. After all, it isn’t a big deal…or is it?
Yes, it is a big deal. Because this goes deeper than just getting the credit. It’s something that can put a wedge in the relationship that can slowly build resentment and anger. It devalues the person who deserves the credit and elevates the person who’s taking the credit. As in the above example, Joe might be suffering from a lack of self-esteem or feel badly that he didn’t help his wife with the garden. So in order to feel worthy and to make himself look better in someone else’s eyes, he takes the credit to the detriment of his wife. For Jill, it’s a matter of trusting her instincts that, yes, it’s important she gets acknowledged for her hard work and that she deserves a voice in the relationship.
So what do you do if this is happening in your relationship?
1. Acknowledge that it’s not petty to feel this way, even though your partner may lead you to believe otherwise. You have a right to want credit for what you’ve done.
2. Say something to your partner, without blaming, that gets your point across that this is hurtful to you. For example, “Remember when our neighbor was over the other day and you made it sound like you maintained the garden? Maybe you don’t realize it, but that made me feel bad about myself, because we both know that I really tend to the garden. I felt unimportant and insignificant, and I’d like it to be handled differently next time.”
3. Maybe your partner will get defensive and make you feel like you’re stupid for feeling that way and that it’s not a big deal at all. Respond with, “It is a big deal, and we need to find out a better way to handle this the next time.” Or your partner may be glad that you’re bringing it to their attention. You might even end up having a deep conversation about why this happens which will bring you closer together because you’ll understand each other better.
4. Try to get a commitment or promise from your partner to be aware of this dynamic so it doesn’t keep repeating itself.
5. Make a plan of how it will be handled the next time should Joe “accidentally” take the credit. For example, you can ask your partner if you have his permission to interrupt and correct him (lightheartedly) should he take the credit. Or create a signal between the two of you in advance that means it’s happening again, so Joe has the opportunity to correct himself before Jill speaks up.
If your spouse steals the limelight, take it seriously because it can cause stress, feelings of insignificance, and resentment. Remember that nothing is petty if it’s the way you feel and it bothers you. Too many couples let the seemingly petty things fester, and soon they are arguing or not talking, and their relationship lacks closeness. By addressing this issue with your partner, you have the opportunity to learn more about your spouse and foster closeness instead of distance
"What's the big deal? All I said was . . ." Sound familiar? Conflict Resolution/Affairs Expert and Therapist, Sharon M. Rivkin, known as the "last ditch effort therapist," is the author of Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy and developer of the First Argument Technique. She’s helped hundreds of couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com.