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Do you feel that your partner is constantly blaming you for everything, including their bad behavior? Do you feel that no matter how hard you try, there is always something lacking or something that you are responsible for not doing? Are fingers always pointed in your direction because someone else won’t take responsibility for their actions?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions chances are that you are a victim of blame shifting in your personal or work relationship.
What does blame shifting mean?
Blame shifting is a defense mechanism whereby a person is unwilling to accept the results of their own actions, shortcomings, wrongdoings, undesirable thoughts, and emotions, and they shift the blame onto the people around them.
Blame shifting is when someone blames you for their own actions or words instead of being mature enough to take responsibility for them.
We are all humans, and we all make mistakes. It’s important to be respectful to others and take responsibility for those mistakes.
In psychology, there is a concept called the “Locus of Control”. This is then subdivided into 2 parts, the External and the Internal Locus of Control.
People who have an external locus of control choose to blame others for their own mistakes and unhappiness.
The opposite of this is people who have an internal locus of control; these people will not shift blame for their actions onto other people, and they take responsibility for their actions and happiness.
In an intimate relationship, narcissistic people try to make you feel guilty for something that they did or make you believe that your actions were the cause of their feelings, actions, or reactions.
A narcissist uses blame shifting as a manipulation tactic, and this is a form of emotional abuse.
People who constantly shift blame have a hard time taking responsibility for their actions or words, and this is usually due to some narcissistic injury that they have had since childhood.
The narcissist believes that they are never wrong, are entitled, and are in total control of their realities. Their egos are so fragile that the force of their blame shifting can be lashing, disorientating, and humiliating.
Narcissists know the difference between right and wrong, but they love to play the blame shifting game, which leaves you confused, doubting yourself, and hurt.
If you are on the receiving end of blame shifter tactics, you may ultimately suffer from anxiety and depression.
Blame shifting is also a way to put others down, so it is considered to be a form of bullying. In these unfair situations, there is a strong tendency for people to suffer from severe emotional turmoil and feelings of guilt.
When it happens frequently, it becomes hard to spot. But if you find yourself feeling constantly bad about yourself after spending time with a partner, friend, or coworker, they may be shifting the blame onto you.
Signs of Blame Shifting
1. Deflecting Responsibility
Blame shifters often avoid taking responsibility for their actions, choices, or mistakes by shifting the blame onto their partner. They may say things like, “You made me do it,” or “If you hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have reacted this way.”
2. Denying Accountability
When confronted with their behavior, blame shifters may outright deny that they did anything wrong or that their actions had any negative impact on the relationship.
3. Making Excuses
They frequently offer excuses or justifications for their actions instead of acknowledging their role in a problem. These excuses can range from stress and fatigue to external factors unrelated to the issue at hand.
4. Minimizing Their Role
Blame shifters may downplay their involvement in conflicts or problems, making it seem like their actions were insignificant or didn’t contribute to the issue. They might say, “It was just a small thing; you’re overreacting.”
5. Projecting Fault
They might project their own flaws or negative traits onto you. For example, if they have a communication issue, they may accuse you of being a poor communicator.
6. Avoiding Difficult Conversations
Blame shifters often avoid addressing relationship issues directly and instead divert the conversation away from themselves. They may change the subject or stonewall you when confronted.
7. Using Defensiveness
When confronted, blame shifters may become defensive and retaliate with accusations against you. This can escalate conflicts and make solutions difficult to find.
8. Playing the Victim
Some individuals who engage in blame shifting may portray themselves as the victim in every situation, making it difficult for you to express your feelings or concerns without feeling guilty.
9. Refusing to Apologize
Blame shifters typically avoid apologizing sincerely. If they do apologize, it may be a non-genuine or insincere apology that lacks accountability.
10. Repeating Patterns
Blame shifting is often a recurring behavior. If you notice a consistent pattern of avoiding responsibility for their actions, it may be a sign of ongoing blame shifting.
Why do people shift blame in relationships?
A blame shifter learns to do this at an early age, either because their parents did it to them or because they were bullied at school or at work and had to blame others for their actions as a way of overcoming a situation.
You don’t have to take on the role of the victim in blame-shifting.
A good way to deal with blame shifting is to claim your own self-respect by using boundaries that will protect you from the blame shifter’s weapon of manipulation.
How will a narcissist shift blame?
If your partner frequently makes false accusations, it is a sign that the relationship needs to be put under a magnifying glass.
These false accusations are a sign that there are unhealthy patterns in your relationship.
You may be getting blamed for every single thing that happens and then taking the false accusations personally and feeling bad when you shouldn’t.
If blame shifting is happening continuously and over a long period of time, you will, unfortunately, become brainwashed into believing that you are the ‘bad one’, the one who is not good enough and cannot get anything done correctly.
