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The Relationship Self-Blame Game

By Dr. Margaret Paul
June 01, 2015

Does conflict resolution between you and another person get stuck when the other person feels blamed by you?

Have you ever had the experience of trying to resolve a conflict and running up against your partner's self-blame in a way that stops any exploration or possibility of a resolution?

This is the situation with Renee:

"Hi Margaret, thank you for your great work. My partner and I fall into conflict quite often. I am always the one trying to resolve things and move towards reconnection. Most often in our communication he goes off on 'Fine, so just blame me then, it's my fault again, I am the one to blame then aren't I' and on and on about blame with no resolution until days later, if at all...I truly do not feel like I am blaming him, I express to him that it is not at all about blame, but trying to understand where and why we fell into disconnect. It doesn't work, he gets more defended, I get more angry, and he goes off into his self protection bubble, leaving me feel feeling abandoned and unheard. The self-blame game seems to be one of his default modes. What do you suggest?"

As always, there is a circular system going on, with both people in their wounded selves.

While Renee believes she is open to learning, the fact that she explains and then gets angry, and then feels abandoned and unheard indicates that she is likely making her partner responsible for her feelings – which may be why he feels blamed.

If Renee were open, then when her partner did his self-blame game, she would be really curious about why he feels blamed by her, rather than trying to talk him out of it. She would say, with genuine curiosity, something like, "Please tell me what I'm doing that is making you feel blamed." She would be coming from a belief that there might actually be something she is doing that is blaming, rather than telling him that it's not about blame. She would be open to hearing that there was something in her energy that felt blaming to him.

Renee then gets angry, which always indicates that she was, in some way, trying to control something rather than be open to learning. If she were truly open to learning and to taking responsibility for her own feelings, and her partner wouldn't open to even telling her why he feels blamed by her, then she would lovingly disengage, accepting her helplessness over his lack of openness. But instead, she gets angry to try to control him into resolving with her.

Then, the fact that she feels abandoned and unheard indicates that she is abandoning herself and not hearing herself, and then making him responsible for her feelings. If she were truly open and taking responsibility for her own feelings, she would not feel abandoned and unheard by him, because she would not be making him responsible for being the one to hear her.

What Renee needs to do before trying to resolve a conflict with her partner is do her own Inner Bonding work, exploring her part of the conflict and taking loving care of her own feelings. Then she could go to her partner and share her own learning with him, rather than trying to get him to deal with his end of the conflict. She is very aware of his using the self-blame game, but very unaware of the fact that she is likely subtly making him responsible for her feelings.

There is always a system between two people, and the more we explore our own end of the system, the better things get.


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