by Bonnie Weiss, LCSW
How many times have we heard these words, “It’s not my fault, don’t blame me!”? When we have difficulty in our relationships, we tend feel innocent and find fault with our partners.
Jake and Matilda had a horrible fight, and the next day when Matilda was talking to a friend, all she could remember was the hurtful things Jake said. And he felt the same way. We all know divorced people who talk so poorly of their ex-partners that we imagine they are monsters. And when we meet them we are surprised at how normal they seem.
Why Does This Happen?
To understand this phenomenon it helps to remember that our mind is composed of many different parts or sub-personalities. We frequently say things like, “A part of me wants to be thin, and a part of me wants to eat everything in sight.” We have protectors that organize and manage our lives and fight our battles in the external world. We have vulnerable parts that hold childhood memories and pain.
If your partner judges you or pulls away from you, it may trigger a Hurt Child part of you that feels worthless or unlovable. Then a Judgmental Part will jump in to put the blame on your partner in an effort to protect you from these unbearable feelings.
The mind is a multi-layered system. There is even another level going on inside, often without our awareness. When your partner blames you, it doesn’t just trigger the Hurt Child in you, it also triggers your Inner Critic. That part may say, “See, I knew you were bad and worthless, and this confirms it.” So your Hurt Child is not only being wounded by your partner but also by your own Inner Critic.
This Judgmental Part is a protector. When it judges your partner, it is primarily trying to protect against attacks from your own Inner Critic. The Judgmental Part hopes that by shifting the fault to your partner, the Hurt Child will be safer from the Critic.
Couples are particularly prone to getting into struggles between Judgmental Parts. Each person is desperately trying to protect themselves from the emotional havoc of a harsh Inner Critic gone wild.
What Can We Do?
A good way to shift out of the blame-game is to make a conscious efforts to be aware of your inner parts and take responsibility for them. When something comes up that is hard for you to look at and accept about yourself, it helps to notice what is actually going on inside. Slow down your inner process to see and feel these various parts emerge and witness them from your higher self.
An important step to is realize that the parts, the Judgmental Part, the Hurt Child, and even the Inner Critic, all have positive intentions for you and are trying to do their best for you. Then you can be with them in a loving way which will ease their intensity and pain. When you are able to do this for yourself, it opens up the emotional space for compassion for your partner.
As this begins to happen, instead of blaming your partner, you can learn to be an advocate for your parts. You can let your partner know that you feel badly about what happened, and you can sense a part of you that wants to protect you by putting the blame elsewhere. By realizing that many of your fights are the result of your parts getting triggered, you can ease the interactions and allow for more understanding and softness between you.
For help with communication and conflict:
Bonnie offers couples therapy.
Self-Therapy Journey is an interactive online tool for psychological healing and personal growth that has a module for the Judgmental Pattern, as well as the Inner Critic.