The Blame Game
Written by: Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT
Relationships are hard work and are often not easy. When issues arise and things start to fizzle, it’s human nature to blame ourselves or the other person. We tend to blame ourselves privately and in conversation blame the other person to save face. But before you start blaming your partner (or ex-partner) you may want to:
1. Think and take a break. Will blaming your ex-partner for not being responsible with the bills, get the bills paid? No, you need to think of a way to pay your bills because blaming your "ex - partner" will not get the bills paid. A bad fight or nasty break up is not an excuse to let priorities get out of whack. Chances are you have responsibilities and a lot of tasks to tend to. Often times there is healing in sticking to the routine of our daily lives and keeping on task with our projects and errands. It can be very rewarding to take a step back and acknowledge that “hey, this was not the only person who needed me”. It may be a challenge at times depending on the length and intimacy of the relationship but hit the ground running is the best approach to a fight or an ending partnership.
2. Tell your "ex -partner" how you feel. I am really upset because our child heard me making excuses to the bill collector was embarrassing for me. Is better than saying, “I can't believe you did this to me and the kids!?!” You’ll hear this a lot in the world of therapy. It’s about avoiding “You” statements and making more “I” statements. Ultimately you are responsible for how you feel, nobody else could or should have that type of influence over your emotional well-being. When you share your experiences and feeling, your thoughts and disappointments, it is very disarming and can really be effective in resolving conflict. You may find that you have a sympathetic partner after all, when (s)he is not challenged, condemned and criticized. Be open and honest.
3. There is no point in making a list of everything wrong with your ex. He or she knows they are not perfect and a list isn't going to make anything better. It takes two to have a good relationship and two to ruin it. So many times people ignore red flags when relationships are new, we are quick to dismiss them because the feelings of infatuation and intensity don’t make room for any disappointment. As time goes on we find that those red flags didn’t really go anywhere and now perhaps we are spending more time watching those little suckers flap in the breeze asking ourselves “how did things get like this??.” What we were willing to live with at first has become a sort-of deal breaker. Mind you, your partner has seen their share of red flags in your behavior because it’s true… nobody is perfect. Try taking a different position by adding a little humor, celebrating our differences. Can we learn to laugh at ourselves and laugh with our partner about those idiosyncrasies that want to tear us apart? Absolutely! So why not lighten up and accept that we all have things that make us difficult to deal with. And try laughing about it. It is, after all, the best medicine.
4. Be careful what you say. Remember not to say anything during a fight that you will regret later. Don’t let your words become swords. It is human nature to say things in the heat of the moment that we do not mean. It comes down to slowing down and holding your tongue. Control your temper and when necessary, remove yourself from a dispute before you become embroiled in a heated argument. That’s when the word swords start flying. The truth is you don’t want to hurt that person just because you’ve been hurt. What you really want is to be un-hurt. You’ll never get there by saying things that you don’t mean. Putting it simply, say what you mean, mean what you say, DON’T say it mean.
5. Watch what you say to others as well. You don't want someone to misinterpret something especially if who you are talking about is prominent in the community. (It certainly would be embarrassing airing everyone’s dirty laundry especially if you get back together someday.) How many times do we alert the presses with “It’s OVER” and before the ink is dry on the headline we are back together again, happy in love and wondering why our friends are slowly distancing themselves? It is prudent perhaps but sometimes wise to reserve the announcement and the laundry list of reasons why until such time as the emotions have subsided
6. Breathe. And maybe take a hot shower or bath, or even a nap. When things are heated, take a break, a breather... Get some distance, it does wonders. Calming down will help clear your mind. Remember that in a short time, all of this will seem as though it happened so long ago. So don’t stretch out this brief moment in time any longer than it must be. Let the moment pass and take with it the hurt and pain. Holding on to it is natural but so unnecessary.