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HomeAngerSeven Good Reasons to Blame Your Partner (and Why None of Them Are Good Enough)

Seven Good Reasons to Blame Your Partner (and Why None of Them Are Good Enough)

Reason #7 – It’s Easy!

It’s always easier to see what someone else is doing wrong than what you are doing wrong. At one level this is a simple as that it’s easier to see the food stuck in your partner’s teeth than your own. To see your own you would first need to locate and then look in a mirror.  And then you would need to open your lips to be able to see your own teeth. And we’re not even talking yet about finding the motivation to locate and look in the mirror, much less to expose the ugly condition of your teeth to yourself.

Reason #6 – It Feels Better in the Moment

At the worst, blaming someone else may actually feel good in the moment.  More often part of it feels good in a venting, energy release kind of way, but another part feels not so good, in an out-of-control, guilty kind of way.  However, even the bad part of this feeling may be more comfortable than how you would feel right at that point if you really took responsibility for whatever part of the conflict was yours.  To take responsibility you potentially have to fight through a wall of shame.  In the moment, that would often feel pretty bad, to really acknowledge that you did something wrong, were bad, screwed up, were unthinking, or whatever you might feel.  See Reason #5!

Reason #5 – Accepting Responsibility and Feeling Bad Are Hard

This is a corollary to Reason 2.  What makes accepting responsibility especially hard is shame, which many (if not all) of us feel to varying degrees.  This is the feeling that fundamentally we aren’t good enough as human beings, that we’re flawed, inadequate, broken, defective…need I say more?  So if we start to accept the idea that we might have done something a little wrong it taps into this big pool of  “I’m all bad.”  And that just feels awful!  Possibly one of the worst places to be in, ever.  Feeling totally isolated in your badness, cut off from any possibility of love from anyone else, for eternity.  Wow, no wonder it feels better to blame your partner!  But wait, there’s more…

Reason #4 – We’ve Been Taught All Our Lives to Blame

Starting as little kids we were taught right and wrong, and especially when we were wrong.  First by our parents, and then by our teachers through long years of school into adulthood.  Right and wrong behaviors, right and wrong answers, right and wrong everything.  That highlighted and underscored those feelings of shame for the most significant, tender formative years of our lives..  We also learned that if you can successfully deny it, or push the responsibility off onto someone else then you don’t have to feel that shame as much.  “I didn’t do it, Joey did!”

Reason #3 – We Use Ourselves As the Standard

We each tend to think that “The way I do it is the best way.”  Of course!  We’ve spent our whole lives improving on (or working against!) what our parents taught us, so this must be the way to do it!   Perhaps the only way to do it!  “If you would only do it my way!”  Well, it turns out there are lots of ways to do things, and in many cases either it doesn’t really matter, different conditions may demand different ways, or at any rate it’s probably not worth losing your relationship over.  But giving this up can be scary, feeling like you might lose yourself in giving up your ideas, your ways and so on.

Reason #2 – It’s Hard to Fully Accept That Your Partner Is a Different Person

This is a corollary to #3.  Things would seemingly be much easier and smoother if your partner just thought about and did things the way you do.  But your partner is a different person, with his or her own ideas, personality, and ways.  Of course at some level we realize this, but too often if our partners do something differently from how we would, we feel anger and frustration.  And we justify our anger will all manner of justifications and rationalizations.  “But my way really is better. No, really.” And sometimes it is.  But how much of the time is it worth sacrificing your relationship for being right, or wanting your partner to react the same way you do?  Coming to terms with those differences can be painful, can make you feel separate from them, can scare you that maybe you and your partner are too different after all.  But it can also bring you closer in the long run.

Reason #1 – It’s Animal Nature to Bite Back

When we feel criticized or blamed it’s natural to criticize or blame back. This is an extension of our protective reflex to attack a source of physical threat or pain. (See my post about Communication for more on this.) So it makes perfect sense that when we are hurt emotionally we would try to hurt back in an effort to relieve our own pain. This instinct may be one of the most powerful forces behind blame, and especially the kind of reflexive retaliatory blame that gets us stuck in miserable escalating fights. Our best intentions are little match against the hard-wiring of mother nature.

Why None of These Reasons Are Good Enough

Think of a time when you have felt blamed or criticized. Remember how it felt inside? Think of a time when you were in a fight with your partner. Chances are, at least part of what you were feeling was blamed, criticized, hurt, and angry. Now think of how you felt the next day or perhaps days later (assuming that you did have some recovery from that fight). Remember how much more clearly you could think about the topics? Remember how much more you could think about your partner’s point of view? Perhaps you were even able to come to some resolution with your partner in that calmer place.  If not, or if it’s hard to even get to a calmer, clearer place after a day, then the pain you are causing each other is becoming chronic and this would be a good time to seek counseling.

When we feel blamed, criticized, or misunderstood, the feelings of hurt and anger take over our minds and bodies, making it almost impossible to have a decent conversation. Not only are we unable to think clearly, but it becomes much more difficult to really listen to our partner. Furthermore–since it is natural to retaliate in an effort to get relief from the pain–the most likely tendency is to strike back, inducing all of those bad feelings that we are having in our partner. So now we are both not only impaired, but caught in an unpleasant cycle that’s only getting worse.

Knowing how bad it feels to feel blamed or criticized, and knowing how it cripples the conversation and relationship, wouldn’t it seem worthwhile to learn how to get what you want without blame and criticism?

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