A moment of frustration, a slice of disappointment, or an unexpected setback; all small pieces that can often set the ball rolling for a disagreement in a relationship. Sometimes the issue is quickly resolved, without more than a fleeting moment of annoyance. Other times the discussion turns ugly, into a full-fledged argument.
And this is when I seem to step up to the plate and begin to play the blame game, if not out loud then certainly in my head.
“You are making me so frustrated!” I might say, exasperated, with hands motioning just to prove my anger. He agrees, although roles are reversed in his statement.
I don’t know about you, but stubbornness runs strong in our household.
It has only been in recent months that I have begun to uncover a revolutionary, slightly annoying and certainly perspective-shifting truth – the blame game never really works.
In my imagination I let my husband know how he has wronged me, and pleasantly, he agrees, seeking my forgiveness and buying me flowers to boot. In reality, both of us typically end up with a bit of truth and a bit of mixed up feelings involved in the exchange. Most often, meeting in the middle is the place where we find reconciliation, not him simply coming all the way.
I am learning that the blame game typically evokes a defensive, unapologetic and offended response, in pretty well everyone I try to play it with. It seems that people are quite protective over themselves and the opinions that they hold to be true. By blaming others, we let them know that what they believe to be true is invalid, and in all honesty, somewhat crazy compared to our thought on the matter.
So what would it look like if we turned this whole thing around? What might happen if we begin to own our feelings as just that, our feelings?
Rather than unleashing the wrath of anger, the river of sadness or the stone-wall of annoyance, what might it look like to humbly offer our true feelings and thoughts to someone we love? I am learning that often my built up frustration that comes out in bursts of silent treatments or yelling matches is actually an outward cover-up for my deeper yearning, to have my true feelings acknowledged.
Perhaps when he didn’t let me know he would be missing dinner tonight, I felt over-looked and disrespected. I am beginning to wonder what it would look like for me to express those feelings instead of the anger that might want to show its ugly face? We often cover up the deeper, more vulnerable feelings like fear, self-doubt, or anxiety with anger or frustration – secondary emotions for what is buried underneath.
The journey of using ‘I feel’ statements instead of saying, ‘You are ____________’ is one that certainly has many bumps and potholes. It leads me to a place of vulnerability, ownership and facing some of the things I actually dislike about myself. And yet, my relationship is healthier for it. It lets my husband in instead of pushing him away. It offers the chance for him to be vulnerable too.
And so, I’m making the choice to step away from the blame game. Sure, every now and then it calls me back with promises of momentary satisfaction. But for the most part, I have said goodbye to the game, opening myself up instead to genuine communication and a deeper understanding of myself. It has reminded me of my own humanity, and the beautiful mystery of fulfillment that letting others in can bring.