I’ve been hearing a lot lately on the topic of whataboutism. Don’t know what that is? It’s defined as “the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue” (Oxford Dictionaries).
Basically, it’s when one person says, “So-and-so did this bad thing.” And the other person replies, “Yeah, well, what about so-and-so and their bad thing?” You hear it in politics all the time. In American politics, it often comes across this way: “Democrat A did this terrible thing,” to which someone replies, “Yeah, well, what about Republican B and the terrible thing they did?” Or switch Democrat/Republican. Not surprisingly, such debates go nowhere.
If neither side will ever admit that someone actually did something wrong or unwise, and their entire defense is that someone else in the universe also does bad things, how can any progress be made to improve the situation? It just starts sounding like a bad playground fight with yo-mama insults tossed from one fool to the other and back again.
But before we all feel so superior that we would never be such fools, let me ask: Are you guilty of whataboutism in your marriage?
I’ll be the first to raise my hand. I’ve totally done this in the middle of an argument. You know how this goes:
Him: You said you’d pick up my dry cleaning, but it’s been three days and you haven’t done it.
Her: Yeah, well, what about that weird sound our dishwasher makes that I told you about last week?
Her: We haven’t been on a date in forever, because you’re always working.
Him: Yeah, well, what about when I suggested we take dance lessons and you didn’t want to do that?
Him: I want us to make love more often, because I really miss it.
Her: Yeah, well, I want you to talk to me more, but it’s not like that’s happening.
Honestly, these aren’t like the yo-mama insults, because both parties have a point. The dry cleaning should get picked up, and the dishwasher should be fixed. He might need to stop working so much, and she might need to be more open to new experiences. They should make love more often and talk more.
The problem is that the reply is a deflection tactic. It’s a way to avoid talking about the subject your spouse brought up, to defend yourself by attacking back, and to feel superior to your spouse by pointing out something you’re doing right and they’re doing wrong.
This often happens in the comments section of marriage blogs. When a suggestion is made for a spouse to address an issue, sometimes he or she responds with, “Yeah, well, my spouse…” and then they go on to identify all the awful stuff their spouse is doing. And sure, they oftentimes reveal serious problems their spouse should deal with. But it’s also a way to avoid looking at what you really ought to address with yourself.
Even if your spouse is 90% of the problem, you need to deal with your 10%.Even if your spouse is 90% of the problem, you need to deal with your 10%. Click To Tweet
If your spouse or someone else points out that something’s a problem, resist the temptation to switch the topic. Deal with the issue brought up. If you can resolve that one, you can move on to other issues and deal with those.
But using whataboutism just ensures that no issue really gets addressed and resolved. It becomes a battle of who’s worse, and you know what?
- “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23, NLT).
- “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
And if you think you’re not guilty of committing a sin against your spouse, maybe this one is you:
- “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17).
Next time you’re tempted to start your reply to a complaint from your spouse, or a suggestion from someone else about your marriage, with “Yeah, well, my spouse…” stop yourself. Ask whether your spouse has a point. Even if they word it very poorly (and we often do), dig into what their grievance says about their feelings and what they long to have in your marriage. Figure out how to address that issue and resolve it.
Also read blog posts and books about sexual intimacy with this in mind. As well as the Bible — especially the Bible. It’s not written for everyone else; it’s written for you and me. It’s convicting us. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Now what about that?