Our society is replete with philosophies that say that when something bad happens between two people, they have each played a part in why the injurious interaction occurred. Many self-help books teach readers to assume that they have “co-created” any emotional wound that happens to them. Therapists are fond of saying, “Let’s look at what you brought to that interaction,” after a client describes an experience where he or she was mistreated. And you’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “It takes two to tango.”
These philosophies do not apply when we’re talking about human cruelty. In the vast majority of cases where people are subjected to cruel treatment, they have done absolutely nothing wrong. And in the few remaining cases where they have done something bad, it’s still unacceptable to be cruel to them.
There are, of course, some times when two people are equally responsible for why a hurtful exchange took place. But sometimes the responsibility is 70-30. And plenty of times one person did nothing whatsoever to contribute to what went wrong; the whole problem was created by the other person. Where did people come up with the ridiculous idea that responsibility is always 50-50? The assumption that responsibility in a relationship is always equal ends up doing particular harm to women who have abusive or controlling partners. You have 0 percent of the responsibility for why he mistreats you. You are responsible for your actions, not his. Don’t let anyone — including your partner — rope you into sharing the blame for his actions or his issues.
(entry from Lundy Bancroft’s book, Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? [Affiliate link] pp67-68)
***IMPORTANT NOTE: While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the “healing retreats” Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his “Peak Living Network”. See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.
40 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — “Everyone Needs to Look at Their Part””
This is so true, and the sadder part is most ‘Christians’ have the exact same attitude in this respect that non believers have. They are no different than the world and its secular, humanist thinking.
I got all those judgmental comments the first time my husband left leaving a nuclear bomb behind him, all my Christian ‘friends’ blamed me for marrying him and therefore I deserved all the abuse I got. No amount of my trying to explain how he had charmed my socks of, pretended to be a stellar Christian and the man of my dreams, would convince them. Apparently they had never come across a sociopath even though our society is full of stories about them and the damage they do.
One ‘Christian’ counsellor actually argued with me about it. She insisted I had responsibility in the whole thing and I would calmly try to explain, “no I was a victim of a bad man, a con artist, if someone is a victim of a wicked person they don’t have share of the responsibility” and she absolutely refused that and literally argued with me demanding I confess I had some responsibility for what had happened and for letting him into my life.
Another ‘Christian’ friend came and told me that she had been watching Judge Judy with her boyfriend and that she had told them about me “see, just like that woman in that case on Judge Judy, she (I) was also [to] blame, SHE was the one who let him spend her money, SHE was the one who let him into her life”…etc, then she told me how it always “takes two”.
I was shocked to find almost every one of my ‘Christian’ friends believed this in some form and hence had almost zero compassion for me and certainly did not treat me as victim of a wicked man but more like an accomplice in crime.
I really believe it has a lot to do with the secular psychology that has creeped into the fake church. People like Joyce Myer and all their other false teachers that when you really examine it, preach a really loveless message, a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind do message and a very victim-blaming undertone.
I am friends with only one of those people now and even that is tentative at times. They hurt me deeply and I was shocked at their callous, cruel attitudes. Was it beyond them to comprehend there are evil people in this world who prey on others??
We don’t want to go off topic in this thread by talking too much about Joyce Meyer. But I will mention here that in one of her videos she opened with the words “Get rid of the victim mentality, BELIEVE THE WORD, and to let go of what lies behind and press on to the good things that are ahead. (Phil 3:13-14)” (This has been reported by one of our commenters, see here.
Meyer’s teaching on abuse may be slightly better than some other teachers, probably because she has been abused herself. She may not actually tell the abuse victim the standard formula “stay in the marriage and just submit more and pray more”. But in our view anyone who lambasts the ‘victim mentality’ does not properly understand how to help the abused.
Here are two posts we have written about the so-called ‘victim mentality’:
What do you say when a friend tells you, “You have a victim mentality.”
Is ACFJ Guilty of Promoting a “Victim Mentality”?
OK. I have heard her say something similar, and it was in the context of having hope – not giving in to feelings of hopelessness etc. (although situation may look humanly hopeless, there’s always hope in God) so that encouragement would be empowering for someone pushed down by circumstances, just like abusive people.
I could see how that would seem like [it’s] insensitive and callous, though: it’s her style that’s very direct and loud.
But never have I heard anything like victim-blaming, especially in cases of abusive marriages: in the contrary, her teachings have been very grace-filled emphasizing that we cannot change the other person and cannot take responsibility for their behavior and choices.
I think context matters here. ‘Victim mentality’ imo is a term that in no way applies to actual victims of something.
She gave you advice based on Judge Judy????? Wow.
Recently I’ve been reading Job, a book that has always puzzled me a bit. But I was thinking about how Job’s friends treated him, and it occurred to me that they were trying to pin blame on someone who was innocent. I haven’t finished reading it and I don’t know exactly why God was so angry with them, but I kind of figure it was because of their very flawed perspective that Job must have done something wrong when he was really only suffering.
Hi NothingMuch — welcome to the blog! 🙂
You are spot on in your understanding of that aspect of the book of Job.
