When it comes to detrimental things you can do to screw up your relationships, blaming the other person for something – justified or not — is near the top of the list.
While I have written much on the negative effects of blaming on relationships, my focus has been on the deleterious effects on the blamer and how this impacts the relationship.
I have recently had the good fortune to connect with Dr. Tom Jordan, a clinical psychologist and owner of the Love-Life Learning Center. Dr. Jordan has written about blaming from the point of view of a relationship expert and has described how being the blamee negatively effects your relationships.
I’d like to discuss several issues that Dr. Jordan has written about, and I encourage everyone to go to the source and read Dr. Jordan’s Love-Life Website blogs.
1) Chronic blaming is a form of emotional abuse. Dr. Jordan asserts that chronically being blamed for an act that you did not actually commit is like taking a verbal beating. I agree with this and further suggest that even if this was something that you actually were responsible for, but meant no harm, constantly getting blamed is still an inappropriate and non-productive form of communication between lovers, friends, or family members.
We can find much better and productive forms of communication in our relationships to promote growing and healing which can still identify a responsible party but try to work on the why it happened and how to reduce the chances of it happening again. The use of “I” statements that reflect your feelings – “I feel hurt or sad when you do this,” rather than “you” blaming statements – “you always do that,” are more likely to evoke emotions that bring us together rather than tear us apart.
2) The blamee, subjected to a regular diet of blame may start believing that they are responsible for things that were beyond their control or with which they had nothing to do. Dr. Jordan reports that being a victim of a loved one’s blame leads to self-blame and feelings of guilt. Thus, a subtle transition occurs moving from the blamer’s thoughts of “blaming you for the things that happen to me” to the blamee thoughts of “blaming me for the things that happen to you.”
3) Down the road, the guilty feelings that the blamee experiences, inevitably result in poor self-esteem. Here we start a vicious cycle as lower self-esteem leads to lower standards for what you are willing to tolerate and accept in your relationships.
4) Dr. Jordan asserts that becoming a victim of self-blame may have its roots early in childhood. One example that he uses is when a child blames themselves for their parents’ divorce. “If only I had done better in school, daddy and mommy wouldn’t have fought so much.” “If only I had not said that bad word, daddy wouldn’t have left.”
These hurtful words may represent the seeds of personal discontent and adult issues with self-esteem. As parents, we must assume much of the responsibility for creating these harmful beliefs and attitudes in our children when we blame them for things that are beyond their control or within a normal range of childhood behavior. We blame them for “wetting their bed,” for “being too loud while you were on the phone which cost you a business deal," for “leaving their toys on the floor, which caused you to lose your temper – again.” We make them responsible for our actions and reactions, while in fact only we are responsible for these.
5) Blaming reduces intimacy. It’s obviously difficult to get close to someone or to maintain a close relationship when they have their arm outstretched with an accusing finger. In contrast to the road of self-blaming and low self-esteem, the act of blaming may also result in defensive behavior and bitter feelings from the blamee. Similarly, a blamer who is basing their blames on deceptions to avoid responsibility may also distance themselves in a relationship in an attempt to preserve their sense of self-worth.
Like you’ve heard from me many times before:
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your actions and reactions; for your thoughts, feelings, and words. This applies to the blamer and the blamee. Avoid blaming – focus on how to make improvements. Blaming is almost never associated with making improvements in a relationship.
TAKE OWNERSHIP of your feelings. This also goes for the blamer and blamee. For the blamer, you are in control of your emotions and reactions to others. You have a choice regarding how you respond. Blaming also puts the blamer in the victim role as they are accusing others of controlling their lives and giving their power away. Rather than unilaterally focusing on the negative with a blame, try to move to the positive and collaborate for a solution which is mutually beneficial. For the blamee, you also have a choice not to take ownership of someone else’s negative stuff. If you choose to stay in this relationship it is your responsibility to co-create a healthy environment but that doesn’t mean that you are responsible for their happiness or should be blamed for their unhappiness.
COMMUNICATE with openness and with honesty. If you are blamed, discuss with your partner how you feel about being blamed, rather than point your finger back at them and blame them for blaming you! Using “I” statements and describing how you feel will go a long way to forging an emotionally supportive and satisfying relationship.
Thank you, Dr. Jordan, for your insights into the impact of blaming on relationships.
Copyright 2013, Neil Farber