Is it Always Your Fault?

Do you feel like the problem” spouse?

Dave Wants You
by Chris Owens

I know about this troubling dynamic, because I was the one blaming my spouse for the fault in our marriage—both verbally and in my head. I couldn’t escape the belief that my husband, Gary, was the problem! And if I could just “fix” him or worse … get rid of him, then all my troubles would magically disappear.

Yeah, I hate to admit that ugly fact, but that’s where I let my mind wander in those dark, early years of marriage.

I take full responsibility for that unhealthy and hurtful mindset now, but I think it’s helpful to know there’s an important factor that predisposes a couple to this cancerous issue. Often this type of attitude develops in a relationship where one partner’s wrong or hurtful actions seem more blatant or obvious than the other. Now, notice that I did NOT say their actions and/or attitude were/are more harmful.

I think a spouse who’s passive or passive-aggressive in their actions or attitude can be just as harmful or more so, especially since the problem attitude is subtle and sometimes hard to detect or identify.

In fact, a passive spouse can become really skilled at “spinning” their behaviors and attitudes to everyone, including the other spouse, to the point that all are convinced that they are nothing short of a martyr or victim. And sometimes the attention and sympathy a passive spouse receives from outsiders can be what keeps this harmful pattern in motion—even escalating it.

So what can you do about a spouse who continually blames you and refuses to take responsibility?

  • Start with what you can’t do … change your spouse’s mind. Only God can do that!
  • So pray for God to soften your spouses’ heart.
  • And, most of all, pray for God to open your eyes to ways you can love and forgive your spouse.
  • Pray also for God to give you empathy for your spouse … because a defensive spouse like this is often afraid and insecure, maybe even self-loathing. Your spouse wants the blame to fall squarely on you, because it seems too much for them to face the truth about themselves.
  • Last of all, model taking responsibility—not just in your actions but in your words. This means making a habit of coming clean with your spouse and others about your failures, being humble, being the first to apologize, and wrapping it all in the sacrifice of being Christ-like.

Yep! This is a lot to ask of someone who is being pegged as “the problem” in the marriage. So look to Christ to give you the ability to rise above it all—like He did for you and me when He, because of our sin problem, was raised up on the cross.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

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Linking up with NOBH, Playdates with God, Seedlings in Stone, and Matrimonial Monday 

  • I think this is some really great advice for dealing with passive aggressive behavior. While this is not the norm in my marriage, this post makes me realize that it is important to stay away from that behavior all the time.

  • Ro elliott

    and yes…it takes wisdom from God and others who can help untangle the web this passive behavior can weave. Always such wisdom given here…thanks~

  • JosephPote

    Wise advice, Beth!
    Yes, the Blame Game gets pretty old, and starts a cycle that is difficult to break.
    When we feel like we are constantly being blamed, our instinctive response is to become defensive…which often does more to keep the cycle going than to break it…
    I especially like your last point about the need for honesty and humility.

  • Really great post! Glad I visited from matrimonal mondays. This post speaks about what,my free ebook talks about. We can’t change our spouse, only ourselves. Come on over and grab a copy! http://www.besimplybetter.com

  • messymarriage

    Yes, and the problem with passive behaviors are that they are so subtle and often feel and appear to be positive, sacrificial behaviors. But the Bible reminds us that have a deceptive heart and must ask God for insight into this problem. I’m so glad he gave me insight into my own passive and passive-aggressive ways. Thanks so much for coming by, Jen!

  • messymarriage

    We all need God’s ability and insight to deal with the hurtful behaviors in a redemptive way. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging, Ro. It means a lot to me, friend!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, defensiveness really sabotages our ability to connect and understand one another. And humility has been a great healer in my life–as the “fault-finder” as well. Thanks for coming by and encouraging me, Joe. Blessings to you!

  • Ugochi Jolomi

    Great advice Beth, I was in this place too, in our own beginning. But God’s grcae helped me, and is still helping me to look inwards and through the eyes of God. Thanks a lot for sharing this.
    Visiting from Matrimonial Monday, have a super blessed day!

  • Blaming is just what you call it, Beth: cancerous. And it doesn’t make anyone feel better. This is great advice for both partners. Good thoughts, friend.

  • messymarriage

    So glad to meet you, Ugochi! Yes, God was the One who helped me to see my own sin and part in this unhealthy dynamic. I’m grateful for the way He lovingly showed me how to humble myself and it brought healing to my marriage. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me!

  • messymarriage

    Yeah, you’d think we would realize that because when we’re the one being blamed, we know it’s not motivating! Yet we still do it to others. Crazy! Thanks so much for your kind words and support, Laura!

  • rboerner

    This post is really causing me to wonder! I have always heard the term passive aggressive and not sure I completely grasp what it means. I have had the feelings that my husband is the one who is wrong (more so than me) I’m working on my issues so doesn’t that make me the more “right” one? HA HA! I’m struggling with accepting the fact that I might be a little passive aggressive in dealing with my husband. I don’t know that I do it with all my relationships, is that possible? God seems to be opening my mind and heart to hearing things I don’t want to hear. Just this morning we had a situation where Chris lost some fish in his new saltwater fish tank. My personal opinion is that maybe he should’ve held off on that purchase and should slow down and be patient with his purchases ( I did share this opinion with him) Well, his VERY EXPENSIVE fish are beginning to die off. He was a little frustrated and I proceeded to basically tell him “I told you so” and wasn’t going to feel bad for him because he really needed to learn this lesson even though I acted like “That’s a bummer”. I don’t know if this was considered a passive aggressive behavior but God really started stirring in my heart that I did NOT handle that situation well. I called Chris immediately and apologized for my response to him of my “I told you so” attitude. I think the apology took him by surprise. My prayer recently is that God will work on areas of my life that need to be repaired. Apologizing is sometimes a challenge for me because I struggle with the feeling of he is “more” wrong than me but you are so right Beth when you said God wants us to come clean with our own failures. BUT IT’S SO NOT COMFORTABLE! Sorry for my lengthy post but once again God is using you in my life. 🙂

  • messymarriage

    I don’t think what you did was “passive-aggressive,” Becky. I guess, I should have explained a bit more what passive-aggressive behaviors look like or mean. But the point is that we can get caught up in pointing our fingers at behaviors that are more obviously bad and not recognize our bad attitude. The important thing is that you recognized your bad attitude and apologized. God will take care of the rest–including those expensive and very sickly fish. 🙂 Love you, my friend!

  • Diane Tolley

    I remember when I realized that I was at fault. I had spent so much time blaming. It was truly a life-changing moment. I will always be grateful for it. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post on NOBH.

  • Jessica

    such a great and timely post! i have to be so careful and aware of the “spinning” you mentioned in my marriage. i have a tendency to be victim and can seem much healthier on the outside, and like you said, gaining much sympathy from others, but God knows my heart and it is just as sinful. thanks for this reminder to come clean and look to Jesus. what freedom that brings.

  • We will both say that we were masters at the blame game early in our marriage. It was easier to blame than to take responsible for our own actions. When we finally began to work in our marriage together we learned quickly that we are on the same team, http://www.oneextraordinarymarriage.com/128-playing-on-the-same-team, and if we play together we are going to have a much better life and marriage.

    After 16 years of marriage and really focusing in on our marriage for the last 5 years it is amazing the positive changes that can happen. Also, giving our marriage over to Jesus was a big commitment for us.

    Blessings