Relationship Problems: How To Give Up The Blame Game

Have you noticed that, when anything negative, unpleasant, or embarrassing happens, people look for someone or something to blame?

As I mentioned in today’s podcast, even when someone trips while walking on a sidewalk, they don’t think about needing to pay more attention to where they are walking. They look to see what tripped them, and make it the city’s fault, bad workmanship, or the Universe out to get them!

To feel and be empowered, it’s wise to look at ourselves first. If something isn’t going well with a partner, at work, or in the family, it demonstrates emotional maturity to look within yourself first…even though, it’s easier to look for someone to blame.

Couples get very skilled at blaming each other. That’s because they practice so much! 

Couples come in to see me–or arrive for our session on Skype–and they are pointing fingers at each other for why they are experiencing difficulties. You know that old thing: when you point at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you. Instead of noticing that, many folks just point harder at their partners. That’s a combination of project and denial.

The American author, John  Burroughs, wrote:

” A man may fail many times,
but he isn’t a failure
until he begins to blame somebody else.”

That’s powerful stuff! Clear and powerful.

In a powerful essay on The Dissection of Blame, Kendall F. Person wrote:

When our decisions and our choices, wreak havoc in our lives, we may tend to become more defensive, angry without knowing why. We are challenged in getting back on track, everything we do derails, and everything we try does fail. So we begin the dissection of blame, assigning each disappointment to a family member or friend. We blame our parents for something they did, ignoring the reality, it has been 40 years since then. We blame immigrants for taking our job, dismissing the notion, that we were caught sleeping, while guarding the store.  Obsessed by blaming others, becoming a victim in our own mind, leads to a confusion so complete, we live in a belief, based on our own lies.

Stumbles, free-falls and mistakes happen, but most scars are not permanent, if we accept,  we can learn from and avoid the same mistakes. Blame is not always malicious or done with intent, it protects our psyches, when they are frail, offering self-esteem when needed,rejecting the reality of its false existence. The importance of accepting responsibility for our choices that turned bad, cannot be understated. It is how we start to heal.

Why not start the journey to healing now? It begins with replacing blame with self-reflection, and moves on to active, loving problem-solving together.

That’s what emotional grown-ups learn to do. When G. Charles Andersen, MA, and I wrote Soul Solitude: Taking Time For Our Souls To Catch Upwe talked about how insidious blame is: the subtle–or not so subtle–cumulative harmfulness to others AND to ourselves. Our conclusion: stop blaming, start communicating, and become emotional grown-ups. Your relationship is not the sandbox on a playground of your youth!

One thing that makes blame so attractive to our immature selves: our egos are not fans of self-reflection. The ego behaves as though anyone out there, at any time in our past, present, and future, is a much more likely cause for our conditions, relationships, and situations than we could possibly be ourselves.

We use blame as an ego-defense. We project our fears, concerns, and issues about ourselves onto others. That is projection. Then, we behave as though their could not possibly be any flies on us, which is denial. Denial and projection, dastardly bedfellows that create crazy-making in relationships!

Responding to a recent post on blame by a colleague, I wrote this:

“Blame is not a waterfall, constantly running downstream away from you.
  Blame has a backlash, constantly eroding its source.”  

Being a blamer hurts you. It damages your relationships, the primary one with yourself, and all others where you blame. Through crooked thinking, people who blame send out the arrow they know is destined for themselves in the direction of someone else. They forget that the arrow is really a boomerang. It will come back, and you’ll like it even less!

It’s so easy to just say that the fastest way to give up the blame game is to simply stop. That would be miraculous. Most folks will need to get some help from someone like me to make that leap. They need another set of eyes–not a friend or family member’s eyes–to uncover old decisions that continue to create present patterns. Grow together by having new insights and learning new skills.

Oh, and that blaming our parents for things? Yes, we are very affected by our upbringing, but that was quite a while ago, right? We are affected by it, but any good therapist will tell you that it’s best use is as a learning tool. Whether or not we choose to see it that way is indicative of our maturity. When we re-visit it with the help of a knowledgeable consultant, we can see the decisions we made–or were made for us–at the time, or the sense we made of it later, and then, we understand how those choices now affect the life we have. Most important learning: what would you like to change now, how to do it, and getting on with it.

Construct your life and relationships consciously, kindly, and compassionately. Live your values. And, I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing that one of your values is not “Blame!”


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Relationship Issues: 3 Ways Perfectionism Can Ruin Your Life

Who told you that striving for perfection and struggling for unrealistically high standards would bring you love, joy, and peace? 

I’m thinking “No one.” They probably never really said those words. They just inferred that  you SHOULD be better, do better, and achieve more to be good enough. Or, maybe they were a little less positive, and gave you the sense that you didn’t have what it took.

