Sometimes our biggest problem is ourselves.
Ouch…..that kind of hurt, didn’t it?
Well, I am just trying to help. And we know it’s true. I mess up all the time and it is easy to blame your spouse (or yourself) for things going wrong in a marriage.
So let’s make sure we are all on the same page.
To blame someone is to find fault with something that they did or are doing. It doesn’t mean, necessarily, that what they are doing is wrong. Whatever it is, the person is being made an example of or worse condemned for their participation in the event or activity. It is when we hold someone accountable or responsible and through our actions make sure they know it. In effect, it is calling them out on some behavior the exhibited.
I bet you never realized blaming a husband or wife entailed so many things.
But what makes this even more slippery is that our feelings are pretty complicated. So sometimes how and why a person blames their husband or wife is not always straightforward.
Sometimes our feelings can get in between what we know we should be doing (e.g. instead of blaming, praising more) and what we actually end up doing in our marriage (e.g. holding the husband to an impossible standard).
Without even realizing it, sometimes we just can’t get out-of-the-way of our own anger and resentment. So as a result, we fall victim to the tendency of laying blame on our husband or wife for something bad that has happened.
Now, we do have some cases in which one of the marital partners is simply a very mean-spirited person. In these cases, such individuals use blame as a tool to wield control. We won’t be talking to much about those kinds of folks today.
But let me say this on that topic.
If you do find yourself in a relationship where either your husband or wife frequently harasses you and finds fault with just about everything that goes wrong, then we may be in the abusive zone.
If your spouse seems to take some kind of perverse joy in blaming you for things, then the marriage is not working and is unlikely to improve unless both of you get some professional counseling. No wife (or husband) should have to tolerate that form of treatment and the marriage partner who is dishing it out has a serious behavioral defect.
To Blame or Not To Be Blamed
Now, is it fair most couples habitually blame their husband or wife for EVERYTHING that goes sour in the relationship?
No, of course not. That would be overkill.
So when I get an inquiry form a client who is really down on herself and wonders what she can do to stop beating up (i.e. emotionally) on her husband, I try to first give her some perspective.
The other day, I had a client who emailed me a question:
“Chris, I really feel guilty. I can’t get past my constant desire to blame my husband for so many things that go wrong in our marriage. I know he tries, but I don’t think he really tries all that hard. It is like his heart isn’t in the relationship. There are just dozens of things where he falls short. It is like he does it on purpose. Realizing this, it makes me mad and I think I carry that those bad feelings around and they come out in all sorts of ways. What can I do to stop this blame cycle. My husband is a good guy, I just what him to try harder at things.”
I see this pattern of being too quick to blame the husband (or wife) happening frequently in marriages. It does seems to occur much more frequently in those marriages where the couple has not learned to communicate effectively.
But I also know from experience that some clients, when describing their marital situation, are sometimes too hard on themselves.
After I ask a lot of followup questions, the truth of what is really transpiring in the marriage will come out. And it is usually different from the initial portrait that was laid out.
I also see that in marriages where blame is thrown around like a hot potato, there is usually little appreciation for learning how to discuss things constructively or effectively work through conflict . I talk about that in detail in the post below:
Do you find yourself sometimes blaming your husband for everything, even if it is not true?
Perhaps he is only blamed for the things he does that drives you a little crazy.
Hey, my wife does that all the time and we have a great marriage! She usually inserts a little humor to keep the tone positive. But more often than not, the lesson she was seeking to convey is learned.
So don’t get hung up too much if that is the kind of blaming behavior that is being tossed around.
Have you ever wondered why you sometimes succumb to the temptation to blame your husband for whatever?
You might be surprised at the underlying cause.
Just perhaps there are some things going on within the marriage (or yourself) that is creating friction and resulting in accusations and fault being cast about.
The Marriage Blame Game – Understanding its Origins
It is an age-old game we all play.
I have done it and you have done it. We all at some time, play what I call the “blame game”.
Let’s assume that your marriage has gone south. Blame is being thrown around like it is going out of style.
In such a situation, you certainly are in no mood to be receptive to any blame missiles launched in your direction, particularly after all the shenanigans your husband has been pulling for a while.
So what is the common reaction?
Well simple. It is to launch your own volley of blame bullets at your husband. Things can really get convoluted when one or both spouses begin engaging in preemptive strikes in an effort to find fault with something that their marriage partner did or said.
There is a seductive quality associated with playing the “You Can’t Do Anything Right” game with your husband (or wife). It is not unusual in these situations where both spouses take turns blaming the other for whatever hot issue is happening at that moment.
So let’s dig deeper into marital behavior.
We have to ask ourselves why can couples choose to find fault with their husband or wife?
It is not enough to simply accept this kind of behavior, passing it off as part of the way things are in relationship.
Sometimes it is much more than that if you dig deeper into the root causes.
Sure, there will be times when you have to blow off some steam. You might have had a tough day at work and when your husband crosses you with the wrong look or tone, you strike back out of defense.
All those things that your husband said he would do, but did not get done, comes flooding to the forefront. Whatever they were, they are causing problems.
Somebody has to pay the piper, right? Well, at least that is the rationalization.
So out of fatigue, frustration, or annoyance, you find yourself launching into a litany of blaming accusations as you seek to hold your husband’s feet to the fire.
Of course, once you let it all loose, with your husband ducking and darting away from your efforts to hold him accountable, laying blame where it most certainly belongs (you reason), your husband decides to launch a counter attack.
The way he figures, if he doesn’t get started with “leveling the playing field” and start in on you with his list of complaints, then the whole conflict is going to be lopsided.
What I just described falls within into a somewhat normal range of how you and your husband may end up getting trapped into marital blame game.
It starts off very innocently with a mild lashing out, but can escalate.
