Often, when any kind of relationship comes to an end, the easiest thing to do is to blame the other person; I lost my job because you didn’t support me, our relationship ended because you didn’t prioritise me, our friendship drifted apart because you didn’t call, and so on and so forth. There are of course times when these statements may very well be an accurate analysis of what happened, however more often than not both parties have played a role in the ultimate outcome and it is vital that you take responsibility for your actions. 

With the current political climate where everyone is looking to point the finger of blame, be it at Theresa Mayor Jeremy Corbyn, the “Brexiteers” or the “Remoaners”, we at Seventy Thirty felt now would be as good a time as any to explore the role of blame and responsibility in relationships.   

There has been much written about the impact of blame on a relationship and how not taking responsibility for your actions can lead to you continually repeating the same mistakes. If something is never your fault, why would you need to learn from the situation to make sure things would turn out differently next time; whether that be in business or everyday life.

Peter Bregman wrote a very informative article for the Harvard Business Revie won Why You Should Take the Blame and found that “To take the blame, you need to have confidence in yourself and your capability. You need the personal strength to accept failure. You need enough self-esteem to believe you can learn from your mistakes and succeed another day. You need to accept failure as part of life and not a final sentence on who you are as a person”.So, in any given situation, instead of instantly looking to see whose fault it is, take a moment to think, regardless of who is to ‘blame’, what role you played and how could you have done something differently. Stop trying to find all the different reasons as to why you are not responsible and instead try thinking that, actually, you may very well be the one at fault here so what can you do to rectify that.

When it comes to blame, individuals tend to go into defence mode and instantly hit out with ‘well if you didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have done this’ or ‘it’s your fault because…’ and then proceed to list a whole host of reasons, sometimes seen as justifications, as to why they themselves are blameless and responsibility for the breakdown of the relationship lies solely at the other person’s door. 

The danger with this attitude and approach is that you end up failing to grow. Instead of standing back and reflecting on what went wrong, what you could have done differently, and what you have learnt from that particular situation, you instead adopt a ‘woe is me’ attitude which can lead to loneliness and the end of a potentially fantastic relationship. After all, there is nothing attractive or inviting about spending time with someone who in their opinion is never at fault and who isn’t mature enough to take responsibility for the part they played. 

The term narcissist can sometimes be banded about all to easily without any real insight into the actual meaning of it; psychologist Rachel Sharpless wrote about Narcissism and found that a trait connected with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is an unwillingness to compromise and not seeing something from someone else’s perspective. This trait can also be linked to how some people approach blame for any given situation in a relationship; the ‘it’s not me it’s you’ approach. Narcissism can also involve delusions of grandeur where someone struggles to comprehend the very idea that they are the one in the wrong.  Blaming others for your actions is also an aspect closely linked to NPD. So again, we must consider our role as individuals when it comes to apportioning blame and to not always assume that you are the ‘victim’. 

Neil Farber writes about 5 Ways Blaming Hurts Relationships and makes reference to “the use of “I” statements that reflect your feelings – “I feel hurt or sad when you do this,” rather than “you” blaming statements – “you always do that,” are more likely to evoke emotions that bring us together rather than tear us apart”.Accepting and understanding the part you played can help resolve the conflict sooner. Whilst it’s important to consider how any particular situation affects you and how that subsequently makes you feel, it can be advisable not to be defensive, automatically assuming the role of ‘victim’ and to instead consider how your actions affected the other person. 

Christian Maciel wrote about the 14 Signs Someone Is Always Playing The Victim and found amongst other things, that “people that believe they are victims tend to push friends, family and co-workers away”.This can often be the biggest side effect of not having the ability to take responsibility for your actions and instead constantly playing the blame game. Afterall there are only so many times your support network; be it friends, family, colleagues or a partner, will continually see the situation from your point of view and agree that you are consistently ‘blameless’. Eventually they will start to wonder if perhaps the error lies with your approach to the situation and if its time you realised that. After all, none of us are perfect and therefore its simply not possible for us to always be right and to always be the ‘victim’. So, if you find you are forever having to justify to others why you are so hard done by and why ‘everyone is always against you’, it may be time to take yourself out of the victim role and into the mindset of a mature, responsible adult who wants to learn from every situation they find themselves in, be it good or bad. 

In life, we make decisions and we live with the consequences. Sometimes these will lead to fantastic opportunities that will shape the person we are today, but sometimes they will lead to the loss of a relationship due to something we could have done differently. It is in these times, that a period of reflection is required so that we can learn, grow and not repeat the same mistakes. 

Try to stop yourself from using someone’s goodwill gestures of the past where they have tried to help you, as justifications as to why they are now at fault. For example, ‘in the past you’ve always supported me on this so now you’re not, it’s your fault’. Or, ‘you always helped me before so why won’t you now?’. 

So in conclusion, when it comes to relationships past, consider asking yourself the following questions: What role did I play in this situation? Is there a chance that I too am at fault rather than solely just the other person? Would things have been different if I acted in a more respectful and thoughtful manner towards the other person? All of these questions can help you: identify the patterns with past relationships that you want, or in some cases do not want to repeat, what this experience has taught you about your needs in a relationship, and if you have any faults or weaknesses in a relationship which should be addressed. 

The important thing to remember is to take responsibility and to own the decisions you make. Don’t hide behind always blaming others, hidden meanings in conversations or online quotes you post about continuously being the one who’s hard done by. Instead, take the lead, accept what’s happened and allow it to help you to become the bigger person and therefore a better partner in the future.