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The Blame Game

by Ruth Gordon, LCSW

It’s so tempting, when something goes wrong, to decide that someone, anyone, but us, is responsible for the fiasco. If the person we wish to be at fault is a stranger and if we can manage to ignore the little voice inside that knows that we‘ve bent the truth, I suppose it’s ok to take that stand. If, however, our problem is with someone close to us, we are facing an entirely different situation.

I see many couples in my practice, and, not surprisingly, I hear a lot of , “you did this” or “you made me do that”(rarely, by the way, does anyone “make“ us do anything). The reason such individuals show up at my door is that they get so caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong, that they keep going around in circles. What is really needed is a tactic that focuses on solution, not fault.

Now, this sounds like common sense, but I’ll bet that there’s not one of us who’s reading this who hasn’t resorted to blame at one time or another — it’s human nature.

We avoid accepting culpability for many reasons, among them, feeling stupid because we made the mistake, fearing the consequences of our behavior, and a deep-seated feeling of shame that can result in a very painful self-image. The paradox is that often we are more forgiving of the errors of others than those we make ourselves.

In long-term relationships it’s really important to keep in mind that when we vanquish our “opponent”, who was previously dear to us, we are setting up a situation that is a perfect breeding ground for resentment and dishonesty. The erosion of trust and positive bonds is assured under these circumstances, and we lose far more than we have gained.

When the focus is on the solution, we are forced to work together, which rebuilds the positive bond. Try to remember that there is almost always more than one way to work out a difficulty. However tempting it might be, avoid the old “I told you so” if the other person’s attempt fails. It’s far more productive to say, “Ok let’s try something else”.

One of the most frequent relationship challenges I encounter in my office is the fact that one party will not allow the other to forget mistakes and hurts of times past. Trust me, if you insist on harping on things that happened months or years ago all your partner will hear is, “blah, blah, blah “, he/she has heard it all before. You must figure out what it would take to allow you to let go of the hurt and concentrate on now. Maybe you need an apology. Maybe you want your experience validated. Decipher what your need is. At some point it will be necessary to take the leap toward trust again — that is, if you want to reestablish intimacy. If not, please recognize that all the spying and questioning in the world will not ensure the other person’s sincerity. If you are the person who allegedly did the harm, accept responsibility, stop defending yourself and be very careful to only make promises you can keep — your self-esteem is at stake.

Another thought, it’s easy to assume that everyone sees the world in the same way that we do. Be slow to criticize and please do not stoop to ridicule. Unless identical twins married identical twins who grew up next door, followed the same religion, etc., it’s going to happen — you and the other person will have different theories as to the way things should be. Let me give you a silly example. I was having trouble backing out of the driveway last week. My husband, who was losing patience with me, said “why aren’t you using the side mirrors for that?” I told him that I always looked out the back window to back up. The more he insisted that I back up his way, the more I wanted to do things my way — (the back window happened to be foggy at the time). Well, I backed up alright — right into the mailbox & dented & scratched the whole rear side panel of the car. Guess I should have tried it his way!

The point is, we all have habits that we don’t even think about. When someone disappoints you, try not to make the mistake of thinking that because your partner, friend, whoever, is not aware of what pleases you is proof of a lack of caring. So often, hard feelings emerge between partners because each of them expects the other to read his/her mind. “If you loved me you would have…” If you don’t let the other person know exactly what you want, don’t be surprised if what you’re expecting doesn’t happen. Someone doesn’t love you more because they make a lucky guess once in a while!

Part of growing up is learning to put things into perspective and to know that even if someone holds an opinion that differs from ours, they can care about us just the same. Try to learn from mistakes and differences. You can be quite sure that making someone you care about feel “less than” never produces future happiness.

Ruth Gordon is licensed clinical social worker in both Massachusetts and Florida. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

9 Responses to “The Blame Game”

  1. Brooke Petersen Says:

    I am guilty of doing this at times myself but i completely understand where you are coming from!

  2. Mother-Daughter Relationships Says:

    I am guilty of this too. Its a mother-daughter relationship and I don’t know how to forgive and forget. My daughter will say something that triggers a memory of a past negative behavior and I take a positive interaction and turn it into a negative. How can I stop doing that?

