Morning friend,

I am traveling for both business and a bucket list trip to Israel over the next few weeks. Instead of stressing out trying to write answers to three questions before I go, I thought I'd try something new.

In some of my private webinar teaching, I've done a Q & A at the end. I've chosen a few questions that I thought might be helpful to answer where you could either read the transcript or watch the video of my answer.

Some of the most powerful feedback I've gotten on my blog is when people say it's so helpful to give examples of the ways you might say something. In each video and transcript, you'll hear me give you many examples of ways you can say things around the problem asked. 

Let me know if you like this format. If so, I will incorporate more vlogging in future blog posts.

Question: Do you have any tips for finding clarity and standing your ground when your husband blame-shifts during a conversation? 

Answer: When your husband blame-shifts, you have two options. If this is his pattern it's probably not going to change because it works for him. Why? Because you go into defending, arguing, explaining, or justifying. We call it “JADE” in Conquer. (It's a term you can find on the internet too.)

So, when someone blames you, then you defend or justify yourself or you argue with them or you explain yourself and then they blame you some more and it becomes this crazy dance of him blaming, you arguing, him blaming, you explaining, him blaming, you justifying… it goes nowhere!. 

A better approach would be either end the conversation and just say, “Well, I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree.” You're not going to get anywhere by justifying, arguing, defending, and explaining because you're not really having a conversation. It's a dance. So end the conversation. 

The other approach would be to ask a curious question. You might say, “Explain to me exactly how I'm to blame for that. I don't understand.” So you're not going to explain or defend. Here’s an example of how that kind of conversation might go:

“So you lost your temper and you're saying it's my fault because I didn't have dinner on time. Is that right? How is that causing you to lose your temper?” 

“Well, I was hungry and you know how hungry I get and so it's your fault because you know I was supposed to have dinner at five o'clock.” 

“So, how did I make you curse? How did I make you break those dishes? I understand that you were upset, but how you handled your upsetness… how was that my fault?” 

“It's your fault because you should've had dinner on time.” 

“Well, okay, but I'm not perfect and I'm not always going to have dinner on time. I'm sure you're going to get upset at other things I do that you don't like. How am I responsible for you smashing all those dishes or you breaking holes in the wall…how did I force your hands to do that?” 

So, you could begin to ask some curious questions to see if that would cause him to possibly self-reflect: 

“Well, you didn't make me do that, but you upset me.” 

“Well, yeah. I'm sure I did upset you because I wasn't willing to have sex with you because I couldn't make dinner on time or because I didn't pick up all the clothes or…” whatever it might be that he’s mad about. 

It’s all about a lie he believes: “If only you make my life perfect, I won't be upset with you.” Well, you can't make his life perfect. Nobody can. When we take that upon ourselves, that, “I have to make his life perfect, so he doesn't get upset with me,” you're playing a dangerous game because there is no way you're ever going to make his life perfect enough. He's always going to find some reason and excuse to blame you and be upset. 

[Tweet “The bottom line depends on how he behaves when he is upset.”] If he's dangerous, you need to get out of there. If he's just whiny, then you have to either turn that off and say, “I'm not taking any responsibility for how you handle yourself,” or, “I'll take some responsibility for not having dinner and disappointing you, but I won't take any responsibility for how you handle your disappointment. That's all yours.” 

That’s part of this CORE strength we talk about. It’s knowing what side of the street is mine. My side of the street is I can be empathetic that: “Yeah I disappointed you. But I'm not going to enable you to blame me for your behavior.” 

For example, a little kid says, “Well, she took my toy, that's why I hit her over the head with the pan.” As a mom we would say, “You can't handle yourself that way when you get mad at your sister.” Right? 

Or, a reckless driver says, “The reason I smashed into the car in front of me is because he was driving too slow and I just wanted to make sure he sped up.” It's crazy, but somehow we think, “It's my job to make sure he doesn't get upset.” No, it's not. 

I'm not saying to provoke your husband on purpose. What I'm saying is you will provoke him. How many of your husbands provoke you? How many of your kids provoke you? People provoke us all the time, right? People upset us. But how we handle ourselves is our responsibility. 

Your husband is not a child. [Tweet “He's a grown-up and grownups are supposed to be able to handle their own emotions and take responsibility for how they behave.”]

So again, don't JADE, and maybe ask a curious question and see if that goes anywhere. If it doesn't then just say, “Well I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I don't take responsibility for that, I can't control your hands, I can't control your mouth, I can't control how you behave.” 

Here’s another illustration. You can actually make this at home. Take a clear, plastic bottle and put a little dirt in the bottom, and then pour water inside. Let it settle so you don’t see the dirt. 

Now, picture everything is going along fine and then something happens to upset your husband. To illustrate, shake the bottle. Obviously, the water will get dirty. Now, did you make the water dirty? No. The dirt was already in there. You simply shook it. You exposed the dirt that was already there. 

Jesus says, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) If I get upset and dirt comes out of my mouth, it exposes what was already there all along. Nobody made me have that dirt. It was there, it's just now coming out, and I'm blaming you for it coming out. 

Sometimes it’s good for us to see what’s inside. Just like you when you're reactive, it's good for you to see, “Wow, I've got a lot going on in here, I need to pay attention and help myself calm down, help myself with this dirt inside because I don't want it there.” And when your husband blames you for his own “dirt,” that's not truthful.

Friend, what do you do when someone is intent on holding you responsible for how they behave, feel, or think?

32 Comments

  1. julie on May 18, 2022 at 7:17 am

    Thank you so much ! This is very helpful !

