Who is to Blame?

Who is to Blame

One of the statements I make to couples when they first begin couples counselling in New Zealand is;

There is a problem in your relationship. You may feel the problem is your partner, but they are not the problem. But there is still a problem in your relationship. You both input into the problem in different ways. How you input into the problem is one of the things we will investigate during counselling.

As couples create the problems in their relationships they are also part of the solution. It is important to recognise that only a couple can solve their problems. The therapist can assist in many ways but eventually it is the couple that must be willing to solve their problems.

One of the biggest obstacles for couples to overcome in their relationship is laying blame for past sins. It is often easier for individuals to lay the blame squarely at the feet of their spouse rather than acknowledge their input into the problem. By blaming your partner for all the problems in your relationship, this makes it difficult to resolve problems. No one person is the hero or villain in any relationship, there are shared mistakes and failures along the way. These include; shared failures to communicate, to listen and to be sensitive to another’s needs or vulnerabilities, to be understanding, and to acknowledge past hurts and current feelings. Acknowledging your part, and taking responsibility for your input in to problems, goes a long way in resolving many of the differences couples experience in their relationships.

In many circular arguments between couples there is often the chicken or the egg question; which came first, the problem or the blame? In relationship counselling I regularly experience couples arguing over past blame and counter blame. Nothing is ever resolved during these arguments. Over time the arguments begin to break down the closeness in the relationship which can lead to open hostility and eventually stonewalling. The problem which initially caused the dispute is forgotten, and what is left is blaming each other. Blaming your partner does not resolve a problem. Identifying the problem, recognising how you both input into the problem, and working towards a satisfactory solution, are required.

Christopher Swane - Couples Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand