Does your abusive partner start sentences with ‘If you loved me, you’d…’? When she apologises, is she expert in shifting the blame onto something or someone else (usually you)? Then there’s something BIG that you need to know: It’s not your fault. Yes, really.
Is your abusive partner dodging responsibility?
If you are in an abusive relationship, you will have heard these phrases (or variations of them). I call these the ‘if, only and just’ statements, and they are crafted to shift the blame elsewhere:
- I wouldn’t need to do this if you would listen to me / stop doing that / do things right
- I only act this way because you drive me crazy
- If you really loved me, you wouldn’t do something that you know upsets me so much
- It’s just because I’m stressed out with work that I am short-tempered at home
- If I had a better childhood, I wouldn’t be like this
- But I only flip out when I drink.
Also, watch out for the less subtle but equally twisted:
- Your mother hates me. You shouldn’t let her poison your mind against me
- You don’t understand me
- You don’t love me
- I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t care about you
- You’re stupid / selfish / irrational / self-obsessed.
What’s the common theme to all of these statements? When he hurts you, it’s because of something he can’t control. It’s not his fault: it is yours. And he thinks it is your job to fix it, because it’s definitely not his. He’ll work hard to convince you of this, so he’s off the hook and you’re firmly on it.
What happens when an abuser shifts the blame?
I have yet to come across an abuser who is willing to accept responsibility (though perhaps there are a couple cavorting with unicorns in a mythical forest). There are a heap of reasons why, but it boils down to this:
- If they don’t accept responsibility, they don’t have to try to change
- If we believe they are not responsible, we don’t expect them to change themselves
- If we believe that we are responsible, we spend our energy on trying to change things rather than looking for the exit.
After a meltdown, my abusive ex would regularly tell me, “But darling, you know what I’m like. I’ve just got a short fuse. I see red and I lose it. I don’t even know what I’m doing when I’m angry. I’ve been like that my whole life, so why are you so bothered about it?”
Clearly, I was too irrational to just take it on the chin and accept that the rage would stop when he felt good and ready, and too stupid to realise that it was only a big deal in my head and nowhere else. Yeah, right.
A dangerous, ever decreasing cycle
The thing is, after the first few times that I heard that excuse and stayed put, I was implicitly (and against my will) validating that statement. Yes, I did know that he was abusive. And yes, I stayed (because I was trying to fix him). So in my own mind, my resistance against the abuse was eroded time and time again. It’s not like I didn’t know what he was.
It was a dangerous, ever decreasing circle. The only way to breakout of the soul-pounding spin cycle was to understand this:
Bad stuff happens to people all of the time. It doesn’t make everyone into a soulless maniac. Being abusive was a choice that my man made. No amount of love or compassion or support from me was ever going to change that – because it wasn’t my fault. It was his. And as long as I shouldered his burden of responsibility, he’d continue to hurt me.
He chose abuse and misery. I chose freedom and (eventual) happiness. You can too, because it is NOT your fault. It never was.
Is your abuser skilled in dodging responsibility? What impact did this have on you? When and how did you throw off the shackles of blame?
Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14