We’ve been doing it since the beginning of time: Adam blames Eve; Eve blames the serpent. We see the resulting chaos.
Shifting the blame is the oldest tactic known to humankind for avoiding taking responsibility for our actions. While shifting the blame may seem innocuous enough, it is deadly.
If we all do it, can it really be so bad? The answer is unquestionably, ‘yes!’
Consider the consequences of shifting the blame:
• The guilty person escapes taking responsibility, thus never changing their behavior;
• With behavior never changing, old patterns continue;
• Shifting the blame, combined with old dysfunctional patterns create chaos, altering the conversation from the guilty person’s actions onto the innocent party;
• The innocent party feels “false guilt” from the shifting of responsibility;
• True repentance (“turning away from”) does not occur.
From this perspective it is easy to see that shifting the blame, creates immense problems in a marriage and our other relationships. Shifting the blame is, at its deepest level, an act of immaturity and creates frustration, anger, and confusion.
Consider this woman’s frustrated plea for help regarding her husband’s addiction to pornography.
Dear Dr. David. Your article on “When Trying to Change Him is Hurting You” could have been written by me except for a few details. My husband lives a double life and is addicted to pornography. I have caught him on some of the most atrocious sites, and every time I catch him he makes excuses for why he was on them.
My husband is generally a responsible man. He has a good job, is a good father, but he has this one area of trouble.
What really frustrates me is that he won’t take responsibility for his actions. He makes excuses, minimizes how often he is on the porn sites and has even blamed me for his addiction. He says if things were better between us, he would have no reason to go to the sites.
His arguments drive me crazy. Sometimes I feel like I’m the one to blame, even though that doesn’t make any sense. He stares at me and tells me he wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for me. How can this possibly be my fault? Even though I know it isn’t my fault, he can get me to doubting myself. Please help me sort out this issue.
--Confused and Feeling Guilty
First of all, it’s not your problem. Your husband apparently has an addiction to pornography. That cannot be your fault, as much as he tries the age-old strategy of “shifting the blame.” Don’t buy in. Taking any of the “false guilt” only distracts you from the real problem, his addiction, and lowers your self-esteem in the process. Please see my book, Breaking Everyday Addictions for more information on the power and process of addictions.
Since it’s his issue, he must be held responsible for it. Don’t allow yourself to get caught in the swirl of blame, attack, side-stepping and general avoidance of responsibility. Make it clear to him that he must take responsibility. Living in chaos and confusion only prolongs your agony and his addiction.
Taking responsibility means taking action regarding his addiction. Minimizing his actions, shifting the blame, making excuses, are all barriers to him stepping up and seeking help. He needs specialized treatment for this specific problem. These are the kinds of issues we deal with regularly at the Marriage Recovery Center, teaching couples how to face problems responsibly so they can be healed.
Don’t enable his irresponsibility, or his addiction, by dropping the issue. Make it clear that a little action is not enough. Promises are not enough. He must face the immensity of his addiction and receive in-depth treatment. (Please contact me, or a specialist to discuss appropriate treatment options.)
You will know your husband has taken responsibility when he exhibits “a Godly sorrow that leads to repentance” and when he takes action for his addiction. It is critical that you see sorrow for the impact his addiction has had on himself, you and your family. He must come face to face with his problem, and then stop at NOTHING to win the battle over this addiction.
If you are experiencing problems with addictions and refusal to take responsibility for actions, I’d love to hear from you. What have you done to hold your mate responsible? Share your opinion or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website, www.YourRelationshipDoctor.com.