We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
Yes NothingMuch! That’s right about Job. I remember a sermon I heard about how Job’s friends were telling him that he brought his misfortune on himself. And God rebuked them for saying that. Just thinking about that passage brings me much relief.
I don’t know how anyone who has read the Bible can deny the reality that there is evil in the world, and evil people. Maybe the “Christians” who can’t fathom those facts either haven’t read their scripture, or they are not really Christians.
This victim blaming is so messed up.
What makes this type of “C”hristian any different than Job’s friends that blamed him for the calamity that befell him?
Just need to add one more thought. I think it is also a self-righteous thing i.e, thinking that that couldn’t possibly happen to them because they are smarter, wiser, more spiritual or whatever. If they acknowledge that in a relationship you can be a 100% victim of a bad person, and you are completely powerless in that moment of time over what happened to you, then they have to face that fact that it could just as easily happen to them and they not even see it coming. That they are not superior in their wisdom and maturity like they think.
This is the reason that the simplistic Christian formulas like love and respect don’t work. If we give more to someone who is cruel, the other will take it and be extra cruel. They will have no problem using the Bible or the principles in these books to demand even more or to make anything our fault.
This is very true…
Not any woman’s fault. After years of triggered responses, drug reactions and white hot anger, Praise God, He has settled this for me and healing takes time. I would never have agreed to abuse another person. My ex is back to using reverse psychology. Something to look out for – I heard they were going to increase harassment. This was never a game for me and I have zero tolerance for his disrespectful behaviour and lies.
You might sum it up this way. If he makes a pact with the devil, the devil will always require more than he asked for.
Any man could just say no to being abusive. It is never a woman’s fault nor did she deserve to be mistreated. If you are still married, counseling will not address this experimental program, but may use psychological methods to convince you you are also at fault. I have yet to hear a man tell the truth and face the consequences. Several years ago my psychologist said do not counsel together, he has issues to address! I went back, he never did address them and it got bad very quickly. I am now out but without much support. This I know, God is for me. You have one life to live and perhaps children who need you to be everything God created you to be without the bondage.
Yes, we strongly advise victims of domestic abuse to not participate in couple counseling. See this page which is part of our FAQs —
What About Couple Counseling?
I’m not sure I understand….who are you referring to that made the pact?
Oh boy, this is at the heart of what I am struggling with right now. Before I knew to define my marriage as abusive, I would ascribe to the “it takes two to tango.” Always looking to what I could be doing wrong, what was wrong with me; trying harder, being more submissive, serving him more, trying to love him better, praying that God would change me. Because my husband said that he had done enough for me, so all of our issues must be on me. We all know the drill. It was an exercise in futility, because the harder I tried, and the more I did my part, things got worse.
My husband has recently been confronted about his abuse towards me by the leaders in the church. (I am so thankful that my experience does not match what others have gone through). Says he is repentant, however, keeps trying to share blame with me. Saying things like, he didn’t mean it, or I (me) am broken too, or it is all a misunderstanding, etc. Clearly, he doesn’t see his behavior towards me as cruel, and that I am not responsible for how he treats me.
Thank you for the reminder, so that I can be extra vigilant not to fall into the “it takes two” trap.
I do believe that everyone should look at themselves and see areas of their own lives that might need some changing. But most wives I know that are in abusive marriages have been doing that for years. The phrase “it takes two to tango” was one that used to trip me up, make me hesitate to call it abuse, because I knew I wasn’t perfect either. Then I came to realize – it takes two drivers to safely meet and pass each other on the highway. But it only takes one to cause a crash. And that’s how it is in marriage. It takes two people working together to have a good, safe, loving relationship. It only takes one to crash it.
That’s a great analogy! The car crash one. LOVE it!
I am particularly twisted up by the [Covertly] Aggressive Overtly Abusive husband, who denies and lies and sidesteps expertly. So much so that the poor responsible wife is so frustrated, that she ends up looking like and thus feeling like SHE is the abuser.
When I was married, I can’t tell you HOW many times he reassured me that, not only was he going to step up to the plate, but that he was happy that I expressed myself and to keep letting him know how he made me feel, only to be walked out on and told that I was too picky and emotional in the end.
I was Charlie Brown who had the football pulled away by Lucy time and time again. And yet, because of how it made me feel, and because he encouraged me to share how it made me feel, I ended up not only looking like the crazy one, but now I am psychologically damaged to the point of feeling crazy.
The devil took ME too far down that trail. I stayed too long only to have HIM [husband] bail on me. :-(..
So we LOOKED like the 50 / 50 problem, and he won’t even address that much.
I changed something in your comment; hope you don’t mind. You had used the term ‘Passive Aggressive’. I changed it to ‘[Covertly] Aggressive’. As you may recall, we believe that the term ‘passive aggressive’ is much misused and misunderstood, and we prefer to use the term ‘covert aggressive’ when talking about abusers.
See this page on our FAQs: Is my abuser passive aggressive?