Your whole focus will shift, and you will try harder and harder to improve the relationship. You now believe all the problems in the relationship are your fault. You may want to take a step back and reflect on why this is happening.
In my opinion, blame shifting is a sign that your partner is abusive.
How blame shifting is achieved:
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic used by narcissists to make you doubt your own perceptions and reality. They might deny that certain events or conversations ever happened, making you feel like you are losing your grip on reality.
Example: When confronted about their behavior, a narcissist might say, “I never said that. You must be imagining things again.”
2. Playing the Martyr
Narcissists may portray themselves as martyrs who sacrifice their happiness for the relationship. They use this tactic to make you feel guilty for even bringing up issues and claim that you are causing them immense suffering.
Example: In response to criticism, a narcissist might say, “I’ve given up everything for you, and this is how you repay me. You’re so ungrateful.”
3. Deflection Through Flattery
Narcissists can deflect blame by diverting attention through excessive flattery or compliments. They may suddenly switch from a defensive stance to showering you with praise, hoping that the positive words will make the issue disappear.
Example: When confronted about their behavior, a narcissist might say, “You’re right, but you’re also the most amazing person I’ve ever met. I’m so lucky to have you.”
4. Projecting Their Flaws
Narcissists may project their own negative qualities or behaviors onto you. By doing this, they can avoid addressing their own shortcomings and make you feel responsible for their actions.
Example: If a narcissist is habitually dishonest, they might accuse you of being untrustworthy and deceitful.
5. Silent Treatment or Withdrawal
Instead of engaging in a productive conversation, narcissists may employ the silent treatment or withdraw emotionally to avoid discussing their actions. This leaves you feeling isolated and unable to resolve issues.
Example: After a disagreement, a narcissist might give you the cold shoulder and refuse to communicate.
6. Arguing About the Argument
Narcissists often avoid addressing the core issue by turning the conversation into an argument about the argument itself. They may nitpick on minor details, use circular logic, or intentionally confuse the discussion to shift the focus away from their behavior.
Example: Instead of discussing their hurtful comments, a narcissist might say, “You always overreact to everything I say. You’re the one who’s making this a big deal.”
7. Overreacting to Drama
Narcissists may amplify emotional reactions to divert attention from their actions. They can create a whirlwind of drama, playing the victim or acting overly hurt or offended to make you feel guilty or responsible for the conflict.
Example: After a disagreement, a narcissist might dramatically exclaim, “You’ve ruined everything! I can’t believe you’re so heartless and mean!”
8. Bringing Up the Past
Another tactic narcissists employ is to bring up past grievances or mistakes, even if they are unrelated to the current issue. By doing this, they attempt to shift the blame onto you and make you feel at fault for everything that has gone wrong in the relationship.
Example: During an argument about finances, a narcissist might say, “This is just like that time you forgot our anniversary last year. You’re always messing things up.”
Effects of blame shifting on your relationship
If you are being subjected to emotional abuse in your relationship by being blamed for everything that happens in the relationship, including the things that you have no control over and your partner’s own actions, it’s important to understand how this will affect you as a person, your relationship, and what you can do about it.
1. It minimizes your feelings
When you are continuously being blamed for things in the relationship, the blame shifter’s words cut to your core, and when their hurtful actions are minimized over time, you will begin to believe that your feelings are unimportant.
You will consider your opinions, efforts, and feelings to be unworthy of attention and time.
Your emotional needs will not be met, and you will slowly begin to emotionally shut down and find it difficult to express yourself, bottling yourself up and allowing a feeling of suffocation to creep in.
You will harbor negative emotions, and this can have a lasting detrimental effect on you as you develop poor self-esteem.
2. It erodes trust in the relationship.
When your significant other is a blame shifter, they unintentionally communicate to you that they don’t value the relationship. When they shift blame, you may feel like they are saying, “I don’t care about you or repairing this relationship.”
You may begin to question whether they have your best interests at heart. This leads to questions about trust and whether you can really trust them. You will start to feel resentment and dread for your partner.
When trust erodes in your relationship, you feel resentment and dread, and it’s harder to experience joy and satisfaction in that relationship.
3. You will feel unvalued in the relationship
A healthy relationship is a partnership where both people make an effort to meet each other’s needs.
Blame shifting communicates to you that your intimate partner is not willing to make the effort to meet your needs. You will begin to feel as if you’re not being heard or valued.
This will ultimately lead to you feeling unimportant and unvalued, which will have an effect on your self-esteem and confidence
When you are unheard and falsely accused of things by your partner shifting the blame, this can lead to a lack of confidence, confusion, and self-doubt.
Over time, this is a very unhealthy place for you to be.
