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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Coping with Blame

The Blame Game

Have you ever been in a difficult relationship with someone, where you end up being blamed for all the problems? Or, have you ever tried to resolve a conflict with someone and all they did was put the responsibility for the problems completely on your back?

When you are being constantly blamed for things that go wrong in a relationship you end up feeling guilty, responsible, and like a failure. You may try harder and harder to please the blamer, all the while losing more and more of yourself. Over time you may end up with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and low self-worth.

Since I usually write about abuse recovery, I am writing this article with the non-blaming victim in mind. I want to make it perfectly clear that blame is a tactic used by abusers and other toxic people to scapegoat another person and take the focus off themselves, as well as abuse the target.”

Blame is a very effective tool for helping abusers accomplish their agendas – diversion, division, chaos, excuses, and pain to the other person.

For instance, suppose you and your spouse have an argument and your spouse yells at you, calls you a “F**king idiot” and walks out the door. Later, you have a conversation about this conflict and he/she says, “If you hadn’t nagged me, I wouldn’t have reacted that way!”

Or, suppose your spouse has an affair and then when caught, tells you that if you would have met his/her needs he/she wouldn’t have needed to “step out.”  You even go to marriage counseling and the counselor seems to agree that you are partly culpable for your spouse’s cheating.

In both these cases, the blamed party feels not only victimized once, but victimized multiple times – the first time by the behavior of the other party, and the second time by being blamed for the infraction.  A third injury occurs when others side with the blamer, further validating your complicity to the pain you supposedly, ultimately caused yourself.

Everyone Has Choices

My response to the blame game is to remember that everyone has choices. I believe that each person is responsible for his/her behavior, period. When you are subjected to blame, the other person seems so convincing that they had no other option but to do whatever they did that hurt you. The truth of the matter is we all have a myriad of choices for every problem we encounter.

Whenever someone tries to blame you for their poor behavior, remember this truth.  If you are a person interested in preserving your relationship, you do not allow yourself to behave hurtfully just because you feel like it.  This same truth belongs to the other person as well.

Many people wrongly believe that they are not responsible for how they behave. A lot are taught that, “He/She made me do it!” This belief applies to both blamers and those being blamed. That is why it is so easy to get away with doing it.

Recovery from Blame

If you are in a difficult relationship with someone who consistently blames you for their problems, you are most likely suffering from emotional abuse. Over time your sense of reality gets eroded as you try to improve yourself so that the other person doesn’t have any reason to blame you.

As you continuously try to improve, the other person may “up the ante” making the hoops you need to jump through higher and smaller. The truth is, however, that the person blaming you is the problem. He/She believes that their unhappiness is caused by external circumstances; including you. This is a lack of insight.

The truth is, happiness truly is an “inside job.”  Other people are not responsible for your happiness, nor are you responsible for theirs. Each person is responsible for his/her own happiness.

The best thing you can do is surrender. Stop. Let the chips fall where they may.  Stop taking on the responsibility of someone else’s choices. Remind yourself that you only have dominion over your behavior and your half of the relationship. Remind yourself that a relationship comprises two people and when there are problems, it is up to both parties to come to the table and resolve them.

If you are in a toxic relationship and are the receiver of the blame, you may find yourself in a Catch 22 as you realize that most of the problems you have with the toxic person are caused by that person; but, you don’t want to be a blamer yourself.  Blame never brings solutions. Reasons do. Understand the reasons you are struggling without casting blame. Even if the problem mainly resides in the other person, you can still make choices on how to protect yourself.

Once you realize that many of the problems are caused by the other person’s need to blame you for their unhappiness, you are free to take action to shield yourself from hurt. Set boundaries. Don’t accept the blame, be respectful, and take care of yourself.


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Coping with Blame

APA Reference
Stines, S. (2018). Coping with Blame. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 21, 2019, from