The Blame Game Challenge. One of the keys to becoming responsible and response-able is to stop the blame game. I discuss the blame game in my book Divorce Done Easier because it is so prevalent in many divorces I see.
Something—or most often, someone—must be to blame for the breakdown of the marriage! Countless hours are wasted trying to assign blame and that practice keeps us stuck in the emotions of guilt, anger, and/ or sadness.
I know, sometimes it is very hard not to assign blame. Sometimes our sense of justice screams out, “This is just wrong.” We want to blame the people who hurt us over and over again. Sometimes these people know that their actions are “wrong” by society standards, but they do them anyway, without compassion or empathy. Sometimes they know their behavior is wrong, and it bothers and shames them to do it—but they claim they can’t help themselves. And sometimes they will claim their actions are justified. Nevertheless, the truth of the matter is, no matter what the circumstances, blame will not help you move forward.
Blame can be a habit that is an integral part of a marriage relationship dynamic. It becomes a pervasive cycle of “he blames her then she blames him” or vice versa. It is contagious and research shows that blame is actually a form of self-defense to protect our own self- image. If we can blame someone else for our problems, then we do not have to point the finger at ourselves. If your ex-spouse blamed you for his or her own failures, you are likely to blame him/her for yours. It is a vicious cycle and to break the cycle can be a challenge.
When you blame another, in many ways you are denying your own power. If someone else’s actions can “cause” you to act, think or feel a certain way, they control your destiny, don’t they? Another’s actions might create a particular circumstance, but what you do about that circumstance is totally up to you. What someone else says or does may “trigger” a reaction in you, but whether you act on that reaction is your choice—though in the heat of battle, it may not feel like it!
To lessen the reaction and take back some of your lost power, refrain from indulging in the blame game. Whether you’re telling your story to yourself or others, avoid painting your ex-spouse as the bad person. Simply stick with the facts of “she did this” or “he said he would do that.” Pay close attention to what you did or said in reaction. Though it might have felt righteously delicious in the moment, did your reaction serve you in the long run? Are you proud of it? Would you have liked someone to react to you in that same way? Was there a better way to respond?
By the way, blaming yourself is no healthier than blaming your spouse. It is one thing to take responsibility for your part in the breakdown of the relationship. It is another thing to blame your- self as if your spouse was a victim of your actions. If you have done something within the relationship that you don’t like, acknowledge it, apologize and make amends if you can, then move on. Use whatever regret you feel as a lesson learned. Holding on to guilt will only cloud your judgment and ability to respond proactively. It will not in any way help your spouse to heal and regain a sense of self-worth.