When it comes to the worst things you can do to put an end to your relationship, blaming your partner for something is almost at the top of the list. First and foremost, blaming your partner is a form of emotional abuse. Second, your partner can start believing that they are responsible for things that were most of the time beyond their control, or with which they had nothing to do. Your partner ends up experiencing these constant guilty feelings that affect their self-esteem and, in turn, create a cycle of self-blame. Blaming will destroy your relationship, first by eliminating intimacy. While it creates defensive behaviors, your partner will start to avoid you, distancing themself in an attempt to preserve their sense of self-worth. After all, it’s no surprise that research shows that blaming your partner for marital problems is associated with lower marital satisfaction.
Blaming and defenses.
When it comes to blame in a relationship, its easier to see the faults in your partner instead of the faults in yourself. The problem with pointing fingers is that both partners feel that they are right, and both may be wrong. Each one of us has our flaws, and the way we choose to defend ourselves is what pushes us away from our partners. These dysfunctional defenses can be triggered in ways that leave you unable to acknowledge the impact they have on your relationship. Early childhood experiences, past intimate relationships, and other trauma all leave their scars. For example, someone may have difficulty connecting with their partner because, in their childhood, they were abandoned by their parents, making them afraid that at any time, they could be abandoned by their partner, too. Instead of wasting your energy on your partner’s flaws, acknowledge your own defenses. To make your relationship stronger, you first need to strengthen yourself.
Signs of the blame game in a relationship:
- You feel resentful toward each other.
- You can’t let go of issues, and instead of addressing them, you punish each other.
- Instead of setting boundaries, you keep hurting each other.
- You feel that your partner is responsible for how you feel.
- You make assumptions about your partner’s behavior instead of being curious and willing to explore things.
- You blame your partner’s character.
Strengthen yourselves with these two steps:
Take responsibility.It is important to take responsibility for your actions and reactions. This includes acknowledging and accepting the consequences of your thoughts, feelings, and words. Be responsible for your feelings. You always have a choice regarding how you respond to your partner’s behavior.
Communicate.Whether you are the person who blames their partner or the victim, communicate with openness and honesty. Always use “I” statements and discuss how you feel with your partner.
Eliminating blaming in your relationship.
Understand that blaming is based on early experiences and fear.
Blaming, as mentioned earlier in this article, is a defense mechanism against a perceived threat or danger. Most of the time, this blame is learned in childhood. Perceived threats might come from anywhere—from feeling unheard or feeling judged. Blame is the way we attack someone when we feel that they are threatening our identity or our relationship.
Calm down from your emotions.
The fight/flight/freeze mode is activated when partners engage in conflict. Both partners heat up emotionally and stop thinking logically and they start expressing angry feelings to each other. The first step to break this cycle is to slow things down. When conflict arises, it is important that you step back and take a break. When the intense emotions fade away, then you are ready to accept a different point of view.
Realize that you cannot change your partner.
Many people try to fix their relationship by trying to change their partner. You need to understand that there are many points of view in a situation. Therefore, your perspective might be wrong, and your partner may be right. Sit down and think about the situation from a different perspective, then discuss it with your partner and hear what they have to say. When both of you start to feel comfortable and safe discussing and sharing your thoughts, you are already making progress.
Help each other feel understood.
Both of you should take time to process your emotions and thoughts together. When you understand your own thoughts and feelings, they will become clearer to your partner, too. You both need to help each other feel understood.
Be sure to apologize to your partner if you have said something where you were really blaming them. At the same time, be sure you express your love and affection to them.
What to do if you are the victim.
Express your opinion.
Sometimes, blame can lead to unhealthy and abusive relationships and should not be tolerated. Help your partner understand how you feel as soon as possible and in a clear way. From there, make an effort to hear to what your partner is saying and find a way to work things out together.
Ask your partner to name the issue instead.
First, ask your partner to name the issue instead of blaming you. Make a rule that whenever there is an issue, you give each other the chance to understand what is going wrong. This allows you to clarify the issue and make the necessary changes.
Don’t take the blame personally.
Some partners just like to blame someone else for every little thing. Remember that blaming is like any other negative self-defense mechanism. Don’t take it personally and try to find the real reason for your partner’s irritation.
Turn the situation around.
Instead of engaging in a blame game, turn the negative situation into a productive moment. Help your partner focus on a solution instead of blaming you. Furthermore, remain willing to listen to your partner’s needs.
Whether you feel responsible for the situation or not, it is important to accept some of the responsibility and be willing to work for the sake of the relationship. Relationships require a team effort and hard work; this is something to remind your partner.
Set boundaries and leave if you need to.
If blaming becomes a habit, you need to set boundaries. For example, when you are having a conversation with your partner and you feel blamed, you can let them know that you are taking a break and walk away, saving the conversation for another time when both of you will be calmer.
Marriage coaching and blaming.
Marriage coaching or relationship coaching offer a safe environment to work through issues with blaming and give partners the opportunity to increase their own self-awareness. Partners must reflect on their own responsibility. No one can be right all the time, and your partner is never 100% to blame. Even if our part of the responsibility chart is only 5%, it is important to recognize that 5%. Furthermore, we must understand that our behaviors are independent and are not forced by our partners. Therefore, we must understand that we are exclusively responsible for our ow actions and reactions.
In marriage coaching, couples can learn to control what is under their own control. For example, you can control your own actions and reactions, but not you partner’s reactions. Changing your own actions and dysfunctional behaviors is a huge step to improving your marriage or committed relationship. Though controlling your behaviors sounds like an easy thing to do, it’s definitely one of the hardest things you will have to do for your marriage. Because many behaviors are an extension of yourself, you often don’t even acknowledge them. Marriage coaching can help you discover these parts of yourself and acknowledge the behaviors that may be damaging your marriage. It helps you and your partner bring thought processes that have been swept into your subconscious back into the here and now. Marriage coaching can help you see how you are influencing your partner and how you are influenced by your partner’s actions while taking responsibility for and changing your own actions.
Relationship coaching can also help us break down defensive patterns of communication and facilitate a greater connection with your partner when your relationship feels stuck. To break the negative cycle of blaming, relationship coaching will also help you learn new ways to communicate and respond. When you can respond in a way that meets your partner’s needs, you can be more available and accessible to each other. Relationship coaching can help you see that instead of being defensive, you and your partner can open yourselves up to receiving and giving love back.
Finally, relationship coaching can help you reframe your position. It can help you focus on the real issues rather than how you argue with each other. A relationship coach can help you explore what is really going on when something has bothered or hurt one of you. This creates a more open diode for communicating feelings and thoughts without the fear of being blamed.
When dealing with blaming, the most important thing that partners can do is stick together and work together. It is important that you and your partner come up with solutions that work for both of you. If blame is destroying your relationship, pay close attention to your behavior the next time you are in a challenging situation with your partner. We all have flaws, so let go of defensiveness and focus on accepting your partner the way they are. If you can do this, you will definitely strengthen your marriage.
Madden, M. E., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1981). Blame, control, and marital satisfaction: Wives’ attributions for conflict in marriage. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 43(3), 663. https://doi.org/10.2307/351767.