Women are conditioned to take responsibility for everything that happens in a relationship, whether that's their partner's feelings, their partner's actions, or the relationship's eventual dissolution. But there are some things that are never your fault in a relationship, and taking the blame will only lead to unnecessary suffering. It's important to take responsibility for your own choices, but it's equally important not to carry the weight of your partner's mistakes.
"In many cases, there is no one to blame for [relationship] issues," Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear, tells Bustle. "Interestingly, those who are more conscientious tend to blame themselves more, taking accountability for things that are not their responsibility or within their control. The less conscientious partner may avoid taking responsibility even when [they are] creating many of the issues by shirking responsibilities, inattention, etc."
Rather than playing the blame game, Manly suggests focusing on how you and your partner's actions have made each of you feel and how you could improve in the future. "I don’t believe that blame is an effective tool," she says. "What is most important is taking responsibility."
Here are some relationship issues you shouldn't get down on yourself over, because they're really not your fault.
Your Partner's Feelings
Similarly, if a choice of yours makes your partner feel bad, that's not necessarily your fault either. It could reflect your partner's preexisting issues or their interpretation of your actions. For example, if your partner gets insecure when you watch porn, that doesn't mean you have to stop watching it so they feel better.
"It’s important to listen to your partner’s perceptions and experiences and then determine how your behavior contributed, but you are only responsible for your part, not how they choose to react to it," couples' consultant and coach Lesli Doares tells Bustle. "You can recognize your responsibility by how you feel. Most of us know when we have behaved inappropriately or unfairly. That’s what you take ownership of and address."
Your Own Feelings
If you're losing interest in your relationship or sex life, it's an unfortunate situation to be in but not a wrongdoing on your part. "In many cases, there is no one to blame for such issues; sometimes life gets too busy, priorities get out of order, and important issues go by the wayside," says Manly. You just have to decide if your waning feelings are a reason to end the relationship or something you want to work through.
Mistakes You Could Not Have Prevented
It's easy to beat ourselves up when we make the wrong decisions for ourselves, our partners, or the relationship. But we can't always know in advance that such decisions will turn out badly.
"Sometimes plans go awry," NYC-based intimacy expert and relationship coach Lia Holmgren tells Bustle. "Coupled with existing stress, this can cause couples to start blaming each other, but partners shouldn’t be blaming each other. I think blame toward ourselves or towards our partners is unhealthy and should be avoided in general. Instead of blaming, it’s better to find a constructive solution for the future when the same situation occurs."
Your Partner's Infidelity
If you've been cheated on, your first impulse may be to try to figure out how you failed to satisfy your partner's needs so that you can stop them from cheating again. But the truth is, it was their decision to cheat. You didn't ask for it.
The bottom line? "A romantic partner should be a partner and not a babysitter, parent, or a therapist. It’s good to have a partner we can share our frustration with or ask for help and lean on, but it shouldn’t be the main focus of a romantic relationship to be solving one person’s problems and dumping negativities and frustrations on each other," says Holmgren. "If there is someone constantly blaming [themselves] for things in the relationship, that person needs to evaluate their self-love and self-worth. If there is a partner who is constantly blaming the other partner for things, it’s important to evaluate the relationship."