Finding the Bad Guy

Thank you for your many comments on my previous article “Withdrawing.” I’m glad it helped some of you and always thankful when people go above and beyond and take the time to offer positive, heartfelt feedback.

Continuing with the conversation about communicative dysfunction, I’d like to introduce another form of faulty communication patterns called Finding the Bad Guy. Rick introduced it to us and we both were stunned when he described it, as it painted the exact picture of our communication early on.

We are experts at finding the bad guy. It’s a phrase that describes when couples allow themselves to slip into a pattern of attack-defend, find out who is wrong and at fault and therefore identify the villain. If we can simply find the villain, all will be explained away, the solution will then be to fix that spouse (the villain) and we can move forward.

If only.

(As you can imagine the unfaithful never win at this game.)

The villain will just not ever be found, as the unfaithful often times blames the betrayed for their affair, hence the villain has been found.  The betrayed answers back with identifying the villain as the unfaithful, which if he or she had never done what they had done, we’d never be in this position in the first place.

The unfaithful will then fire back with “if you’d have done (or not have done) A, B, or C, I would have never cheated and we’d never have gotten to this place at all.”

Round and round we go, finding the bad guy. To this day, 9 years later, Samantha and I easily slip back into finding the bad guy about various things in life. It’s a normal pattern, but although normal, it’s highly accusational and destructive. Its power lies in the feeling that we know what is right, and that we know who is wrong and it’s not us. It’s falsely empowering and will drive us to wound our partner if not curtailed and deescalated.  Personally, I’ve found its demise lies in deescalating it through a few tactical approaches:

  1. We can’t blame our spouse for what we’ve done. We’ll just never win and were labeling our spouse the villain, which is combative in nature. It empowers the cycle.
  2. We must own what we need to own. Ask yourself what you do to exacerbate your spouse? What are you doing that is causing them to lash out and protect themselves due to you labeling them the villain directly or indirectly?
  3. Focus more on what you feel. When you communicate, talk more about what you feel inside, or how you’re being flooded or triggered (even if you’re the unfaithful you can be triggered and flood).
  4. When your spouse talks about what they feel, do not argue with what they are feeling. It’s impossible. Their feelings are theirs. Allow them the freedom to feel that way and seek to understand what you may have done or said to make them feel that way. I’m quite sure you do NOT want them to feel what they are feeling, so perhaps what you said made them feel that way and own it. Apologize for it. Realize they are flooding in response to something you didn’t probably mean to do, but are flooding nonetheless.
  5. Mutually respect each other’s feelings. Even if they are the unfaithful spouse, their feelings are valid and to be respected.
  6. Wait for another, more opportune time (perhaps 30 minutes later, or a few hours later, or even the next day) to come back and readdress the issues in a much more proactive, non villain-finding way.
  7. Find a way to come together at the end. For some, a few minutes holding hands or praying for each other or for yourself with your partner there may work. If you’re not a prayer person, perhaps holding hands for a few minutes without talking, or hugging for a few minutes without talking or any sexual contact will help bring unity.

I hope these help. While still a rookie at all of this, the fact is Samantha and I feel like we are experts at Finding the Bad Guy from doing it for so long. There is hope to break the cycle.

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Just want to say thank you for faithfully writing this blog. I am always challenged and/or encouraged by the insights that you have and your willingness to share them. I know that you were the unfaithful one in the marriage, but your faithfulness in giving back to the marriage community is a blessing. Funny how God can take the worst thing that has ever happened to us and create a new story of hope.
Thanks Samuel.

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