You’ve heard it before:
The way to have a successful relationship is to take 100% responsibility for everything that happens within that relationship.
You may not be able to change another person, but you can always change yourself.
And when you change yourself, you often find that something shifts in the relationship.
Such a great idea! No blaming. No playing the victim. Win-win all around!
But what if it doesn’t work?
Taking complete responsibility for everything that happens in your relationship does two things:
- It lets your partner off the hook, and
- It makes you think you’re more powerful than you really are.
Your relationship isn’t your creation. It’s a co-creation. It’s something he made along with you. Taking complete responsibility for it would be like claiming you’re the only one responsible for a team project. It takes the team out of your relationship.
Dr. Craig Malkin points out that people who take ownership of all of their relationship problems are often chronic self-blamers.
Self-blame comes in handy when a relationship no longer works and leaving feels too painful. If we convince ourselves that someone’s being hurtful or insensitive because of our own failings, there’s still hope. All we have to do is improve. If I’m the problem, then the happiness of the relationship is entirely in my hands. It’s a solution that preserves hope at the expense of our self-esteem.”
When you’re in a toxic relationship, the worst thing you can do is take full responsibility for it.
You’ll keep working harder to fix how you’re showing up when what you need to do is face the facts.
It’s tough to admit you’re disappointed. Those feelings of sadness, fear, and hurt are uncomfortable. But they’re not just your problem. In a relationship, our feelings of loneliness and disconnection are a relationship problem. And that involves two people.
Respect him enough to be honest about how you’re feeling, even if you think you might lose him. Respect him enough as a man to hold him accountable for his part. He’s a grown man. He can handle it.
So no, you should never take 100% responsibility for what’s going on in your relationship. His behavior has ALWAYS been his responsibility. All you’ve ever been responsible for is your own behavior.
And if he can’t be the partner you need him to be, don’t blame yourself for not being able to fix it. End the relationship with love.
Knowing when it’s time to leave is a great skill to develop. Not every relationship has to work out. There’s no shame in calling time on something that can’t bring out the best in both of you.
 Rethinking Narcissism (New York: HarperCollins, 2015) 129.