What Can You Do If Your Partner Blames You For Everything?
“My partner blames me for everything” “Whatever the issue might be, in the end, it always turns out that it’s all my fault”. These are a couple of the expressions most frequently heard in couples therapy. They’re expressions that cause a great deal of discomfort and also feelings of incomprehension. Indeed, it’s not always easy to understand the cause of this kind of behavior. Moreover, the emotional cost is often immense.
The famous psychologist John Gottman explains in his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (1995) that negative criticism and the projection of guilt make up one of the four horses of the apocalypse in couple breakups. He claims that, behind this psychological reality, usually lies poor emotional communication and a clear evasion of responsibility.
In this article, we’re going to delve a little deeper into the possible causes of this kind of behavior and some possible action strategies.
Those who constantly project guilt on their partner are trying to distort their reality.
Why does your partner blame you for everything?
The projection of guilt is a common phenomenon in interpersonal conflicts. Interestingly, it appears more frequently when there’s a bond of intimacy, as in sexual-affective relationships. Research conducted by the University of Granada (Spain) highlights the suffering caused by conflict in relationships.
It claims that, often, behind these problems, lies a lack of emotional intelligence skills. Guilt acts as a weapon that the individual uses because they don’t know how to manage their own frustrations. However, there are several factors worth analyzing to obtain a slightly more accurate view of this reality.
You might also like to read Is Taking Time Out From Your Relationship a Good Idea?
Blaming others is a form of inaction and evasion of responsibility
The individual who blames another person for every little problem is evading their own responsibility. Instead of solving what bothers, worries, or frustrates them, they choose to place their discomfort on others’ shoulders. This is a deficient and maladaptive technique that results in relationship problems.
If you have a partner who blames you for everything, you’ll find they behave as follows:
- In the face of any misunderstanding, they claim that it’s your fault for not explaining yourself properly.
- When a problem arises, they expect you to solve it. If you don’t, it’s all your fault.
- If they’re under stress, they blame you for escalating the situation.
- Any attempt at communication seems useless. Moreover, they lose patience extremely quickly.
These kinds of people act passively in the event of any incident or discomfort. Instead of striving to solve something, they expect others to do it for them. This is a clear form of immaturity.
Projection of guilt, a form of punishment
If you’re wondering why your partner blames you for everything, bear in mind that they’re using guilt as a defense mechanism. Research published in Personality and Individual Differences defines this resource as an individual’s tendency to attribute their own feelings, intentions, or motivations to others.
Sometimes, in clinical practice, professionals see people who are unable to manage their problems, anxiety, and limitations. Instead of addressing them, they project them onto others. As Carl Jung said: “Everything that irritates us about others leads us to an understanding of ourselves”.
Poor emotional communication
Some people are used to making complaints such as “You don’t listen to me. You only prioritize your own needs. You don’t pay any attention to how I feel”. These types of comments, when they’re constant are hurtful and exhausting. In fact, those who project guilt onto others instead of being assertive not only communicate badly, but they’re also manipulative.
Research published in Frontiers in Psychology states that good communication is at the heart of every successful relationship. It makes it easier to reach agreements and nurture the bond. Therefore, lacking good skills in this area often results in hurtful and even manipulative dynamics. When your partner blames you for everything, you’ll find that the following happens:
- They don’t know how to express what’s going on with them and they blame you for not guessing what’s wrong.
- They don’t know how to converse and speak assertively and respectfully. Instead, they use short, unhelpful, and even threatening phrases.
- Their emotional mismanagement sometimes causes frustration, as they don’t know how to put their feelings into words.
- They use violent communication by projecting guilt onto you.
According to couples therapist Dr. John Gottman, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (behavioral predictors of divorce or break-up) are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
The answer to why your partner blames you for everything could be that they have a narcissistic personality. However, to come to this conclusion, you’d also need to assess the appearance of more of their traits and behaviors.
Research conducted by the University of Wollongong (Australia) affirms that the interpersonal impact of having a relationship with a narcissist can be immense. They exhibit the following characteristics:
- They’re often vindictive. When faced with the slightest frustration, disagreement, or feeling of anger, they don’t hesitate to find any excuse to put the blame on their partner.
- They use manipulation. This mechanism makes it easier for them to obtain from others what they need to reinforce their own self-image and self-esteem.
- They need to be the center of attention. This makes them extremely selfish partners.
- They employ instrumental empathy. This means they can detect and connect with the emotions of others but they do it instrumentally. In other words, to obtain some kind of benefit.
How to deal with these situations
As Dr. John Gottman points out in his book, Principia Amoris (2014), authentic love, the kind that shapes happy and lasting relationships, is based on a culture of respect and not on the tyranny of the projection of guilt.
So, what can you do if you’re in this situation right now?
Analyze the situation
We’re all different, therefore, every relationship is too. So, you must become aware of your own situation and try to figure out what’s happening. Is your partner going through a bad time? How have you been behaving lately? Is the respect between you still intact despite the fact that you’re not understanding each other? Why is your partner blaming you for everything? The answers will help you to have a clearer picture of the problem.
Your partner may not possess good communication skills. But, if there’s love in the relationship and they’re willing to address the problems between you, you need to put in place the mechanisms for facilitating good dialogue.
Here are some keys to addressing the situation with proper communication:
- Explain the situation assertively and simply.
- Provide concrete examples. For instance, “Yesterday you blamed me for X things”.
- Express yourself in a relaxed manner, without threatening or judging them.
- Make it clear how their expressions make you feel.
- Tell them that you want to understand, both how they feel and the reasons for these harmful dynamics in your relationship.
- Allow them to express themselves and defend their ideas. Listen emphatically.
- Try not to interrupt. Give them signals to let them know that you understand what they’re trying to tell you.
- Propose possible solutions. For instance, tell them “Instead of accusing me, tell me what’s wrong or how you feel.”
- Agree on change and certain strategies and their implementation.
As a matter of fact, comprehensive, empathetic, and respectful dialogue is the most decisive pillar in a relationship.
Analyze your progress
If your partner blames you for everything, it’s not something you can tolerate indefinitely. You must internalize this idea if you don’t want to fall prey to great psychological vulnerability. For this reason, it’s important that the quality of your communication improves. Above all, your partner’s projection of guilt must be deactivated.
In its place, affective responsibility, respect, and assertiveness must appear. For this to happen, you need to evaluate how your relationship is progressing as a whole, especially when it comes to healing dialogues.
What if they keep blaming you for everything?
The persistent use of guilt can sometimes be a form of interpersonal psychological abuse. In this situation, you must assess the quality of your relationship as a whole, focusing on the following aspects:
- Does your partner respect your needs, opinions, values, and aspirations?
- Do you feel loved? Do they take care of you and show concern about you?
- Can you communicate effectively with each other?
- Can you reach agreements together?
- How do you feel in the relationship?
If, after assessing these issues, you come to the conclusion that things aren’t going well, you could opt for couples therapy to try and save the relationship. Research published in Family Process highlights the effectiveness of this therapy in addressing a wide spectrum of relational dysfunctions
On the other hand, in the event that your partner doesn’t want to take this step and doesn’t change their behavior, you need to take action. Remember, your psychological well-being comes first.
You might be interested to read Should You and Your Partner Share Your Sexual Histories?
It’s not worth living with guilt mongers
Guilt mongers aren’t only partners. They can also be friends or family members. They’re immature in their emotional intelligence and possess poor communication skills. Unsurprisingly, living with someone who doesn’t take responsibility for their problems and chooses to blame others for what frustrates them is extremely destructive.
Therefore, you shouldn’t hesitate to demand change and put mechanisms in place so that new skills can be established. However, bear in mind that your partner has to make an effort and do this for themselves. If they have no desire to change and their aggressive communication continues, you must prioritize your emotional and mental balance.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Alonso-Ferres, M., Valor-Segura, I., & Expósito, F. (2019). Couple conflict-facing responses from a gender perspective: Emotional intelligence as a differential pattern. Intervencion Psicosocial, 28(3), 147–156. https://journals.copmadrid.org/pi/art/pi2019a9
- Day, N. J. S., Townsend, M. L., & Grenyer, B. F. S. (2020). Living with pathological narcissism: a qualitative study. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation, 7(1), 19. https://bpded.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40479-020-00132-8
- De Netto, P. M., Quek, K. F., & Golden, K. J. (2021). Communication, the heart of a relationship: Examining capitalization, accommodation, and self-construal on relationship satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 767908. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.767908/full
- Gottman J. M. (1998). Psychology and the study of marital processes. Annual review of psychology, 49, 169–197. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.49.1.169
- Gottman JM (1995) Play Why Marriages Succeed Or Fail. Simon & Schuster. https://books.google.es/books/about/Why_Marriages_Succeed_Or_Fail.html?id=S_ffhMnsufAC&redir_esc=y
- Gottman, J. M. (2015). Principia amoris: The new science of love. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-55724-000
- Kaufmann, M., Quirin, M., & Baumann, N. (2022). Blaming others: Individual differences in self-projection. Personality and Individual Differences, 196(111721), 111721. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886922002264
- Lebow, J., & Snyder, D. K. (2022). Couple therapy in the 2020s: Current status and emerging developments. Family Process, 61(4), 1359–1385. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/famp.12824