So why do we play the blame game at the end of a marriage, assigning guilt like we’re tallying points in a shuffleboard match? Why does it have to turn into a bride vs. groom match with everyone taking sides?
The blame frequently starts within the dissolving union. One partner often holds the other responsible for the destruction of the marriage. They can be quick to list the faults and transgressions of their ex, pointing fingers at another as a way of avoiding having to look at themselves. This is frequently performed behind a shield of righteousness, painting the blaming spouse into a victim role where they have no responsibility for their own actions and their own happiness.
Not all blame comes from within. Some of the most painful and damaging blame comes from those outside the marriage who feel the need to pass judgment on its demise.
Marriages are strange things. The union itself is public, yet the true nature of the relationship is known only to its partners. As a result, we have to make assumptions about the inner workings of the marriage. Because we don’t know another’s marriage, we superimpose what we do know onto their experience. We project our own pasts and beliefs onto their story, reframing it into something familiar. This is a natural reaction; we try to make sense of what we do not understand by relating it to what we do know. It’s natural, but it’s also important to realize that it is not necessarily accurate.
Blame also arises from a desire for fairness and order in the world. We may have outgrown fairytales, but we still want to believe in a world where good is rewarded and the wicked, punished. It’s difficult to understand and accept that this equanimity is not always the case and that 50-50 doesn’t always ring true.
It is also easy to lay blame when you’re on the sidelines. You can act like an armchair quarterback with a bird’s eye view of all of the action. For those on the field, the plays are subtler and are made even murkier by the waves of emotion that accompany divorce.
Finally, we place blame out of fear. We want to believe in the security of being able to control our own lives. In the case of divorce, abandonment fraud and infidelity, people seek comfort in the idea that they can avoid those outcomes if they only act a certain way. We want to think that we are safe, that it can’t happen to us.
Ultimately, blame is a distraction from the core issues in trauma and healing. It is a winless game; it’s best just not to play.
If you find yourself quick to lay blame, please pause for a moment and think about the appropriateness of the label. Think about the consequences of the assumption. Try to examine the situation from multiple viewpoints.
If you find yourself being blamed, especially after your partner has committed adultery or left without notice, please understand that the blamer is lashing out due to their own insecurities and narrow views. You are not responsible for another’s actions.
We need to reach out in kindness, not lash out in blame.
more via Lisa Arends: The Blame Game.