Somewhere, somehow, someone told you–or, at least, gave you the sense–that perfectionism was the goal. It isn’t, and striving for it simply makes you feel less than, never good enough, and somehow inadequate.

What perfectionism will do is keep you from accepting yourself and your partner–and your parents, kids, co-workers–right now. There will always be that niggling feeling of “could have been more, done more, achieved more” with no end in sight. It is a struggle that has no end!

Perfectionism clouds your vision of yourself and others. As Psychology Today says: “For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. It’s a fast track to unhappiness….” And, think what happens if you pass it on to your kids!

Perfectionism may be a virus you were injected with. The good news is that you can recover. It’s not easy or quick, but it’s possible. And, doing it shows that you do truly care about yourself, your relationships, and your quality of life.

Why would you give up perfectionism? You may think that it is a positive driving force that keeps you reaching for your goals. It is not. Here’s three ways it can be ruining your life:

  1. In your deepest self, you think everyone is judging you. And, that they secretly know that you’re just not trying hard enough.
  2. No matter what, you don’t believe your positive reviews. You think others are just being polite when they appreciate or praise you. You dismiss them as just not knowing how flawed you are, or how much better you supposedly could have done.
  3. In your inner self talk, you are secretly judgmental about the imperfections of others, and you are internally competitive about everything.

Three huge ways you could be missing out on the joy of living and loving!

My mom was the great purveyor of perfection in my life. I just could not be smart enough, talented enough, or slim enough. And, it seemed that she would only be satisfied if I could be all those three things at once! It was a nightmare. If I got A’s in school, but gained five pounds, she focused on the weight gain. If I won a piano competition, I could have looked better on stage if I were thinner. If I slimmed down–although, looking back at photos, I was never fat–then, I had better buckle down and study and practice more. A never-ending cycle of emotional abuse. Yes, that’s abusive. You can’t justify it or make excuses for it. It’s abusive.

Did you experience anything like that? If so, now is the best time to examine it. Time to change that programming, and enjoy life and love more fully. Perfectionism is one of the big relationship issues that I’ve helped many clients shift away from. I did it myself, and I know the way out of it to much more freedom.

Here’s today’s Podcast on Overcoming Perfectionism:

If you recognize that your view of yourself and others has been poisoned by perfectionism, that’s a great start. Now, do the work to lift yourself out of that mindset, and replace it with more love, patience, and appreciation for yourself. That will have a ripple effect and solve many relationship issues, too. You’ll be so much happier! 

If you know it’s time to get some relationship help, I’m happy to work with you. You can schedule an appointment at a time convenient to you right online HERE. 

Relationship Issues: Is Your Relationship A Competition?

Relationships with partners are often competitions in disguise. Don’t want that? Here’s a little relationship advice,

When you really step back and look at them–perhaps, with a little relationship help–the main event in a relationship is the constant battle for supremacy, control, and maybe, even a little domination. Not healthy. It doesn’t feel good, but couples do it all the same.

Competition. It’s got the not-so-good, not-so-loving trifecta. It’s:

  • tension-producing
  • fear-inducing
  • trust-reducing

What’s attractive about that?  It’s destructive and exhausting. Yet, it persists.

How do you stop competing in a relationship you say is based on loving each other? It requires a good deal of self-reflection!

When couples come to work with me, I can almost see the bubbles over their heads. Each bubble says, “If my partner would just see the errors of his/her ways, and change, we would be great.”  Unfortunately, although that may seem amusing for a moment, it’s the way it often is.

You want the issues to be because of the other person’s failings, flaws, and frustrations. Why? Because you don’t want to think that you are part of both the issue and the solution! It is highly likely that both of you have some changes to make.

Here’s the good news and the bad news: Change starts with you, not with your partner, if you want to put an end to the destructive competition in your relationship. 

Take some quiet time. Sit down and ask yourself these essential questions:

  • Is there a way that I am inviting competition in my relationship by my words, my actions, my demeanor, or my stance in life, and in my relationship particularly?
  • Do I turn everything into a debate?
  • Is my first inclination to find fault, rather than see the good?
  • When I’m really honest with myself, do I have a big need to be right?
  • Am I only happy when I am winning?
  • Am I on guard and look for ways to prove my partner is wrong?
  • Do I have a glass half full or half empty outlook?
  • How much of the time am I focused on what I appreciate and love about my partner? Is that enough?
  • Do I have my back up and something to prove that keeps me concerned, vigilant, and on edge?

Sit with that list. Come back and re-visit it. Let these possibilities sink in completely. You’re doing this to get better acquainted with yourself so that you can bring those insights to improving your part in your relationship.  It can help you release the need for competition.