4. Poor Communication Develops
If your partner is always finding fault in the things that you do or they are blame shifting, this results in you attempting to paint a pretty picture in your head of reality instead of communicating some of the harsh realities of what is actually happening day to day.
Communication problems will develop between you and your partner, and you will be fearful of blame shifting and the abusive behavior that will result.
Psychotherapist Gopa Khan (Masters in Counseling Psychology, M.Ed), who specializes in marriage and family counseling, says, “Communication problems occur when one person is scared to voice an opinion or decision as they fear ridicule or being shot down with derision. The partner may not want to rock the boat or trigger an argument and hence prefers to stay silent and be browbeaten into submission,” Gopa explains.
A communication gap develops and will result in you not having a safe space in which to communicate.
5. It can lead to more raging and fighting
When one person in a relationship is always shifting the blame, it can lead to more raging and fighting within the relationship.
Instead of discussing a problem and coming up with a solution, your partner will make accusations and counter-accusations, increasing the tension in the relationship.
A blame shifter often does this because they can’t handle being criticized.
When you respond by defending yourself, the situation can quickly escalate into a fight, and you become the prime target.
You will feel confused, bewildered, and hurt by being blamed for something that you had no control over.
Due to perceived criticism relating to traumatic events from their childhoods, the fighting may turn into domestic abuse.
6. Blame shifting is emotional abuse.
When your partner is a blame shifter, they’re trying to control you by making you feel bad about yourself.
Instead of taking responsibility for their mistakes and apologizing, they will accuse you of having faulty logic, being too sensitive, or making the mistake on purpose.
When you’re caught in the blame-shifting cycle, you will find it difficult to be authentic. You will have a growing sense of fear of the repercussions of doing something wrong, which will make you hesitant, unsure, and indecisive.
It’s a sign of an abusive relationship when one partner tries to control the other by criticizing and blaming them for their own actions. You will start to accept this abusive behavior.
7. Lack of Intimacy
Blame shifting will break down trust in the relationship, which will have a direct bearing on intimacy in the relationship.
Blame shifting also has a direct effect on your self-esteem and confidence, which will also play a part in the breakdown of intimacy between you and your partner. Relationship problems develop when there is no trust and the emotional connection is lost between two people.
8. You will be afraid to make decisions
When someone is continuously making false accusations, you will become afraid of making your own decisions in case you make the wrong one and get blamed for the outcome.
This does not only relate to big decisions that need to be made. If blame shifting is allowed to continue, victims of these blame games will begin to find it difficult to make even small decisions. For example, small decisions like what you should cook for dinner tonight or which dress you should purchase can become overwhelming.
Gopa Khan says, “A person in such a relationship loses the confidence to make decisions and tends to second-guess everything. It is then helpful for the person to maintain a journal and write down thoughts, feelings, and incidents. Writing is cathartic and helps to process traumatic events in a clear manner.”
Finding it difficult to make decisions results in you being less productive and proactive, and this has an effect on your self-esteem, and you will find yourself in a negative spiral.
How to deal with the Blame Shifting
According to Dr. George Simon, a manipulation expert, “it is important not to project your own value system onto abusive people, as this is only going to result in further abuse as they do not live by the same values as you do. Do not judge them, their actions, or what they say to you by your standards of compassion, reciprocity, and understanding of emotional intelligence. They do not function on this level, and you will always feel let down and confused by their lack of empathy and manipulative behavior.”
Dr. Margaret Paul says, “The thing NOT to do when you are at the other end of the projection is to take the bait. If the person projecting can get you to take the bait, he or she is off the hook. As soon as you try to discuss, explain, defend, argue, teach, cry, attack back, give yourself up, project back, or any number of other ways of protecting against the projection, the person projecting can now do exactly what they want to do, which is to focus on what you are doing rather than on themselves.”
If you find yourself in a relationship where blame shifting is a recurring issue, it’s important to take proactive steps to address and navigate this behavior. Here are some practical strategies to consider:
1. Recognize the Pattern
The first step is to acknowledge that blame shifting is occurring in your relationship. Take note of the signs and instances where your partner is deflecting responsibility.
2. Maintain Open Communication
Choose a calm and appropriate time to talk with your partner about their tendency to shift blame. Use “I” statements to express your feelings and concerns. For example, say “I feel hurt when I perceive that you’re not taking responsibility for your actions.”
3. Avoid Accusations
When addressing the issue, avoid accusatory language or blaming your partner for blame shifting. Instead, focus on expressing how their behavior makes you feel.
4. Set Boundaries
Establish clear boundaries regarding acceptable behavior in the relationship. Make it known that mutual respect, accountability, and open communication are essential components of a healthy partnership.
5. Seek Professional Help
Consider couples counseling or therapy. A trained therapist can provide a neutral space for both partners to express themselves and work through issues, including blame shifting.