  3. Egypt Adu Says:

    Oh my. When I read this it is all to familiar. My wife blames me for everything. EVERYTHING. Never taking responsibility for anything and I am losing my mind. This article really help me to see it’s not me. The small mistakes I have made I don’t hear the end of them. These things happen months ago. The amazing part about it is I told her the same you mentioned in this article and thats to focus on the present and future, but she refuses to and I have no life in this relationship. I thank you for this article because it does put things in perspective. I was beginning to believe that I had major issues. When your blamed long enough for things you know that wasnt your fault you begin to believe you are the blame.

  4. Nancy Lillie Says:

    May13,2009…..Thursday 3:30pmI too seriously feel as I’m loosing my mind….describes my life as we speak and I hate it. No matter what I do or dont do,say or dont say, I am constantly critized and threatened,3 nights ago he put his fist threw the door,and somehow its my fault and if i didnt shut up he’d punch me too. I dont look forward to him coming home,because he’s either going to be nice to me or he’ll character assignate me. I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. I hardly leave the house anymore,I’m too self-conscious,it’s insane! I need,we need help…I can’t do this anymore.I tell him this,naturally he twists what I say to be my fault…fault for what I ask..I dont remember his response if i’m left hanging…! It doens’t ever end. Last night he interpereted an alement ,I’ve been feeling lately,to be an excuse to not be intimant,and ran with it hollering that i’m not intrested blah blah blah, a tendon or muscle spasm means that IDK! But now what’s going on…all i get is silence,anger(he’s very loud an uses this,his yelling deafens me,and i shake inside) I’m not perfect by no means,i don’t plan to hurt anyone,i dont scheeme up “what can i do today to tic him off stuff”that i’m accused of. I don’t know what to do anymore..It’s 4pm now he’s purposely late if he’s coming home at all. If he does it’s not going to be good..

  5. Revert Says:

    I have heard women say that they like strong men. In some cases iit may be physical strength in ther cases they say it is the strength to be okay with the woman flirting and what not with another man.

    What is the logic by which a man who tolerates his woman flirting with other men a sign of strength.

  6. Deman Says:

    I totally agree with you.

  7. Skip Says:

    Wow folks. I feel so sorry for you guys. Why? Because I am one of those people that BLAME. I dont know why. I have had a LOT of negative things in my life and all I can think of is that its a defense mechanism I guess. Trust me, I’m not looking for an excuse here. Thats why I am searching online for help. I know that I have a problem, just dont know exactly why or how to fix it. All I can say is that coming from a person’s perspective that does this is that the people doing it may not realize it exactly. They may be 100% convienced that they are right and you are wrong. With that said, trying to explain to them that they may be the issue is probably not going to solve the problem. SOmetimes it takes peopel coming to gribs their own way, their own time to realize that they are a jack@ass.

    The other day my wife and I were rushing to leave the house. Down the road I realized I forgot my cell phone. And yes, immediately it popped in my head to complain to my wife that we were in too big of a hurry and that she never helps out and blah freakin blah. I’m an idiot. I left my freakin cell phone because I was stupid, because if I was rushed it was my fault, not hers.

    Well, from me to all of the people that get blammed, I am sorry on behalf of your partner. Its not fair to you, its no kind of life to live. I know its hell sometimes, but try to understand that they have some type of disorder and may not know what they are doing all of the time.

    If anyone can help me out further, please do. I truly want to change, just dont know how. If there was a medicine to take, a mental issue to name, or anything I could do I would.

  8. tips-to-attract-women Says:

    Hi, good post. I’d add a little piece. I am the general denominator in all of this – what is it about me that attracts these women and not what I need? Check out magazines. They’re always running articles on these varieties of issues. You can also instruct about indicating potential interestingnesses the greatest and most shiny interpretation of yourself, which may be percentage of the ground for the kind of women you are pulling in. In other speech…. If you aren’t seeing the kind of fish you like, switch your sportfishing place and change the rally you’re practicing.

  9. Self Esteem Says:

    Thank you so much, there aren’t enough posts on this… keep up the good work

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