The Blame Game

Why is it that some people (those who have never been divorced, or even married, I would suspect) are so quick to lay blame on the end of a marriage.  I mainly hear this when there is abandonment or infidelity involved; the expressed assumption is that the spouse on the receiving end must have somehow invited that behavior.  It is not unlike the victim-shaming often applied to sexual assault victims or the way an abuser lays the blame at the feet of his/her abused.  This mindset can be so damaging for those who are trying to come to terms with what has happened to them.  Those who are trying to ascertain if they are damaged or not worthy.  Those whose world has been torn asunder and who are looking to right themselves again.  We need to reach out in kindness, not lash out in blame.

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In my own marriage, I accept responsibility that my intense nature and my mind prone to worrying helped to create an environment that was supportive of his dishonesty.  Regardless, that did not make it okay for him to lie for years, embezzle money from the marriage, leave with a text message and no discourse, or commit bigamy.  The blamers say he did those things because of me.  In the early months, I felt he did those things to me.  Now, I believe that he did those things despite of me.  He was sick, he was unhappy, he was fighting addictions, and I just happened to be collateral damage.

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.

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.

I wrote more about blame on The Huffington Post.

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20 thoughts on “The Blame Game

  1. Collateral damage, great way to describe, depict and explain what happened to us…..saddly it does paint a picture, a true visual of the crap of the situation that was. Thanks again Lisa!

  2. People are jerks. It’s really easy to judge other situations when you’re not trapped in them. Hell, it’s easy for me to call MYSELF an idiot for staying years past my marital expiration date just because I felt paralyzed. I woke up every day thinking I should “do something” about my situation, and yet I did nothing. When you’re immersed in something, whether a job or a relationship, that has financial and family ties, you can feel really powerless to change anything about it, much less end it completely.

  3. I can completely relate to this. When my husbands infidelities came out the first thing our family and friends assumed was that we had problems in the bedroom. Aside from him being a drunk that could not have been further from the truth. It was infuriating. I remember standing in the kitchen of my beac house with my Mom and her asking me if we had “sex” problems. My sister was with us and says ” that’s what I figured it was too.” Um no we had no sex problems except I refused if he was wasted. Even his uncle broached this subject with us when he said “You guys were always all over each other, I remember at the beach telling y’all to get a room. I assumed that area of your marriage was fine.” No one took his addictions into consideration at the time, everyone was quick to think I was not putting out enough. After he had his psych evulation done they all finally knew it had nothing to do with me and that he was crazy “severe mental illness” ugh.. Misplaced blame makes the pain that much worse.

    1. Ah, yes, the bedroom claim. I am so sick of that one! I love how people assume they know what went on in my bedroom when they had never been in my home, much less invited into my sex life.

      Did you carry his psych around with you? I carried a newspaper article (with mugshot!) about my ex around for awhile. When people started with the assumptions and misplaced blame, I simply pulled the paper out of my purse and handed it to them:) Made me feel better!

  4. Great blog and one many should read.
    I think you are correct, opinions come at us fast in life, and mainly ignorant opinions.
    From what I see in life, people guess first and know the truth later.

    Shaun

    1. So true. And, not just guess, but superimpose their own experiences on the lives of others. I’m guilty of the same thing. It’s hard for me to relate to certain situations so I find myself trying to reframe them into something familiar.

      1. I think this is all we can do if we can’t relate. We are all guilty of something. And you are right, people do superimpose their own experiences onto others.

        I guess this is just living, and learning
        Thanks for sharing and commenting back

        Shaun x

  5. So, so true, Lisa. Here’s another one for the list, and possibly the most unfair of all: most people in our circle think my marriage ended because of our son, who is very impacted by autism! That could not be further from the truth as our son brings out the best in us both. We wrecked our marriage all by ourselves.

    1. That is sad. I guess that people might be focusing on the inherent difficulties in having an autistic child and trying to imagine how that would impact their relationships rather than trying to understand how your son brought you and your husband together. It is tough to talk about marriages since we each only know a fraction of another’s union. It means we have to make assumptions and they are often wrong.

      Sounds like your son is lucky to have you and you, him:)

  6. I know exactly what you mean. It is so easy for people on the outside to have ALL kinds of comments and criticisms, but they are not the ones in the relationship…and they are not going through the pain or the distress. No relationship is perfect, but if things are that bad that you feel you have to lie, manipulate and deceive, why not just leave? Simple.

    My ex was cheating for years, and going around telling people that we were having problems…and God knows what else, to justify his actions, and as I found out later, setting the stage for my exit. One of his friends told him to “Drop her ass off at her mother’s.” (I had already left, but was still being blamed). This friend also told him that it was okay with his ‘boys’ that he had someone else. After over 14 years of loving and caring for, cooking, cleaning, and making a home for, and looking after this man, through sickness and health, he was slandering my name to others. While I was proudly wearing his ring and saying good things about him, he was blaming me to his bosses whenever he got into trouble (for excessive absenteeism because he would leave work to go to the woman’s house or on dates. He even started accusing me of having an affair with a co-worker…an honourable, decent man…not to mention an insult to me, who only thought of him and could never do that to him. I didn’t even notice other men, except to communicate with co-workers, male family members and mutual friends.

