One of the most frustrating interactions with your partner is when a discussion turns into a “winning match” of who’s right. You know you have been wronged, but so do they. What to do then? When you engage in a game of finding out who’s fault is for what you are entering the blame game.
Blaming is an unhealthy defense mechanism adopted to release frustration by pointing fingers at others. It could be a learned behavior from poor role modeling at home or it could be unhealthy coping skill to deal with frustration and disappointments. There are many reason why people blame. We’re all guilty of doing at least once in a while, however when you engage in a blame game with your partner, then your relationship is at risk.
According to Dr. Elliot Cohen Ph.D there are four irrational beliefs that fuel the blame game:
- Someone has to be of blame and it is not me.
- This person loses respect due to their behavior.
- I am entitled to treat this person badly for their behavior by name-calling, ignoring and possibly physical assault.
- I can’t take any responsibility for the situation, otherwise I will also be unworthy of respect and can be treated poorly.
How to Stop the Blame Game in Your Relationship:
- Don’t pile up arguments: Also known as building a case. Don’t compile “proof that you’re right” to use against your partner. Stay on track with the problem, respond to your partner accordingly to what is being discussed. When you start throwing the “I did …because you did…” the game has started. If you are noticing a pattern in argument’s topics, than look at the bigger picture of what could be the real problem.
- Focus on empowering yourself: Use “I statements” and listen to understand rather than to respond. In a relationship you can only work on making yourself better, not your partner. Model the change you want to see. Empower yourself by communicating clearly towards a resolution. In the other hand, be aware of not taking responsibility for other’s behaviors. You not only can become the victim of bullying, but also hinder someone’s chance for growth through ownership of their actions.
- Look at your side of the problem: This is where growth will happen for you. Before or after a fight reflect on why you’re blaming and what your part in the problem is. You could be projecting your feelings from an earlier relationship (even with primary caretakers) onto your spouse. You could be afraid of taking responsibility for your part for fear of being rejected by others. Whatever your reasons are, taking ownership for your behavior will only empower and enlighten you to a better relationship.
- Don’t try to win…everyone will lose: If you make a point to “win” the argument, therefore using blaming as a weapon both your spouse and you will lose. Conflicts are chances for positive change. When you “win” you only proved to your partner that you can’t be reasoned with.
The blame game is a dangerous game to play. You not only harm others’ integrity by assigning blame, but also you will stay stuck on who is at fault rather than trying to make the situation better. Many times a situation will be caused by someone’s actions so there is someone at fault. However, determining responsibility is not the same as blaming. In the blame game one will insult the other and withhold respect. Even if someone has done something wrong that doesn’t make them a bad person. It is important to address the behavior as bad, not the person as a whole. Then, by also accepting responsibility for your behaviors a conflict can be actually resolved between you and your spouse..
About the Author
Patricia Cochran is a marriage counselor with The Marriage and Family Clinic. She is passionate about helping couples and families to feel connected again. In her spare time, she is busy with her toddler and enjoying friends and family time.