7 Ways To Stop The Blame Game From Affecting Your Relationship
When you're in a relationship, it's so easy to place all the blame on your partner even if you know it's not entirely their fault. After all, nobody ever really wants to be wrong. But when you're in a relationship, it's important to sacrifice being right for the good of the relationship. If you don't, experts say the blame game can sabotage your relationship.
"Blaming is a very unhealthy communication style and often leads to us fighting unfairly and bringing in the past into current arguments," psychologist Kelsey M. Latimer, PhD, CEDS-S, founder of Hello Goodlife, tells Bustle.
Playing the blame game is common. But that doesn't make it healthy. In fact, Latimer says, blaming is never a positive thing and is usually a sign of an unhealthy relationship dynamic. "This can range from everyday things to big things," she says. "More often than not, it’s not about the 'what' we are blamed for, but rather the 'why' we are being blamed or needing to blame." For instance, if one partner has a hard time owning up to their mistakes, they will push the responsbility on someone else.
Nothing good can ever really come out of blaming your partner. So here's what you can do to stop the blame game from ruining your relationship, according to experts.
1. Recognize When You're Being Blamed And Discuss It
If you feel like you're being blamed for something, bring it up. Get to the root of why your partner is making you feel like you've done something wrong. "Make it known and catch it as soon as possible," Latimer says. "When left undiscussed, it can begin to become a pattern in the relationship that's seen as OK." Patterns of blaming can lead to unhealthy and potentially toxic relationship styles. To avoid getting stuck in a blame game cycle, don't call your partner out on it. Use "I" statements instead, such as "I feel like you're blaming me for something and I want to understand why."
2. Keep Reminding Yourself That Your Partner Is Not You
Sometimes all it takes is a little shift in mindset. "Accepting that your partner is different from you can be an important reframing," Jean G. Fitzpatrick L.P., licensed relationship therapist, tells Bustle. So repeat to yourself, "My partner is different, not necessarily wrong." Then, have a calm discussion to try to understand where your partner is coming from. If you don't, it's OK to end the discussion by agreeing to disagree.
3. Practice Gratitude
"The antidote to criticism and blaming is to choose to focus on enjoying each other more," Fitzpatrick says." When everything's annoying, that’s a litmus test that’s telling you you’re not focusing enough on positive input." So practice gratitude. Think about all the different things you love about your partner each day and express your appreciation. When you constantly see your partner in a good light, you're less likely to blame, criticize, or lash out in hurtful ways.
4. Talk Openly About Your Expectations
"When my clients find themselves engulfed in the blame game, it's often because they and/or their partner have implicit expectations about certain things that should be happening in the relationship, or ways that their partner should or should not be behaving," Madison McCullough, LCSW, tells Bustle. It's important to remember that your partner is not a mind reader. They can assume to know what you want, but they won't ever truly know unless you explicitly let them know. "Identifying what these expectations are, and voicing them to your partner is key in breaking this pattern," McCullough says. "A conversation about these expectations can help to put the blame game to rest."
5. Practice Active Listening
"Be open, curious, and really listen to your partner," Suzie Pileggi Pawelski, MAPP and James O. Pawelski, PhD, tell Bustle. As hard as it may be, don't say anything while your partner shares their side of the story. If you give them an opportunity to speak and actually listen to what they're saying, you can avoid a larger argument.
6. Understand That You Can't Control How Your Partner Reacts To You, But You Can Control How You React To Them
The easiest way to get stuck playing the blame game is to keep throwing accusations back and forth. While you can't control what your partner says or does, relationship expert Susan Sparks, tells Bustle, you control yourself. "It's important to remember that we are still individuals, two individuals who together make up one couple," she says. "We still have the right to speak up, move away from a situation that we do not like, or simply leave altogether."
7. Don't Take It Personally And Think About The Big Picture
"There are two things that every couple needs to know whenever they're about to argue: nothing is ever personal and think about the bigger picture," Dr. Benjamin Ritter, founder of LFY Consulting, tells Bustle. "Although these two rules may be hard to remember during a heated argument, they can help keep arguments in perspective and from getting out of control." For instance, if you know your partner loves and respects you, the small things they do or don't do aren't meant to hurt you. It's important to remember that you're in it together. If you're arguing over something small like your partner forgetting to walk the dog, think about the bigger picture. Are you really going to let this one thing be a bigger deal than it is?
Overall, it's important to know that nobody ever wins the blame game. Because if you're in a healthy relationship, there's no such thing as a winner and a loser. When you work together as a team and look out for each other even during conflicts, you both come out winners.