The Blame Game


How many times have you found yourself thinking, “There’s no point in talking to him about this because he won’t listen,” or “If she would just stop overreacting, this wouldn’t be a big deal!”? My guess is you can probably think of quite a few times when this, or something like this, has happened. It’s human nature to put the blame on someone else, but in reality, it’s probably not 100% the other persons fault. Playing the “blame game” may seem like the easy solution, but it ends up being very harmful to the relationship. Say a problem arises in your relationship that causes a disagreement between you and your significant other. Your first thought is probably, “I’m right.” Well guess what, they are probably thinking the exact same thing. Taking this position leaves no room for actually addressing the problem at hand, and talking about the issue becomes useless because there is no way to resolve it. If the issue is serious and remains unresolved, then you both might start to pull away from each other and, after awhile, no longer reach out to each other for emotional support. So, is being right worth losing the person you love? If the answer is no, then next time something comes up, take a deep breath and try to remember these tips:

  1. Bring up tough issues softly. If there is something you want to discuss, bring it up at a time when both of you are calm and not highly emotional. Think about how you would like to be approached in this kind of situation and don’t start by blaming the other person! If you partner feels attacked, he/she will respond with defensiveness.
  2. Avoid using the word “you” to blame. Instead of blaming, try talking about how the issue affects you by using “I” messages. For example, rather than saying, “You never make special plans for us!” try, “When we don’t do special things together, I feel unimportant and wonder if I’ve done something to upset you.”
  3. Make messages short during disagreements. Don’t address multiple issues at once! By bringing up multiple issues, you lose the ability to have a productive conversation by overwhelming your partner.
  4. Be respectful. Even when it is hard to do, it’s important to be respectful towards the other person. Avoid calling each other names, or bringing up issues from the past only to criticize. The point is to have a beneficial conversation that ends well, not make each other shut down and cause more damage.
  5. Take a time out. If things start to get heated and out of control, take a time out and allow both of you to cool off before starting again. This is important because you don’t want to say something you might regret later.  Being able to stop yourself is a key relationship skill. Be sure to set another time to finish the conversation and work on maintaining positive thoughts about the other person rather than dwelling on conflict.
  6. Finally, remember you love this person. Keep in mind that in the end the relationship is more important than the argument. Each person has to be willing to compromise and come up with a solution that makes both people happy. Remember that even though you may feel strongly that you are correct, so does your partner, and it is not easy to admit your own fault.

Remember, healthy relationships have conflict.  These tips are from research on strategies that work!

Kate Taylor Harcourt, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative


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One Response to “The Blame Game”

  1. Martha Ann Ellis Says:

    This was such a helpful article! I will definatly take these tips to heart in the next argument I will undoubtedly face! Thanks for the great advice!!

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