The Blame Gameby 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.Therapist Directory. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.