There is an on-going battle within many of us on personal responsibility. When do we take responsibility for our actions, when are we shouldering the blame for others', taking on their responsibility as our own.
In the world of intimate partner violence, this "blame game" is a common control mechanism. Questioning your own actions and decisions and feeling as if you are somehow faulty, causing others frustration and pain takes its toll on self-esteem, hope, and belief in your power and control. Conversely, we have to take responsibility for our own actions and NOT give up our power and control in order to heal and to achieve what we want in life. It is a difficult balance.
In my experience, "blame" isn't something that people do purposefully. Blaming others is a defense mechanism, like many others. Who wants to feel bad? Who wants to hurt? No one so if we can shift the blame to someone else, make our decisions belong to someone else, we can (temporarily) feel better.
Repeatedly, people are encouraged to take responsibility for their own actions, regain control but fostering too much personal responsibility is just as dangerous. A person who takes on too much personal responsibility is shouldering the weight of the world and taking blame for decisions that others make. This "blame game" can be the result of of another placing the blame on you, as in the case of intimate partner violence, but also can be more insidious. It can be from the anxiety one carries into relationships, it can be guilt at the possibility of hurting another person, it can be fear....the underlying emotion differs. Consider the following story, a compilation of a number of stories
"We generally have a great relationship, we really don't fight often, have a lot of fun together. They're pretty unflappable really, pretty much calm and "roll with it" kind of thing. But once in awhile, they get really angry. Pissed off when something happens that seems like not too much of a big deal. Like hanging out with my family. For the most part, they're fine with it but once in awhile if I get caught up- helping with something or in a conversation or just losing track of time...or TRYING to get out of a conversation but not being able to break away, that anger comes up. Like I said, not often. And its not like they SAY its my fault per say but they will make comments like, "you said we were going" or "I'm pissed that you took off and stayed with [this person] so long- you said you were coming right back". I used to feel guilty beyond belief that I had committed some unforgivable sin. In the uncomfortable silence that follows, for hours or a day or more, I used to sit wracked with guilt, blaming myself for not following through, for not being a good partner, for being thoughtless....selfish...rude. And it always felt kind of....weird....unreal. When I started my own therapy, I realized that I have to trust that instinct that says something is unreal or weird because it means something is not right. When I started to pay attention to that, I was able to look past the angry stuff. I started to realize that there were things that they could have done but they choose not too. Sure they can say its because they think its rude to interrupt or they weren't comfortable because they didn't know anyone but how are those things my responsibility? In a couple, don't you do things together? Make decisions together? Even if it is something like when to go somewhere and when to leave somewhere. I realized that they could have come to me and said, "hey we were going to do this or that" or "can I talk to you for a minute?". As I thought more, I also started to think about the times I was sort of trapped by that family member who goes on and on and you can't seem to find a way out. Back in the day, when I was with my girlfriends and a guy did that, they rallied around. We'd go "rescue" each other you know? If I wanted to talk to the guy, they were ok with leaving us alone but when I wanted to get away, it was such a relief to link arms with my girlfriends and head off! And I don't remember it being a big deal either. Them doing it for me or me doing it for them. Isn't that kind of connection something to have a relationship too?
I have to be careful when I do think that way because when I started to do it, I got all angry and started to shift blame back again to them, doing the same thing as they did to me, just opposite. I think that's why I am glad I am still in therapy for myself because it helps me figure out that balance. I can't control what they do with it but now I kind of just stay calm and sit it out without agonizing about "could of"s and "should of"s. I don't replay the event in my head over and over, heaping blame on myself for my "selfishness". To be honest, it still doesn't feel great. Obviously I don't want my partner to be upset but its good to know where my responsibility ends. I feel better about myself."
The above story illustrates a fairly health relationship that faces a challenge at times. There are times and situations in which the conflict and blame is too great and tips into abuse, passive aggressive behavior, manipulation, or simply wears too much on the other person. Often though, in these situations, it is about giving your partner space. Let them figure out what they need to and stay strong in your own decisions and values. Stay true and aware to your own needs and the impact of your relationship dynamics on your well-being. Above all, do not sacrifice your power and control nor transfer your pain to others. A difficult balancing act as stated before but much of our lives is finding balance between the mosaic of pieces that make up our lives.
Wishing you wisdom, patience, joy, and balance today~
© Robin L. Shahverdian and livebreathelovecreate.org, 2018- ; Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robin L. Shahverdian and livebreathelovecreate.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.