How do you know you’re not at fault?

by Annie Kaszina on May 11, 2011

Dear Annie,

How do you know when you’re not at fault?

“I’ve been married for 10 years, and just now wondering if all this time of struggling and trying to have a happy relationship, really I’m in an abusive one.

I don’t get called names, but it’s like I don’t matter. From the beginning when we’ve argued, he’s wanted to call time on the relationship.  No talking, no dealing with the issues – just “this isn’t working”.  When I try to reach out and hug him and kiss him and tell him I love him and get no response, or “we don’t do that”.

How do you know when you’re not at fault?

Dear Carrie,

Your husband withholds affection and even attention, threatens to leave instead of addressing issues, and is lavish only with blame.  These are all hallmarks of an emotionally abusive partner.

When you’re in an abusive relationship, the key message your partner gives you is, in essence, this:

I am beyond reproach.  I can’t say the same about you.  See, whatever you’re doing, or saying, or thinking, it’s wrong.  And it’s my role to bring it to your attention, and punish you for it.”

You’re at fault.  He is the judge – and a ‘hanging judge’ at that.

That is the dynamic of your relationship.

You can be convicted of any number of different crimes, all in the space of a month, a day, or an hour, if he chooses.

Attack is a great smoke screen.

An abusive partner attacks us for so many faults and failings that, instead of looking at the root problem: what is wrong with him, we focus on defending ourselves.  We think: “Is it true?  I guess this failing may be true, but what about that one?  Am I really as awful as he makes out?”

The answer is, always, a resounding “NO!”

Love, for me, means always owning accountability…

And, before you jump in and say, “Well, maybe I am accountable for his temper tantrums”, let me tell you this:

It doesn’t work that way.

Each one of us is accountable for our own feelings and behaviors.  Period.

When a loved one does something that really annoys us – and let’s be perfectly honest, we can all lose our temper – how we react to that “something” is still entirely our responsibility.

“You made me..” is playground stuff.

Let me share with you some simple truths… truths that nobody ever told me, but I’ve discovered for myself.

  • There is no place for blame in a loving relationship.
  • Love thrives in a loving relationship, and blame thrives in a blaming, fault-finding relationship.
  • Loving relationships are not blaming relationships.  And blaming relationships are not loving relationships.
  • Loving relationships are happy, constructive relationships.  Blaming relationships are miserable, destructive relationships.
  • Loving relationships have a common agenda: both partners are happy to do whatever they can to support the other in feeling safe, happy, cherished and respected.
  • Blaming relationships reveal a massive degree of “mismatch”.  One partner commits wholeheartedly to the relationship; and seeks love, happiness, safety, and affection, from it.  The other is indifferent to the relationship, but demands power, control, and a sense of their own superiority from it.
  • In loving relationships both partners work together; in blaming relationships one partner is constantly working against the other, and doing his level best to undermine the other.

Carrie, it saddens me to say this, but you’ve spent 10 years trying to have a happy relationship when you don’t have a relationship, at all.  At least, not in any worthwhile sense of the word.

Your husband is not relating with you, the flesh and blood person he allegedly shares a life with.  He doesn’t register your feelings, acknowledge your needs, or respect your wishes.  The only true relationship he is having is with his resentments and inadequacies.

He doesn’t even see you as an individual being, separate from him. 

And, in case you’re wondering how I can say that, here’s the clue: when you try to hug him, he says; “We don’t do that.”  In reality, one of you does.  He just hasn’t noticed there are two people in the relationship.

I don’t know how long you will stay in this relationship, Carrie. Like most abused women you’ve already stayed way longer than is good for you, waiting in vain for the miracle to occur…

(That’s the mythical miracle that allegedly occurs on the fateful day when, your abusive man’s Mr Nasty Suit suddenly breaks into a thousand piece to reveal… Prince Charming, red rose in hand, no less.  PC looks at you, like you are the most beautiful woman on earth, falls to his knees, and says: “Darling, I’m so sorry. I was wrong.  I realize what a jerk I’ve been, and I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you.  I’ll be whoever you want me to be…”)

That miracle is not on offer.

But, still, there is a miracle available to you.  It occurs when you stop focusing on your faults, and start loving yourself with all your perfectly human imperfections.

He may not like you either just as you are, or as you try to be to please him.  That’s to be expected.  For the last 10 years he’s been your very own, in-house, professional, faultfinder.  That’s his issue to deal with.

So be it.

You can start to enjoy yourself, to laugh gently at your quirks, and delight in your qualities.

And if you feel you need permission from someone before you are allowed to do that, then have mine.  You have my full permission – and it’s as good as anyone else’s, because I say it is – to love and enjoy who you are, starting right now.

Have fun.

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