Pointing The Finger: Why Blame Kills Relationships

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pointing finger
Are you quick to accuse your partner when something goes wrong? Here's why you should stop... now.

Is there a single quality that's vital to the success of every relationship? Is there one element that both controls our behaviors and predicts their outcome?

Yes, and the answer is a single word: trust. A relationship without basic trust has no security. Without trust there's no way to predict another person's behaviors, which can make us consumed with anxiety. Since we can't stand anxiety, we resort to blame. And blame kills relationships.

 

Anxiety is at the core of why we use blame. Whenever we're upset, disappointed or angry because of another person's behavior, we use blame to discharge our feelings. Bluntly, we dump our upset, disappointment or anger onto another person in what I call the "Blame Cycle." Do You Play the Blame Game?

Here's an example:

John is rushing through breakfast, but there's no milk! He's pissed and says to his wife, Mary, "Darn it, Mary, why can't you at least keep some milk in the house?"

Mary hears John's criticism (he’s accusing her of being too stupid to even buy milk) and instantly gets angry. She thinks, "As though I don't work hard enough already? How dare he accuse me of being lazy or incompetent!" Her anger at being falsely accused triggers a physical reaction in her body and adrenaline accelerates her heartbeat. Rather than replying in a way that defuses the tension, she tries to defend herself. "You know, John, I work too." But she's also angry so she throws back an accusation. "Since when are you so important that you can't buy some milk yourself?"

John is really stressed at work, and Mary's accusation angers him. "Our entire department has been reorganized and I almost got laid off and you expect me to stop and buy milk?!"

This argument is only going to get worse...

Where does the lack of trust come into this discussion? Underlying John and Mary's destructive fight about who should buy the milk is the core issue of trust. Because John is dealing with his anxiety about his job, the accumulating stress pushes him to lose sight of the fact that Mary is doing her best to take care of her responsibilities. But Mary's human and she occasionally forgets. John forgets that he, too, is fallible and allows his irritation to blame Mary.

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