What Do We Have To Lose When We Find Fault
When we partake in this back and forth of “he blamed me” so “I am going to attack him”, we end up participating in a zero sum game. No one is a winner. Both the husband and wife will eventually lose out when they make it a practice find fault with their spouse.
I am sorry to report that this is behavior we all succumb to. While it may be sad and shameful when we look back at it later, it is pretty much par for the course for most marriages.
At least to the extent that it does not happen with too much frequency.
Look, I get it, we are all human and sometimes we give into the temptation to listen to the darker side of our nature.
This would be the dark voice that tells us that instead of accepting responsibility for our own behaviors, seek ways to blame another. This dark voice sometimes speaks to us from a place called ego or anger or frustration.
Or sometimes, we end up capitulating to the dark voice when we are weary and tired.
However we may come to it, we sometimes listen to this voice far too often. That is what makes us human and imperfect and of course, that is why marriages can be so challenging.
In most cases, we are just doing the best we can in a very complicated world that is full of good, bad, sad, delightful, surprising, exhausting, and depressing outcomes, to name a few.
Think of it as the maze of life.
We are all just trying to get through it. And sometimes, with our imperfect ways, we will get drawn into a petty blame fest with our husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend.
He attacks you. You attack him. And so on.
What About More Serious Forms of Blaming?
In discussion above, it is mostly emotions on the surface that serve as the catalyst that ultimately leads to you faulting your husband for just about everything.
So what can you do about this behavior. First up, you need to understand that a single incident or even a few cases where you indict or blame your husband (or wife) for something, is not in itself going to create lasting damage to your relationship.
As I described above, all of us succumb to the lesser angels of our nature.
But if the blame behavior becomes a routine in the marriage, with each of you falling prey to assigning fault to your spouse for a host of things, the net result is erosion of trust and intimacy.
So how do you combat this behavior?
For starters, you need to call yourselves out.
Habits and routines we form in marriage (and in life) can be difficult to break, unless there is an intervention.
So intervene. Call for a truce. Sit down and discuss how the petty, back and forth, little fights where one or both of you are pointing the finger and finding fault with one thing or another is hurting the marriage.
Make a commitment to each other that when one of you adopts a “blaming attitude” with your partner, you will call it out. Say, “hey, you are playing the blame game and we agreed not to go there”.
The idea is that you break the routine of what would normally happen in the past where blame leads to escalation and further conflict. In this situation, you “call it out” and then turn your attention to dealing with the underlying problem more constructively.
Don’t expect for this to work always. After all, it was not that long ago when we all roamed wild. But by making this recurring problem of blame more visible, you and your husband stand a much better chance of working through issues that arise in a much more positive manner.
If you make this commitment not to find fault with everything, you slow down the impact incrimination can have on your marriage.
A Deeper Level of Blame That Unfolds in Some Marriages
Then there is a different kind of blame game some married partners get involved in.
In my view, it is a more serious problem when we reach deep down to find things that have been festering for a long time. It could be something far below the surface of the everyday marriage activities.
It is of such depth that it is best to describe the origin of such blame as coming from deep seeded resentments, anger, or even jealousy.
It can take the form of a highly vocal form of verbal attacks you can launch on your husband (or wife). Or it could be things that are never said, but rather the blame is held inside, growing and building to ever deeper levels of resentment, even hatred.
This is when the subject of what the person is being blamed for is not something small or insignificant, but rather something very important to the foundation of the marriage.
I had one client who was very angry inside with her husband. He had cheated on her and not only did she blame him for his infidelity, she also believed the chaos stemming from his decision to cheat on her had destroyed all of the trust she had in the marriage.
She could not let go of what he had done to her and their life together and blamed him for many months.
It is the deep seeded forms of resentment that can wreck a marriage over time. It is usually the catalyst that allows recurrent blame to take shape and endure.
If you find yourself in a marriage where either you find yourself frequently finding fault with your husband for things that go wrong or you are the victim of a husband or wife consistently blaming you for a host of things, it could be due to a meaningful underlying problem.
This is one way how resentment and anger can manifest itself in a marriage.
Sometimes it does not reveal itself in outbursts or down and out fights, but rather through the veil disguise of knit picking and finger-pointing.
If you suspect this could be the cause of the blaming behaviors in your marriage, then it might be useful to open up with your husband (or wife) and discuss the underlying problem(s). Only then will you be able to get to the crux of why there is such an atmosphere of incrimination in your marriage.
Sometimes this is best accomplished with a 3rd party, such as a marriage counselor or coach. In some cases, the issue that is disrupting the marriage is buried deep and either the individual is not fully aware of the impact it is having on their relationship or the spouse has been afraid to bring it up.
How Else Can Incrimination Take Hold in Marriage
Yet, another catalyst that can stir up the blaming pattern is when an individual is unhappy with themselves. Instead of acknowledging their own shortcomings, the spouse ends up taking it out on their husband or wife.
Sometimes one of the marriage partners is wrestling with a significant issue and are internalizing it. It could be something like not getting the promotion they had worked so hard for. Or it could be a poor decision they made with the finances.
Whatever the event, it can lead to the spouse projecting the pain of their own failures and disappointments right back on to their husband or wife.
Once again, the best medicine is to first acknowledge the behavior to yourself, then to your spouse. Just put it out there. Recognize and verbalize you have been pulled into the blame game cycle.
Say it out loud to yourself.
Then voice it to your husband or wife.
The key is putting the issue on the table for all to see, recognizing that while no one is perfect, you do not want to continue using blame as a crutch to avoid dealing with your own personal issue.
Just putting the problem out there and discussing it with your spouse can help you, help yourself.
And in the process, you contribute to greater transparency and honesty in your marriage.