Blaming the Partner
By: T. Franklin Murphy | October 2014 (Edited September 2018)
We seek closeness and security. The gravity of the impact of a failing relationship to our well being creates an emotional storm, knocking us out of balance. When seeking causes to this critical moment, we often skirt personal responsibility and blame the partner.
We can’t help it. The importance of acceptance, attachment and connection invites biased assessments. We seldom hear, in the heat of marital discord, a person take responsibility. We might graciously make small admissions, but then quickly excuse are insignificant gaffes, while concentrating on the more glaring issues caused by the partner. Majority rate their relationship skills higher than the skills of their partner; a statistical impossibility. When evaluating a partner’s skills, we’re harsh, not affording the same generous exceptions. The subjective evaluations create greater conflict. When relationship problems arise, the biased mind quickly unveils the easy answer—it’s my partner’s fault. After a slew of failed relationships, instead of conceding to our handicaps in relating, we determine that we must lack judgment in choosing partners. Self-protection meddles in our assessments, interfering with brawny menacing deceptions, biasing assessments, and shirking the shame of insufficiency. Our relationship fails, and we blame the partner.
A mismatch between reality and self-preservation hinders constructive action, blurring focus and misdirecting energy. We escape the complexity of causes behind the faltering relationship by blaming the partner and demand they fix it. Our minds are complex. We work for decades to discover the discreet maneuverings behind the curtains of consciousness. Our own actions occasionally surprise us. When adding the workings of another complex being to the mixture, the outcomes can be baffling.
Relationship failure or success is a joint effort, requiring skills and constant adjustments. Relationships are dynamic. They ebb and flow with the environment, gaining strength from communications, trust, and shared emotions. Too many deficiencies eventually slowly erode the bonds, leaving a couple ill prepared to navigate the inevitable more serious collisions that demand extra resources. We must build during times of happiness to have enough reserves to weather the bleaker moments.
Relationships are dynamic, each action (and reaction) meshing with the whole. A single act isn’t isolated. Intricately intertwined with past interactions—each communication and facial grimace conveys a message. We routinely encounter stories relayed from dissatisfied people narrating their personal horror, coloring their partner in evilness or stupidness and themselves as innocent victims. Usually large chunks of these stories are missing. We only see small pieces of the whole, unconsciously designed to create the picture the storyteller desires. The beleaguered sufferer can’t convey the complexity with a few words partly because they don’t see the complexity. They are lost in their simplified version of events that blames the partner.
A relationship weighted with messy histories will struggle, each new conflict is complicated with the weight of the past. Healing these strained connections is difficult. Even with improved skills, partners conditioned with hurtful pasts continue to misinterpret new behaviors. The fear of repeats from the past delivers the punch. We continue to react to these patterned interpretations, and then partners react to our interpretation of their reaction—and their reaction to our reaction, and around and around it goes.
Interactions may start with a simple comment, then the flow begins, the volley of information being passed back and forth with each partner often extracting an entirely different message. When connection is missing, partners feel unheard—not simply their words, but their feelings. The couple is physically together but each feeling alone.
"Healing these strained connections is difficult. Even with improved skills, partners conditioned with hurtful pasts continue to misinterpret new behaviors."
Dual Responsibility—We can’t Cure the Mentally Imbalanced
Taking responsibility for the failure of a relationship has limitations. Partners are not non-entities in the equation—a filler reacting to our desires. The world, unfortunately, has narcissist, sociopaths and sadistic people; one of them, conceivably, could be sleeping in your bed. In these cases, improving relationship skills has a place; but with a different goal. Relationship skills won’t solve their beastly problems. Our improved skills, however, assist in creating a safer environment, avoiding dangerous confrontations, and eventually facilitating an escape. Depending on the seriousness of the partner’s psychological ailments, escape may be the only path to intimacy (with someone else). It’s essential to establish a supporting cast of friends, family and professionals to free your selves from the torments of abusive.
New relationships need time for discovery; narcissists, sociopaths, and sadists are masters of concealing their broken souls. They are also victims; but fixing them while in the relationship is nearly impossible. Their needs are too strong and attacks too cutting. The victim partner’s individuality is lost, defending their own boundaries, enduring painful attacks, emotional seclusions and tainted promises. Motivated by fanciful hope for changes that never take hold, the victim stays in the nightmare and silently suffers. Even the emotionally strong can’t endure this stress in isolation.
We need loving support, lengthy relationships with emotionally starved and abusive partners is destructive. Eventually, we give way to the strain, begin to doubt our emotions, behaviors, and memories, incurring damage to our souls—we become broken, as well. Avoiding these nasty relationships requires taking time, allowing for true natures to be exposed. The premature escape, running away with a perceived soul mate, allows the narcissist to mask scary personality traits until easy retreats are gone. Over time and with clear minded assessment, we can avoid many relationship monsters, preserving sanity for worthwhile battles.
Normal Relationships and Tainted Interpretations
All people have idiosyncrasies but most stumblings are manageable. Our partners, just like us, possess a unique mixture of strengths and weaknesses. When a relationship begins to sour, our pucker is often from intensified interpretations rather than actual changes in a partner’s character. Most relationships that begin to fail years after the joyous inception don’t suffer from an unwelcoming spell, conjuring up previously non-existent traits; but the struggles emerge from subtle changes met with magnifying interpretations. Simple behaviors appear rude, selfish, mean-spirited, and evil because we label them as such. Our once dear partner becomes the enemy—at least in our own eyes (and emotional reactions), from our poisoned interpretations.
The occasional hurts accumulate biasing future interpretations. Soon, with enough hurts, even positive behaviors elicit suspicion. When positive and neutral interactions are skeptically received and given a negative spin, the relationship has run its course, sorrow swallows the previous joys, and quaint memories of past romance fade as intimacy perilously falls into the throat of the beast. Anger, sadness, vindictiveness, defensiveness, and seclusion soon invade leaving a heart, family and soul in ruins.
If your first reaction to relationship discomfort is: "This is excellent advice for my partner," or "This does not pertain to me, my partner really is a good for nothing selfish @$%$$#%." Look again. Probe a little deeper, examining your own soul. Perhaps you may discover that your personal assessment is skewed, misdirecting blame, and side-stepping responsibility. Two people must be able to step up, take responsibility for their contributions to the success and failure of the relationship, discuss differences, and make resolutions to change. These constructive dialogues become the catalysts to change. We must shift from blaming the partner to blaming the complex situation and slowly discover ways to health.