MARRIAGE TALK. Blaming – learning to avoid the use of blaming tactics to preserve your relationship!

Marriage talk. Blaming – We’ve all been there where something goes wrong in normal, everyday life.  A kid falls down and skins his knee. The pot on the stove starts boiling over. Someone spills dark juice onto the brand new carpet. Suddenly, we find ourselves scrambling around, trying to put things back in order.

We do this because we care –about the responsibilities placed on us, and about the things that we own that we’re trying to take good care of. But, we also commonly include actions that show that we care about something else just as much – our own reputations.  We do not want to be seen as the cause of the problem, so, we look for somebody other than ourselves to blame it on. And, what does this solve? The answer is *Drumroll* Nothing! That’s right, blaming does not solve a thing.

Some of us are worse than others at blaming. Some of us are unaware that we even do it. We don’t notice that we start pointing fingers rampantly whenever life hits the fan. Others of us are fully aware of our tendency to blame, but claim that we have good reasons for doing it. We say that we do it because we care about results, or because we are interested in prevention of future errors. However, if that was true, we would probably have a much different approach.

Because, when you blame someone in the heat of the moment, it is almost always done ineffectively. And, almost always done with the wrong motive. Because, if you truly cared about results, and if you truly cared about prevention (as you claim to), then you’d want to pick a time to discuss such crucial matters when it would actually be beneficial. As it turns out, the appropriate time for that is never during the heat of intense moments. And, if you ever want to make sure that your message isn’t heard, and that no results are achieved, that is exactly when you should choose to start assessing blame.

Do it while right while the pan grease is still dripping onto the stove. Do it right while your child is still screaming from his skinned knee. Do it right while juice still settling into the carpet. These are the moments when most normal people won’t be able to hear that they should have done something differently. It’s when they will be least likely to be receptive to any criticisms you may have.

Partially, because they feel the same pressure you do. They don’t want to be seen as the source of the problem either. Your subtle (or blatant) actions to pin blame on them will be met with instant resistance, and most likely, defensiveness. Be honest… is that what you want? Is that really going to prevent future errors? Is that truly going to bring results? Clearly not.

The main problem with blame is that it focuses – not on the problem, but on the person who caused it. It misplaces attention – directing it away from finding solutions, and onto finding who the problem can be pinned on.

When you truly do care about results, and when you truly do care about effectiveness, you suddenly become less interested in figuring out who dunnit. You care more about figuring out what needs to be done to make matters better.

Rather than pointing at your husband, who you thought should have been keeping an eye on your child while he was skateboarding, you are looking for band aids. You are getting a clean, damp rag. You are putting ice in a baggie, and focusing on making the situation better. You’re too busy solving problems to actually worry about whose fault it was.

Rather than giving your wife a nasty look for letting the pot overflow unattended, you’re turning off the stove. You’re laying rags down to keep the grease from spreading. You’re clearing the area so that nobody accidentally comes near the mess and makes it worse. You’re too busy solving the problem to focus on figuring out whose fault it was.

Rather than boldly proclaiming that you’ve always thought it was a bad idea to drink juice over the brand new carpet, you are getting on your knees, pressing dry rags firmly into the soaking areas. You are moving the couch away from the wet area so that it doesn’t get stained too. You’re too busy solving problems to focus on figuring out who to point fingers at.

In all of these cases, when you truly do care more about solving the problem, you respond in a totally different way. Your mind asks a totally different question. Rather than asking “Whose fault is this,” it asks “What can be done to fix it?” You are focusing on what; not who. Who is irrelevant. Who is not related to anything that needs to be discussed right now. When you find yourself focusing on a “Who” instead of a “What,” it is probably time to keep your thoughts to yourself.

Of course, once you get all those problems solved, and once life has returned to its normal, less chaotic pace, then it may make sense to rehash some of these conundrums and figure out who could have done what better. If you do choose to do this, make sure that you aren’t simply doing it to avoid being blamed yourself. That, at any time, is the wrong motive.

There is also a good chance that you won’t feel the need to assign blame. Maybe, once life is calmer, you’ll realize that you were only tempted to assign blame because it offered you a scapegoat. Maybe you’ll realize that no good would come out of telling your husband that he was wrong. Maybe you’ll see that he already understands his part in the problem, and that he doesn’t need to be told about it. These are just a few of the many reasons why it makes sense to save the blaming for later (if it must be done at all).

Try to avoid the temptation to blame. It is strong, and almost everyone feels the urge to do it. Try to remember that it rarely makes things better. And that, if it must be done, it should be done much later – long after the heat of intense moments are still being felt by anyone.

Use calm, constructive communication. Don’t say things like, “I told you so,” or, “None of this would have happened if you would have bothered to take me seriously.” If you ever find yourself tempted to make such statements, you should do some soul-searching about your own motives, and seriously consider whether you care more about protecting yourself about solving problems.

Hopefully, these thoughts have been beneficial to you. Feel free to pass along to anyone that you think needs to hear this.

Caleb