When we get stuck in the blame game there can be no winning, only degrees of losing.
This is probably one of the hardest cycles for a couple to break when they are caught up in the blame game. It’s a constant keeping score, stonewalling, waiting for the other to make the first move and more. When in fact very little actually happens and instead the wedge just gets driven deeper and deeper between the two until there is no coming back from it and the relationship completely breaks down.
Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman describes it as one of his “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” — the four behaviors that cause the most trouble in relationships.
What most couples don’t realise when they are stuck in the blame game cycle is that it is a repetitive cycle of trying to get a connection (reaction) from the other. It’s a bit like a boxer who attacks, defends, withdraws, attacks, defends, withdraws constantly tiptoeing around their partner which is both physically and emotionally draining. Never mind the damage this does to the children in the relationship.
“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”~Dr. Robert Anthony
Blame is a victim mindset, not an empowered mindset. The only real answer to solving this spiral is for couples to be curious about what is going on underneath the ‘dance’, maintaining a safe connection and really feeling heard.
We also play the blame game in other areas of our lives for example: our family members (we all know someone that hasn’t spoken to a family member for years due to some argument), friendships (friendships have soured or ended) and even in the workplace (we avoid a boss or colleague that seems to find some joy in making our lives a living hell).
Some couples I’ve worked with over the years have made huge leaps in getting themselves out of this cycle that has totally transformed their relationship whilst others have been too afraid to try. It seems they would rather stay stuck in that painful cycle of attack, withdraw, defend. It pains me to see couples caught up in this cycle because all they are doing is destroying themselves and their relationship.
Many couples come looking for a quick fix to get them out of this space but it takes time. The relationship didn’t deteriorate overnight, it happened over time and it won’t be fixed overnight. It’s going to take time. Time to rebuild the connection, to rebuild the trust, to rebuild communication and to forgive before love can flow freely again.
The first step in this process is to shift our thinking. We’re so busy pointing out the faults of our partner and how they are not meeting our needs that we’re not taking our own role and responsibility into account. We avoid taking responsibility for the things that go wrong, and underestimate our ability to change the situation by changing ourselves because we are so busy waiting for our partner to do the changing.
Both partners need to ask themselves, “What is it about my partner’s behavior that is triggering me? What are my real needs and why am I so frustrated when my partner does not fulfill them? Do I communicate my needs clearly to my partner?”
Instead, they need to start thinking “We have a problem, so how can I change the way I approach it?” This change in attitude fosters a deeper personal reflection on each partner’s side and a willingness to do something about the relationship because they value it and want it to work.
Does this sound familiar?
Here are some questions you can use that will go a long way to getting you out of the blame game cycle and back on the same page with each other again:
- What can I do that can create more safety in our relationship?
- How can I talk about my own experience without blaming my partner?
- How can I be more curious about what my partner is experiencing even if I don’t agree with them?
- How can I let go of the need to be right?
“Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy
If you feel you are stuck in the blame game cycle and are not making any progress then perhaps you should look at getting some help before it is too late. You really can break this cycle if you want to, please contact me – I’ll be happy to assist you to get your relationship back on track again.