At first I’d wonder why I spoke that way as it wasn’t characteristic of me. Then I was blamed and became apologetic, even when he triggered me. I have now realised that my responses were not sin, they were conditioning or programming …. and abusers know what they are doing. Blessed now –
Hi YouRworthy, I edited your comment to make it into the first person (your own experience) rather than you advising another reader. Generally, we find it is more helpful to talk about our own experience as victims / survivors, rather than give other readers advice. And if we do want to give advice to another reader, we suggest it be phrased as “I suggest….” or ‘You might like to consider…” That kind of tone is more invitational, and cannot be interpreted as ‘issuing an order’.
As victims of abuse, we have often been told (ordered) by our abusers what to do, how to feel, how to think, what to believe and not believe, how to perceive things, how to interpret things, etc. We don’t want to replicate that kind of tone on this blog. I hope I have explained this well enough; if not, let me know.
Still Blessed, this is so true!
This “it takes 2” was constant mantra during counseling at my church. Lundy’s book really helped me slog through the mire of this Godless manipulation. Now I look at “it takes 2” very differently. An abuser DOES need another person in the formula, so I decided I will no longer be the other person! THAT is “my part:” seeing value in myself and making a plan to distance from anyone who doesn’t treat me with respect.
Great point! He cannot abuse if there is no one to abuse. Perhaps that is why they can seem so charming, to reel you in, so that they can have someone to abuse and control.
A few years ago when I was still very much in the ‘fog’, but mentally & emotionally breaking down, my husband and I went to couples counseling with a biblical counselor. In the first session I was asked what I saw as some problem areas in our marriage and I was PARALYZED with fear and couldn’t say anything. (After 20 years of living with an extremely controlling rager.) The counselor’s response was to tell me “You are the problem if you can’t tell him what is bothering you.”
aaarrrgh! How awful that would have been, RomansEightOne. 😦
Hmmm. I think that if the idea that “everyone needs to look at their part, that no matter what happened, or how it happened, one always shares some of the blame” was always right, then we would find it in the biblical account of Tamar, who was raped by her half-brother after he tricked her into coming into his room. Scripture records that Tamar lived as a desolate woman after that incident. What it doesn’t say is just as significant. It doesn’t show Tamar being asked “Why were you so foolish that you went to his room alone?”, or “Didn’t you suspect anything”, or even after the incident, “Why are you not trusting God; your continued desolation after this incident shows a lack of faith in the justice of Yahweh.”
Perhaps these ivory-tower counselors ought to read this passage of scripture and notice what is notably ABSENT in this tale of cunning and deliberate evil against an innocent trusting girl. Nowhere is Tamar castigated or charged with blame for assuming honorable intentions on the part of someone else. Sure if someone is known to be evil and to have acted this way before, that may be the case. But since when do evil cunning folks tell you up front that their intentions are evil and warn you so you can get out of the way? Quite the opposite, they are often experts at disarming people.
We all know real marriages where both partners seek to resolve conflict and are dedicated to building a loving union. [It] takes hard work, understanding, compassion and commitment, and yes both parties can contribute to the conflicts. However, marriage to an abusive partner who practices evil and has his / her own planned agenda is a dance with the devil and doomed even before you say, “I do” at the altar.
Thank you for this post.
This concept of “What’s Your Part?” is one of the main, shame-based components of the “reconciliation” in The PeaceMaker Process. I have, personally, been told by pastors I am not welcome in their church because I would not submit either myself or those I counsel to this un-Biblical, man-made foolishness.
When a chronic reviler abuses, their victim is NOT responsible to ANY percentage for the abuser’s choices. Yet, that is how The Peacemaker Process would have victims believe in order for “reconciliation” to occur.
Thanks for saying this, ShepherdGuardian. 🙂
As long-time readers of this blog will be aware, we have several posts about how the website, books, & training programs which Peacemakers put out are unsound and DANGEROUS. We know for a fact that the Peacemakers organisation has no policy on how to respond to domestic abuse.
To find those posts, go to our tag for Peacemakers
Sadly, I’ve heard woman from verbally and psychologically abusive marriages parrot they “owned up” to their part – honestly it’s offensive after what I have been through. There’s a psychological term for the profuse apologizing I used to do. What degree of forgiveness satisfies these “reconciliation” people? It’s a massive unbiblical cover up.
From Lundy’s quote:
No matter how much I know the “head” stuff of the other person contributing 100% of the problem, I have difficulty accepting the “heart” stuff….the “heart” stuff wins the battle.
I blame myself for many of my choices, whether personal or professional. I didn’t have boundaries, so felt I had no right to express anger when those boundaries were crossed.
Yet I lost the ability to express anger before I was three years old.
I am blaming myself for something I did not have the freedom to challenge.
I am bound by “my” choices.
I need to accept the “choices” weren’t really mine.
Trauma abuse doesn’t have anything to do with boundaries. Some call it trauma bonding. [But] it’s psychological control. Some people are working on including psychological control within domestic violence laws.
[In some parts of the world, e.g. Scotland, England and Victoria Australia, coercive control and psychological abuse has already been included in the laws about domestic abuse – Barb.]
Remember, nothing is a choice if you didn’t have the information necessary to make a good choice. [I encourage you to] forgive yourself for what you didn’t know.
We have a few posts that question the notion of ‘trauma bonding’. Here is one:
The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse