When Everything is Their Fault!

Dear Stephanie,

I’m really looking forward to therapy.... It will be good to finally have someone on my side so that my partner will finally be able to see how they need to change to make the relationship work.  If they don’t change I’m leaving, because everything is my partner’s fault!

Thanks in advance for agreeing with me in all ways.

Signed,

Predisposed.

Well Predisposed, I can certainly relate to what you’re saying here. I suspect everyone in a long term marriage has identified things they’d like to change about their partners and the idea of having someone to “back you up” is a common idea for someone entering couples therapy. And if it’s an idea that gets you into therapy that’s great! Because too many people put it off for too long.

So let’s look at how we might approach what you have described: that your partner carries “all of the fault” (and even reasonable people can sometimes feel this way about a partner, short term or long term).

But let’s start at the beginning. I am here to serve “the couple” so while I may address psychological issues in a certain member of the couple, my client here is the couple. I use principles of many theories, including emotionally focused therapy and narrative therapy as well as Jungian therapy.

I would want to hear exactly what is the content of “the fault” that you are seeing, of course, and also hear what your partner has to say about the relationship.  Working together, I would encourage you and your partner to “externalize” the problem, to understand what of the relationship is a pattern you both contribute to, even if it’s just that you metaphysically co-signed the contract. This will likely be tough for you Predisposed, because it sounds like you are very comfortable blaming “the other.” Therapy often requires us to move from what has historically been called “black and white thinking” or “splitting” where there is one who is all good and one who is all bad. Therapy often asks us to begin to see the gray. In Al-Anon, we might say, “can you see your part?”

The goal is not for you to feel bad, rather the goal is to frame the problem / cycle / what’s bothering you as something you and your partner can actually address together. We might pull apart “the cycle” of what’s happening, or simply give what’s happening a name and support you both to come up with tools you can use what “it” starts to happen.

Of course these are just the beginning phases of couples therapy. There will be much more fun and lovely stuff to follow.

Thanks for the question Predisposed and I look forward to our next session.

S.H.

Stephanie Hubbard