How do you cope when your partner blames you for just about every problem that exists in your relationship? This is something I've struggled with in my marriage, although my husband and I have made a lot of improvements in the way we interact. I will start with an admission: I probably sometimes feel like my husband blames me for "everything" even when he doesn't. I have become sensitive to him blaming me. That means I am more likely to notice when he blames me for something and unlikely to notice the times he doesn't blame me or when he accepts responsibility himself. Because I'm sensitive to him blaming me I almost immediately become defensive when it happens. This has the unfortunate effect of making it harder for me to recognize when I am truly at fault. This is, of course, something that only becomes apparent to me in hindsight; I rarely recognize it when my husband and I are in the middle of a heated disagreement.
So I admit there are things I need to work on. This doesn't obscure the fact that my husband has a very real habit of blaming me when problems arise in our marriage. This makes it extremely difficult to resolve conflict in any meaningful or lasting way. We therefore find oursleves confronted with the same problems again and again and we continue to respond to them in the same problematic manner.
Is there a right way to cope with this? It's exceedingly frustrating. It has at times made me feel hopeless about the possibility of ever solving problems in my marriage. I will share how I've tried to deal with the situation in the hope that someone else with a similar problem might find it helpful. I would also appreciate any suggestions or feedback for how to improve.
It does not take long before constant blame begins to erode self confidence. This is something I've been determined to prevent. It took years for me to learn to love myself. My self confidence was hard won; I will never allow anyone to take it away. I protect my self esteem by refusing to accept blame for anything that isn't truly my fault. I quite literally say to my husband, "I refuse to accept blame for this. It isn't my fault." The flip side is that I have to work really hard to accept responsibility when I am at fault, to apologize when I behave unkindly, and to admit when I've done something wrong (oh how I hate admitting I'm wrong). I inevitably screw this up, at least initially. Fortunately, I've discovered I can get more than one try. If I behave terribly during an argument (I do this a lot more than I care to admit) I can go back an hour, two hours, or even a day later and say I'm sorry.
Which brings me to my next point. I have no objection to going to bed angry. Arguing is only productive if it leads to resolving the conflict. If an argument is going in circles, if it turns into a blame game, or if it simply becomes obvious that the problem is too complex to solve in one night then walk away. Going to bed angry is better than fighting all night yet accomplishing nothing. Get some rest. You may still be angry in the morning but probably less angry than you were before.
The purpose of an argument, disagreement, or other conflict is as follows: clearly identify the problem (or the problem caused by a particular behavior, comment, etc.); accept responsibility and/or apologize as appropriate; solve the problem or resolve the conflict (this can sometimes take the form of identifying what can be done differently in the future to prevent the same thing from happening again). When it seems like my husband is stuck on blaming me I point out that blaming each other damages our relationship and does nothing to fix the problem. The first time I pointed this out my husband's response was to continue blaming me. A day or two later we had a serious talk. I pointed out to my husband that when conflicts arise in our marriage we have no effective way to resolve them. We argue and point fingers but we never accomplish anything. When we found ourselves arguing about the same issue a few weeks later I pointed out that this was the same argument we'd had a few weeks earlier but had been unable to resolve. And when the same problem inevitably came up again a few weeks after that I pointed it out again. And again. And again. Over and over again I told my husband how concerned I was about our marriage. When he tried to blame me I lamented how focused he was on "winning" the argument or on being "right." "If one of us wins that means one of us loses," I told him. "If one of us loses the relationship loses. I don't want to lose our marriage."
I've also told my husband it really bothers me when I try to discuss a problem or concern and his immediate response is to say it's my fault. Every time he does this I point it out. "Stop blaming me," I tell him. "I want us to talk about the problem." If he continues to blame me I get up and leave the room. That's my version of how it goes. His version goes like this: "You get to say everything you want to say. Then when I try to say something you won't listen. You want to complain about me but then I can't complain about you." It's true that I don't like to be criticized. It's true that I sometimes walk away when he's saying things about me I don't like to hear. Usually I take some time, think about it, and come back to talk about it later. So he has a point. My problem, however, is when I bring up something he's done that bothers me and he responds with a litany of things I do that bother him. "If you have a concern you are free to bring it up later," I say. "Right now, I want to talk about [the initial problem]."
So that is where we are. Things have gotten better. We're both starting to realize there are things about one another we are going to have to learn to accept. For me, I am very slowly learning that it is sometimes better to go along with certain situations I don't like simply because it makes my husband happy. I am trying to decide which of these situations I am willing to go along with. There are some things I am unwilling to abide. I am still figuring out where to draw the line. It is hard to know when to put my foot down and when to give in. The fact that my husband and I are both very strong willed makes it more difficult. Neither of us are inclined to back down from something we believe in. We are both bull-headed and hell bent on doing things our own way. We both have a fierce desire to be right. We both have difficulty admitting we're wrong.
To a certain degree I suppose this is what marriage is about: two people finding a way to live together peacefully in a way that makes them both happy.