Is it my fault the relationship is abusive?

03 Jan 2017

“I’m really sad and desperate”

Is it my fault the relationship is abusive? said no emotionally abusive partner. Ever.  However, that precise question was at the top of my Inbox after the New Year’s break.  It was, of course, an accusation levelled at Tonia, an emotionally abused woman – by her abusive partner.

What followed was,

A typical story of emotional abuse.

Abusive partner,

  1. Goes out, in a couple, and ignores his woman – in the time-honored abusive way.
  2. Abused woman makes the best of a bad job and tries to enjoy engaging in conversation with other people present.
  3. Abusive partner feels deeply resentful at being overlooked.
  4. He throws a world-class hissy fit.

No wonder poor Tonia feels sad and desperate.  Naturally, she can’t make any sense of what just happened.  (How on earth could she be expected to? What happened was crazy.) So, she is left wondering, “Is it my fault?”

Just to add insult to injury, a chorus of “friends” jump in to tell her that her abusive partner’s behaviour is her fault. (You wonder what is WRONG with these back-stabbers that they can imagine they are her friends.)

Unfortunately, this story is NOT just about Tonia.  Chances are, you are reading this because you know exactly how it feels to be Tonia.

Abusers, like most animals, have certain, typical mating rituals. On the other hand, unlike other creatures, abusers have specific mate-trashing rites.

The festive season is the most important time for abusers to celebrate their mate- trashing rites. ‘Tis the season for abusers to bestow great dollops of blame on an already anxious, self-doubting partner, who has spent way too long wondering, Is it my fault? Those mate-trashing rites contribute to the many – bad – marriages that finally fall apart in early January. (YEA!!)

Eventually, it starts to dawn on the trashed person that they are not to blame for the person who chooses to practise mate-trashing rites. In most cases,  it is a pitifully slow process.

My ears

When I was a child of probably no more than 8, my mother blamed me for having ear wax.  In my ears. (Honestly, it was not making a bid to take over the planet, or even the family home.)

To the best of my knowledge, ear wax is something that generates naturally – in ears. Not that I knew very much about ear wax at the time. I could not see into my own ears. Besides, whatever was going on in my ears stayed in my ears. Plus the demon wax caused me no pain, at all.

However, for my mother, my ear wax was a major problem. It drove her crazy.  For a while, my ear wax made me worthless in her eyes.  It was a very uncomfortable time. I became acutely aware that I could not remove my ears. So, whenever my ears walked past her, I knew that I was potentially in trouble.  I spent quite a lot of time asking myself, “How is it my fault that mother hates my ears?”

Reality check

Was it my fault that my mother reacted to my poor ears in the way that she did?

Absolutely not.  My mother’s response to my ears was purely down to her.  Whether she chose to let off steam by getting very angry about my ears, or whether she chose not to curb her need to attack, I will never know. However you look at it, her behaviour was not good.

But let’s look a little deeper into the whole issue of “faults”.  How useful is the whole idea of “fault”?

Certainly, the notion of “fault” is drummed into each and every one of us from a very early age.  You hear ,“It’s your fault!” bandied about in the playground from kindergarten on.   It is always an expression of anger. It may make the accuser feel better in the short term – although, as sure as hell, it won’t make him (her) act better in the medium-long term.

“Fault” drives a wedge between two people. It makes one person the judge, and the other, the criminal. (My ears were criminals. I ended up having an uneasy relationship with them for a very long time. Especially when the wasband jumped on the bandwagon and accused them of being “pan-handle ears”.)

Fault v. responsibility

There is an important difference between “fault” and responsibility”.

It wasn’t my fault that my ears automatically did what ears are supposed to do, and made wax.  It was not even my “responsibility”.

Have you noticed how you can have a reasoned discussion about what you own responsibility for – but there is no room to do anything but shoulder blame for what is your “fault”.

So, going back to the is it my fault question that opened this post, let me put this to you, again. Is it your fault that someone flies into a range at you, and trashes your human worth? When you are just doing your best to get through your day – often a difficult day – to the best of your ability? Is it right that this person trashes you and gives you NO right of reply? Is it right that this person says what they have to say not once, but over and over again, as well as bringing up other assorted faults – of yours – going back through your entire history together, and even before you met.

The culinary equivalent would be for someone  to take every last old thing they have knocking around their refrigerator, chuck it into a pan, boil it up, call it soup – and then pour it all over you.

Is it my fault?

 How would someone pouring a load of their “soup” over you be “your fault”?

Anyone who has been through the tunnel of abuse is familiar with the Is it my fault? tendency.  This is 2017. We have all had to walk a long and difficult path to get here. So, let’s do something concrete to make things easier from hereon in. Let’s ditch that Is it my fault? stuff, once and for all. There is no room in your life for fault. You’re not at fault. In actual fact, your abusive partner is not at fault, either. He’s just a born again, dyed-in-the-wool JERK.  That ain’t “fault”, that’s F-A-C-T.  Hold that thought, and have a great year.

Wishing you a very Happy Fault-Free New Year,





Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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