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There is something very natural in our need to make clear what is and what is not our fault in problematic situations and relationships. We want to know it ourselves, and we want to explain it to others, too.

However, you might easily discover that asking whose fault it was does not really lead you towards any improvement in the situation. That might be the time to move on, and ask yourself what your options are now and what you can do actively to make your situation better.



Why we think in terms of guilt and innocence


The first reason why we feel the urge to put the blame on someone is cultural. The “western” way of thinking has been built on dualities. We think in two opposite categories. We are educated to divide things into light and dark, right and wrong, good and bad, success and failure. That way of thinking is deep inside us also when it comes to difficulties in relationships, and, according to its logic, one in the couple must be the “guilty” one. So if we do not want to feel guilty ourselves, but to be “the good one”, the other one must be guilty. Anything else would threaten our positive self-image.

The second reason why we sometimes invest great effort in proving the other´s fault is to avoid responsibility for making difficult decisions about the relationship. The avoiding may be totally unconscious. We often seek proof of the other’s guilt, or blame external circumstances, when we intuitively want to escape from a relationship or a situation, but considering such an option makes us feel guilty or incompetent. So we might be (unconsciously) trying to prove that it is all the fault of the partner, and thus that there is nothing we can do ourselves to improve the relationship, no matter how much we may wish to, and now we actually have no choice but to end it. The blame for the relationship failure would be on the partner, and we remain “the good one”.


Why judging does not lead to improvement


Collecting proof of guilt or, on the contrary, self-accusation, may last for a long time and be very exhausting, and sometimes we get stuck there. There are several reasons why this approach does not lead to a solution.

The first reason is, that accusing someone can never lead to improving the dialogue between you, which is exactly what is needed if you really want to improve your relationship. There are only two possible reactions to an accusation – defence or escape. After being accused, the partner will either try to throw the blame back on you, or avoid any further talk about the issue, sometimes both, and, in an extreme case, it can end with an escape from the whole relationship. If you want to improve the relationship, you need to stop acting like enemies, and start cooperating and working towards a solution.

The second reason why blaming does not work is that despite our thinking in dualities, in the complexity of life, things that we do are never so clearly right or wrong. They are mostly somewhere in between the good and the bad, or they are both at the same time. By not accepting our own share of responsibility for the state of the relationship, we are also denying that there is anything we can do or change on our own side to improve this relationship, or to learn from it and develop a better relationship in the future.


Alternative perspectives


“Relationship mathematics” is not about a sum of two (or more) individual people, but about the dynamics going on between them: the mutual expectations, needs, opinions and beliefs, as well as their interpretation of previous experiences, mutual actions and reactions. In other words, a relationship is not about two separate sides, but about what is going on between them.

Imagine the relationship as a rope that you are both holding. Whether it is firm, tight, loose, too tensed, shaky, exhausting, or whatever, there are always two sides involved. As soon as one side changes the way of holding the rope, the relationship will change.

Would you like to change it?

If you think there is no way of improving the relationship, or if, for any reason, you believe that quitting the relationship might actually be the solution for you, then allow yourself to consider the option without wasting all your energy and time on collecting proof of the other’s fault. Instead of blaming yourself or your partner, ask yourself whether you see any prospects in the relationship - whether you believe it can improve or not. Before taking the final decision, you might still want to try talking to your partner from this new perspective: no blaming, but talking through your options.

If you would like to stay in the relationship and try to improve it, you can work on it actively. You might not change the other person, but you can change those of your attitudes, expectations, interpretations, behaviour, and so on that contribute to the problematic patterns of your relationship and its impact on you.


Choice and responsibility


Once you have accepted responsibility for being in the situation, or for having the problem in the relationship, you are getting much closer to finding a solution. Instead of getting stuck in either blaming yourself or self-pity, you can now focus your attention and energy on exploring different options you have in the current situation.

The options will probably be neither black nor white, but at least one of them will be an improvement. And you have not only the responsibility, but also the choice.


When you are ready to change something about yourself, coaching can significantly help you with recognizing and improving patterns that might repeat in your relationships. To consider your individual situation and to arrange a session, contact me here.

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