    And when I suspected and asked him, he swore up and down that he could never do anything like that to me, and that it was just a friendship…that he wouldn’t leave me…as if I were that hard up and had no choice to stay with this prince among men. But eventually I paid attention to the signs, did my research and left.

    It made me question every single thing he ever did or said. What to believe? It’s hard to believe anything. And when I saw his true colours through everything, I realized I never knew that man.

    Wow…even my mother, aunt, siblings, other family members, as well as friends and acquaintances couldn’t believe that this man who presented himself as such a decent person, and whom they loved so much, and regarded so highly could do and say the things he did…and there was so many cruel words and actions, and so much more. This includes bringing women to the home we shared. Some of the other things I found out still shocks me. My mom and siblings and friends cried because they were so hurt at what I endured, and also because they loved him so much and couldn’t have imagined those things of him in a million years.

    I don’t hate him though (much to the chagrin of many friends who would like to hurt him). They felt he got off easy, because I just left and took nothing. I guess he’s lucky he wasn’t dealing with a vengeful person. Some of the things some said they would have done makes me shiver.

    I am grateful for the life we had and forgive him for everything. Life is too precious to spend it hating. I am grateful for the lessons learned. I know I have an endless capacity for love and forgiveness, and that I am so much stronger than I remembered. I will use this as an opportunity to become a better me and help other women heal.

    1. Isn’t it awful to find out that you’ve been living a lie? That the one you trusted the most was stabbing you in the back at every opportunity? I remember how crazy making it was trying to unravel truth from his fictions.

      My ex also told people I had affairs. One story I heard from his former boss after he left really painted a picture of how extreme he was. He has a scar on his ring finger from a carpentry accident. He claimed this was from an incident where he caught me with another man in his basement office (uhmm…if I was going to cheat, why would I use my husband’s basement office????). My ex claimed that he was so angry that he ripped his wedding band off, cutting his finger in the process. The sad part? His former boss continued to believe this story even after my ex was arrested for bigamy. I was angry at first that my reputation was slandered. Now? I don’t worry about it. Those who know me, know the truth. And most importantly, I know it as well.

      I am so glad to hear that you are not stuck in anger towards him. I agree that time spent hating is time wasted.

      Thanks for sharing your story and using it to inspire others.

      Hugs:)

      1. It occurs to me that I forgot some other people my ex blamed for his actions: the woman that I found out about for ‘making the first move and kissing him at work.’ Apparently she also ‘dragged him’ to her place and ‘invited herself’ to our home…even though he is the one who brought her there in the first place. What kind of woman ‘sleeps ‘ in another woman’s bed? Did I mention she was also involved with someone else? And by the same token, what kind of man does that to someone he claims to love?

        He blamed his parents for spoiling him and giving him whatever he wanted.

        He blamed the stress of the job…that he let it get to him and that she provided an outlet (they work together, and her man works for the same company)…..I could go on, but you get the idea.

        I know a lot of women blame the other woman, but it takes two to tango. Some are even jealous of the other woman. Not me. I am actually grateful to her…I saw the depths of depravity that some will stoop to and it helps me be mindful to check myself. I am also grateful that this situation helped me see his true colours, and I know for a fact she didn’t know a lot of his wiles. Not my problem. But she did know about me…apparently she tried to get him to leave me, but he didn’t…plus she had a partner of several years. Even one of those factors would have given someone with different values pause, but hey, we are all different. She and I spoke and I gave her my blessings and told her I forgave her.

        My friends thought that because I didn’t go into a rage or try to ‘stick it to him’, that I wasn’t really dealing. We all deal differently, and I choose how I deal. Plus I see the big picture. I consider myself lucky actually. I have a chance to improve myself and accomplish all of the goals I had put off for years. The biggest plus is that I will be in a better place mentally, emotionally, spiritually etc. when I find the love of my life (which I thought he was). My life is just beginning.

        Anyway, it’s water under the bridge, but I want to counsel women and help them heal and move on to fuller lives (going for my qualifications in that area). So many women can’t get past this and spend years in victim mode. I want to help them realize that is not the end of their lives…or the world. Sometimes you find your greatest love after going through, healing from and learning the lessons from a breakup/divorce.

        Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us. They are very inspiring and really do help. I’ll keep reading. Much love and all the best to you and B.

  7. You are so right. It always amazes me how on Twitter or Huffington Post divorce forums, religious types like to post “helpful” articles on what you could have done to make marriage work. I believe in God–and believe I’m not judged for my marriage ending. At least in the divine realm. It’s only here in crazyland that the blame gets passed around . . .

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