Lying, cheating, manipulating — they’re all bad and can lead to couples going their separate ways, but these things are usually done TO us and are beyond our control. There’s another action, however, that can lead couples down a spiraling staircase and ruin even the best relationship.
When it comes to things you can do to screw up your relationships, blaming the other person for something – justified or not — is near the top of the list.
It’s easy to play the blame game. We’ve all done it at some point – it’s a way to avoid taking responsibility for the problems in your relationship. But, ultimately, it has the potential to ruin your relationship if you don’t recognize the toxic cycle of conflict you’re in.
Blaming your partner will only lead the relationship to the point of no return. And the two biggest factors are misattribution and cognitive dissonance.
Misattribution is the process by which you blame the other person for feelings that have their root in things unrelated to the argument or problem at hand, but rather in the past history of the relationship.
Cognitive dissonance is the unpleasant feeling that results from holding two conflicting thoughts at the same time. For example, you may know that you’re responsible for the problems in your relationship, but you still want to blame your partner. This creates a lot of internal conflict and can be very damaging to the relationship.
How to Stop the Blame Game in Your Relationships
Contrary to popular belief, self-compassion allows us all to take more responsibility and perform better than a harsh self-punitive approach. Owning responsibility and being vulnerable about our flaws (which we all have) is the path towards better relationships. It also allows us to stay with or deepen our connection with each other rather than flailing to avoid the painful feelings, pushing each other away, and feeling disconnected and alone.
Another remedy for blaming is to figure out why you’re doing it in the first place. An obvious answer is because it’s easy to do. It’s the path of least resistance. A more scholarly response to blaming lies in what is known as attribution theory, which is the process of assigning someone’s behavior to a cause, even if there isn’t one. In social psychology, there is a phenomenon called fundamental attribution error, which is concept that helps to explain why we blame our partners in the first place. In everyday language, this means when someone is behaving in a way we don’t like, we tend to attribute their behavior to bad will rather than bad circumstances. [Read more here]
In the end, it’s better to work together, even if that means you disagree or have different points of view. Sometimes, agreeing to disagree will help keep the relationship intact and prevent the problems from getting more serious than they need be.
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