The Blame Game
by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
When we’re in an argument with our partner, we may hear them say things along the lines of “You made me feel….” or “You made me do…” Or we may say such things ourselves. Those statements reveal how we see the nature of our experiences and feelings. They also reveal misplaced blame.
If you're in an argument in which you’re tempted to make such a statement, you should change it to something along the lines of the following: “When you did [this thing], it triggered me to feel [this way],” or, “When you didn't get me a gift, I felt unloved and fearful. I am hurt.” You can acknowledge how you feel about something, but you should not blame others for how you feel.
Others can be catalysts for your emotional experiences. But others don't have power to “make” you feel a certain way. You must own your own feelings. When you do, you are giving yourself the language and the power to effect change. You are taking control over your own emotional world.
This is very valuable and powerful. You might recognize that you tend to feel a certain way by design. But you can also choose to see things differently and feel things differently than in the way that you might be “wired.”
When you have this perspective, it helps you along on your path toward self-improvement. You might be in a situation in which you're triggered about something, but you can examine your reaction. As you do, you might say something along the lines of the following to yourself: “This situation triggers me to think that I am not loved. I then become further triggered and feel anxious and fearful. From there, I shut down. I feel sad, and I feel devastated, and others sense anger in me at such times.”
“You make me feel” is a four-letter phrase.
Communication within conflicts is an art. Communicate properly and you move towards a resolution. Communicate improperly and exacerbate the conflict and inflict more wounds.
Please consider the following example of appropriate communication regarding ownership of feelings during a conflict:
“My love, I do feel strongly about some of the points that I'm making. But can we address some of these things at another time so that both of us can feel safe? I apologize for raising my voice. I apologize for judging you. I apologize for being pushy. I apologize for not knowing how to stay calm. I apologize for not stopping the argument when I should have. I should have stopped to allow us to pause, cool off, or even sleep on it. I'm very sorry for all of this, and I want to change myself. I love you always, and I want to feel close again. Please forgive me.”
These kinds of apologies will have profound positive effects on mature people. But I can't honestly say that they always work. I've helped friends put apology letters together, composing them to perfection only for them to later be received with anger and resentment.
Sometimes even the best surrender will not be taken in the spirit in which it was intended. But you must do your very, very best to resolve conflicts that you have with your partner.