Your spouse messed up so why do you feel guilty?

Let’s say that you just found out you’re spouse has done something wrong and it’s pretty drastic. He or she has cheated or went against his word on something you both agreed upon. You are deeply pained. What is her reaction and where does it take you and your relationship?

You address the issue with your spouse and he/she could have one of two reactions. First, he could admit to his error and you can both begin the process of healing. It’s not easy to do but you are thankful that he sees his place in the matter and is willing to take responsibility. The other path he could take is this; turning the tables. Where once you were angry because he did something wrong, you suddenly feel guilty. You’re not sure why this is but before you know it, you find yourself apologizing and working to sooth his now upset emotional state. Later, you think, “what just happened?”

Like a crying child caught with chocolate brownie all over her face, your spouse has turned the tide of blame away from her (where it belongs) and on to you. By making you angry and confused, she transfers the blame. Her threats of leaving or other behaviors frighten you and you relent. You are now the one apologizing and asking her to be happy again. What have you done? Accepted the responsibility for something that is clearly not your fault.

Well, maybe you are doing something. No one is perfect. Think about it and listen to what she tells you. Later, when you are calm, consider what she says and work to make necessary changes. We all could be better spouses. However, this does not mean you should take the blame for something that is clearly her fault. While your lack of attention towards her may be the reason she had an affair, you did not choose the affair. She chose to do what she did and no amount of blaming can change this. Promise to do better. Promise to be a more attentive spouse, but do not carry the burden that says you are the cause of the infraction.

What’s going on with your spouse? Well, he/she is selfish and childish. He can’t handle the negative feelings that go along with guilt so he “flips the script” and suddenly he’s the victim because you brought the subject up. You are hurting him. Why would you do this? This shows immaturity and a lack of character on his/her part and this behavior can be very detrimental to the marriage.

What else is happening? Your spouse is angry with himself and suddenly you are the object of his anger. While anger can be a natural expression of guilt, it isn’t necessarily a healthy one as an angry mind is often a clouded mind. By choosing anger, he isn’t choosing the best method to solve the problem and fix what should be fixed. Instead, he blows up, blames you and hopes you’ll just forget about it because the experience he just caused was so uncomfortable. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t forget about it. Misbehavior on the part of your husband or wife at this level could be a sign that you need counseling. If he continues to transfer the burden of guilt on to you, you’ll eventually get tired and calloused towards his behavior. Rather than growing closer, you are growing apart.

There is one area where you are at fault here. You allowed this to happen. When you know you are right (and you better be abundantly sure on this) stand your ground and force him or her to accept their responsibility. Otherwise, you’ll continue to be a parent wiping the chocolate brownie off the face of a guilty child.