6. Encourage Self-Reflection
Encourage your partner to reflect on their behavior and the impact it has on the relationship. It’s important that they take responsibility for their actions and consider how it affects both of you.
7. Focus on Solutions
Shift the conversation from assigning blame to finding solutions. Collaborate with your partner to identify constructive ways to address and resolve conflicts.
8. Practice Patience
Changing behavioral patterns takes time and effort. Be patient with your partner as they work towards taking more responsibility for their actions.
9. Consider Your Own Well-being
Ensure that you’re taking care of your own emotional and mental well-being. Seek support from trusted friends, family, or a therapist if needed.
10. Evaluate the Relationship
If blame shifting persists and your partner is unwilling to work towards positive change, it may be necessary to evaluate whether the relationship is healthy and sustainable in the long term.
What Blame Shifting can Tell you
- Listen to the narcissist blame shifts and false accusations because they will tell you a lot about your abusive partner and what they are up to.
- If your narcissistic spouse starts accusing you of cheating then chances are that they are cheating.
- If the narcissist is accusing you of lying then they are probably lying.
- They will spend hours in circular nonsensical conversations and then accuse you of wasting their time.
- They will blame you for decisions that they made when they didn’t turn out as they had planned.
- If they have a poor relationship with their children they will blame you for this and not acknowledge that the breakdown in the relationship had anything to do with their interactions with the children.
How to protect Yourself from blame shifting
In my experience, you will need to find ways to protect your emotional well-being if your partner is a blame shifter. I found the following points to be very helpful.
1. Check Your thoughts
Now that you are aware of what blame shifting is, take the time to look at your own feelings and thoughts and ensure that they are your own and not taken on board due to a toxic person and their false accusations over a long period of time. The verbal abuse over time can brainwash you into believing the blame shifter’s words.
2. Don’t take it personally
Do not take their words to heart; see them for what they are. They come from a place of insecurity and from an emotional abuser who cannot accept their own shortcomings. Allow them to pass through you like a ripple on a pond.
3. Remain Emotionally Aloof
Remain emotionally aloof, focus on your own behavior, and don’t allow these negative thoughts to sink into your mind in your particularly weakened state.
4. Avoid the circular debates
Do not get involved in a circular, nonsensical debate over their blame shifting as it is a waste of time. Narcissists will not acknowledge that they are in the wrong and will not try to see things differently.
Trying to defend yourself against the blame shifter’s weapon is a waste of precious energy and will only result in emotional exhaustion, low self-esteem, and trying harder to set things right.
5. Don’t judge them by your values
Don’t judge a narcissist by your values. Those qualities do not exist within them. You are projecting your good qualities because you are hoping to find them within the narcissist. You will not find them and will be disappointed.
6. Find Support
As a last resort, build a good support system around you and involve family members who can support you. Should you have concerns about your welfare, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for professional help.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is blame shifting in a relationship?
Blame shifting in a relationship refers to the act of shifting responsibility or fault onto your partner for issues or problems that may arise. It involves avoiding accountability for one’s actions or decisions by placing the blame on the other person.
2. Why do people engage in blame shifting?
People often engage in blame shifting as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from feeling guilty or responsible for their actions. It can also be a way to maintain a sense of control or avoid conflict in the relationship.
3. How does blame shifting harm a relationship?
Blame shifting can harm a relationship by eroding trust and communication. When one partner consistently avoids responsibility, it can lead to resentment, anger, and a breakdown in effective communication, making it difficult to resolve issues constructively.
4. What are the signs of blame shifting in a relationship?
Signs of blame shifting include constantly deflecting blame onto the partner, refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions, making excuses rather than addressing problems, and minimizing one’s role in conflicts.
5. Can blame shifting be overcome in a relationship?
Yes, blame shifting can be overcome with effort, self-awareness, and effective communication. Both partners need to recognize the pattern and be willing to take responsibility for their actions. Couples therapy or counseling can also be helpful in addressing blame shifting behaviors.
6. What are some healthy alternatives to blame shifting in a relationship?
Healthy alternatives to blame shifting include open and honest communication, active listening, empathy, and taking ownership of one’s mistakes. Couples can also work together to find solutions to problems rather than assigning blame. Building trust and mutual respect is key to fostering a healthy relationship.
A healthy relationship is one in which both partners feel heard, understood, and loved. Blame shifting prevents couples from achieving this goal by shutting down communication and making it harder for partners to feel loved.
Unfortunately, when a status quo has been reached and one partner is unable to accept their own faults due to their mental health issues, the only way to save yourself is to leave the relationship.
This is a tough journey, but you will be grateful for saving yourself. Should you need support or have any questions, please reach out to people.