Now, what if you read that list and your immediate thought is “That describes my partner perfectly!”

That’s a good moment to look at yourself clearly and ask:

  • Am I fueling it?
  • Am I matching it?
  • Am I enjoying it?
  • Am I wanting to run from it?

We were shaped. We come by our traits, behaviors, and patterns from the people who raised us, and others who influenced us, usually before we were twenty years old.  That’s why we begin by looking at the various cookie cutters we met in life that left us in the shape we’re in. No, not through deep psychoanalysis, but by having an insight or two that can help us realize we can choose to do life differently.

We do not have to stay in the shape we were stamped with. It doesn’t have to be what we were “cut out” for any longer. We can change, grow, and transform.

If you only focus on your partner’s shortcomings, nothing will change. You’ll defer the blame, but it doesn’t stop the pain. Only looking within makes that difference.

If your relationship is a courtroom, boxing ring, or jousting tournament, you’ll never be happy. Where there is a focus on winning or losing, you cannot find love, safety, honesty or respect, and those are the cornerstones of a healthy relationship.

What does competition and “one up(wo)manship” do? 

  • It is destined to leave you single, lonely, or at least, with a lack of the intimacy you likely crave.
  • People will shy away from you because they feel unsafe with you.
  • Constant debate leaves you exhausted, worn down, and wounded.
  • The need to be right means that no one around you can also be right, and that is a losing strategy.
  • The need for control leaves others wanting to cut the strings and stay far away from the puppeteer you want to be.

If your relationship is a competition, you two need to be discussing, understanding, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. Otherwise, no one will be happy–especially in the long run.  The self-reflection required to set and establish your personal boundaries is imperative. There is no quick fix or easy solution to that.

For now, be aware. Is your relationship a competition? If so, is it what you want? If the answer is no, get the relationship help and relationship advice you need to put an end to the tournament. You are best to get some professional relationship advice, because it’s almost impossible to put an end to the competition on your own.


Here’s today’s Relationship Advice Coupleology Podcast: Is Your Relationship A Competition? 

RIGHT NOW: You can also get a great start with my book, Kaizen for Couples: Smart Steps to Save, Sustain, or Strengthen Your Relationship,  and you can subscribe to Coupleology: Vital Tips for Relationship, coming to your inbox weekly.


Relationship Issues: Give Up Blaming If You Want To Get Closer

In a relationship, oh, it is so easy to blame your partner! You think that blaming will take the heat off you and put it onto your partner. At least, you hope so.

It doesn’t work that way and it creates relationship issues that never seem to go away.

If you’re always looking for someone to blame–or blaming someone else–for where you find yourself in life, you will never have close or satisfying relationships. Ouch, I know, but it’s simply true!

It may not break the relationship apart. You may stay together, but, you’ll never have the emotional intimacy that makes you feel known, heard, respected, and supported. You’ll both be settling for far less than you could have.

Abraham Maslow created Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the graphic above. You’ll see the base is about survival, the next is about staying alive once you’ve survived, and then, Bingo! The need for love and belonging. That’s why you need your family, your friends, and especially, your partner: they fill up your need for love and belonging.

When your style is blaming, you push your partner away. You are actually are working against your most important needs. Yet, you do it. Wouldn’t you rather invite your partner to come closer? I’ll bet you would, and giving up blaming is a very good start!

A Blamer needs a Target of Blame. In most cases, almost anyone or anything will do. However, some save their special blaming behavior for those folks with whom they think they are the safest: the ones they believe they love and who love them. It creates a destructive dance for two. If you are WITH a blamer, you need to decide to sit this dance out. That often takes real courage.

I’m not saying you have to leave the relationship. No! That would be like walking out of the dance hall never to enjoy dancing together again. I’m saying, step off the dance floor, sit this one out, and tell your partner how much you’d like to dance to the music of “I’m in love with you, Baby” rather than “You always hurt the one you love.” You can learn better communication skills and you can get better answers for your relationship questions.  Getting some relationship help can really speed up the process, because it’s hard to figure it out alone.

Blaming is a habit, a learned pattern of behavior you pick up earlier in life. It comes from being blamed, always being suspected, or being afraid of being wrong or punished. It’s a deflection tactic to avoid possible negative consequences. You may have needed that tactic in another relationship, but you sure don’t have to bring it into this one.

You can change the blaming pattern to one that is more equitable, accepting, fair, responsible, and loving.

If you’re ready to give up blaming, or being blamed, a little relationship help can show you both how to step out of the dance that has you stomping each other’s toes, and glide into sync and enjoy your time together.

Enjoy the podcast that goes with this topic right here:

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