Healthy communication is the key to all relationships, especially when conflict arises. Everyone makes mistakes and unintentionally hurts their partner. But someone who doesn’t have the emotional maturity to accept responsibility for the mistakes they’ve made may try to blame you for everything (from misplaced items to missed appointments to their dreams not coming true).
Here are some signs your partner may be deflecting responsibility for what goes wrong in your relationship.
1. It’s always your fault.
Disagreements are healthy. But when your partner blames every argument on something you said or did, they’re deflecting responsibility. If your partner crosses a boundary, like yelling at you, or going through your phone without permission, or —worst case scenario—get violent, and say things like: “I wouldn’t have to do that if you weren’t stupid,” it’s not just avoiding accountability, they’re also punishing you for something you didn’t do.
2. They blame their actions on… well, everything else.
Your partner said something that hurt your feelings but didn’t apologize. Instead, they blamed it on being drunk, stressed or having PMS. While external factors like alcohol or mood swings can influence how we act, they are never an excuse for bad behavior.
No matter what’s going on in someone’s life, they’re still responsible for their actions, especially when their actions affect their partner.
3. They blame their reactions on everything else.
Similar to the point above, just as your deflecting partner can’t take responsibility for what they did, they won’t take the blame for how it made you feel. Instead, they tell you that you shouldn’t feel bad because what they did was not a big deal or that you’re only upset because you’re on your period or in a bad mood for some other reason.
4. They don’t communicate their feelings… and get defensive when you do.
When you try talking to your partner about something they did that bothered you, they’ll say things like, “You’re too sensitive,” or, “It was just a joke..”
This tactic turns your attention away from their behavior and makes you question your own feelings instead.
What does taking responsibility look like?
In a healthy relationship, you accept responsibility when you do something to upset your partner. You apologize and work on changing your behavior to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
It’s hard to accept the negative parts of ourselves and our capacities to hurt one another. But for people who are tempted to fall into the deflection trap (and that’s most likely all of us), it’s important to take ownership of our actions. Learning to own one’s mistakes and shortcomings is not only crucial for a functioning, healthy, fulfilling relationship but also for living as a healthy and functioning adult.
For further information on unhealthy relationship behaviors, check out our Behind the Post series or https://tealswan.com/resources/articles/deflection-the-coping-mechanism-from-hell-r234/.
If you or someone you know is experiencing an unhealthy or abusive relationship, check out our real-time resources, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you’re in imminent danger, please call 911 .