Have you ever met someone who hardly ever, if ever, does anything wrong? In fact, have you ever witnessed that person saying, "Sorry, I was wrong."
Recently, I met with a person trying to relate to a spouse who seems to struggle with a chronic symptom of what some call "external blame." This is a description of a person who seems to blame everyone and/or everything else for his/her misfortunes. This symptom, although referenced by other names, is common in personality disorders, especially anti-social personalities; as well as in other mental disorders. However, if we are all honest, most of us struggle with external blame at some point each week of our lives.
In the instance with this person I met with recently, the spouse in question vascilated between describing their relationship as healthy and improving--to wanting to get a divorce. This back-n-forth was giving my client emotional whiplash. To make matters more troubling, the spouse frequently played the role of a victim. The spouse would accuse the client of infidelity, playing hookey from work, and other unprovable accusations. The client was confused, hurt, and emotionally drained from trying to help the spouse see the truth of the client's fidelity, accomplishments at work, and so forth. The spouse seemed unwilling or unable to believe the client.
In the book, Stop Walking on Eggshells, Mason and Kreger provide some reasons why some people choose to play the victim and blame others:
To make matters more complex, this victim may turn around in the same moment and quickly become the caretaker of the one they blamed. I've actually seen this in session. The client acquiesces and apologizes to the spouse for a perceived wrong; then, the spouse immediately forgives and begins to comfort and console and take care of the client. Of course, never once did the spouse admit to any wrongdoing.
Living with someone who struggles with external blame is very taxing and unwanted. However, there are those who believe they have made a lifetime commitment, or better yet, a covenant and must honor their marriage/relationship. I have nothing but admiration for those that honor that covenant. May God reward them richly for their sacrifice and bring healing to their spouses.
Fortunately, there are effective treatments for spouses who recognize there is a problem. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy seems to be a number one choice. There is also Mentalization Based Therapy and Schema Therapy. I must admit I do not know much about these models. Lastly, STEPPS (Systems training for emotional perdictability and problem solving) Group Treatment Program is a treatment to be used in conjunction with traditional therapy. Regardless, external blame and the disorders it is aligned with does not have to be a lifetime orderal. There is hope for healing.
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