    I pray your time in Israel is A. M. A. Z. I. N. G. !!! ❤

  2. Liz on May 19, 2022 at 8:26 am

    This is very helpful
    Thank you!!!

  3. Sunny on May 19, 2022 at 8:40 am

    This post is really helpful. Thanks Leslie for the examples of words to use in these situations.

  4. Lisa on May 19, 2022 at 9:59 am

    Israel ❤️❤️❤️

    We’ve been 3x. It’s amazing. You feel you are at the very pulse point of history and civilization. Stop in at Christ Church inside the Joppa Gate in the Old City, across from the Tower of David. Our friend, David Pileggi, is the rector there.

  5. Lottie on May 19, 2022 at 10:52 am

    Sad but true article. This has gone on in my marriage for 50 years now. Unfortunately, I don’t think my spouse “cares” about “us”. I think he just wants his “way”. Thank you for making this thing called JADE clear. I wish I had been able to have this information 50 years ago & my life would be different. We have a marriage, but it’s not a Christ-honoring, loving relationship.

  6. Barb Heinauer on May 19, 2022 at 1:32 pm

    Thank you Leslie I am getting a 3×5 card everyday so I can break the circular conversations. Thank you for sending your book. I am enjoying it although diccult subject matter.

  7. AnneHave a great trip ! on May 19, 2022 at 1:41 pm

    Really appreciate Leslie demonstrating how to ask curious questions.
    I find it very helpful to role play a potential issue.
    I would love to see more of that.
    So appreciate Leslie’s teaching .

  8. Lisa on May 19, 2022 at 2:17 pm

    This was very helpful, Leslie, thank you. Specific words or phrases are the tools I need, so I can take a philosophy and put feet on it in a way that works in my marriage. When I hear a specific phrase or question like these, I can adapt them to my life. This is exactly what I need. Thanks again!

  9. Linda on May 19, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you so much for the examples of what to say…I use them all the time! Just used a couple of them this week…. so so helpful!

  10. Heather on May 19, 2022 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you, thank you for this!! I have needed examples for a long time and this has been extremely helpful as I am met with his blameshifting and denial almost daily!
    What are some examples of how to respond when the spouse denies? “I didn’t do that” or “I didn’t say that” Is it still using the “Jade” example?

    • Anna on May 20, 2022 at 5:22 pm

      “I remember that differently” is one I’ve used.

  11. Mel on May 19, 2022 at 7:36 pm

    What if he doesn’t blame you for his own actions necessarily, but blames you for everything you don’t get done right or on time or at all because you’re so overloaded with responsibilities both in & out of the home (that he won’t help you with) that you can’t do it all? How do you respond to criticism or condemnation when you break down under the load and then get accused of not having prioritized or done the right things at the right time and so that’s why you’re not getting other stuff done? How do you respond to that without entering the vicious, nonproductive cycle of justifying, arguing, and defending yourself against unwarranted criticism only to get more criticism and accused of being/acting crazy or dramatic??

    • Anna on May 20, 2022 at 5:21 pm

      Sometimes I say, “I am doing the best I can.” Repeat once or twice if he keeps going, and then it’s helpful to set a boundary so you don’t have to keep listening to him criticize you. Such as, “I am not going to stand here and listen to criticism.” And then leave the room. Just be aware that he’s likely to escalate if you do this, so it’s good to have a safety plan in place first.

      Another thing I have said in response to his criticism is, “If you want to think that I can’t stop you.”

    • Jessica, on behalf of the Leslie Vernick & Co team on May 20, 2022 at 8:39 pm

      Hi Mel, that sounds like the other side of the same coin. Instead of blaming you for what he DID do, he is blaming you for what he DIDN’T do.

      A question you could ask would be:
      “You’re right, I wasn’t able to get all of that done in the timeframe I was given. Would you like to help me with this next time, or shall I hire help?”
      Or, “This house (laundry, dishes etc) is OUR responsibility, what portion of this would you like to do going forward?”

      He likely won’t like your answers, and in this situation it might be necessary to stop doing so much and allow him to experience the consequences of being an adult with adult responsibilities. YOU can decide to hire help, or just let something slide. You can draw a boundary around the way you want to be spoken to, and leave the room or even the house for a period of time if he begins berating you for what you didn’t do right in his eyes.

      You have some choices and agency in this situation, you might just need to explore some options.

    • R on May 20, 2022 at 10:19 pm

      Leslie’s book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage,” can really help with this.

  12. carol on May 20, 2022 at 2:57 am

    thanks leslie this was so helpful my husband blamed me for his infidelity he did it openly and said he lowered his started by marrying me after 2 years of affair i decided to leave him he blamed me for making our son suffer emotionally and by destoring our marriage he also said that i have talked about our issues i am not wise to know what to keep he beat me and made be believe i deserved bcoz am not like the other woman i look like an old granny while he has a fancy’s gal who makes him happy.
    reading your articals has been so helpful …thank you

    • Jessica, on behalf of the Leslie Vernick & Co team on May 20, 2022 at 8:28 pm

      Carol, I am so sorry for what you’ve experienced. I hope you can see that all of that was NOT your fault, and that you are in a safer, healthier, better place now.

  13. Barb on May 20, 2022 at 10:13 am

    Recognizing JADE lessens false guilt and ownership falls to him

  14. Christina on May 20, 2022 at 6:26 pm

    I LOVE this format, Leslie! Being able to read the transcript AND watch the video really helps to drive the lessons home for me. THANK YOU! 🙂

  15. Free on May 21, 2022 at 5:30 am

    It is important to remember that many men do not abuse when. Many people have homes filled with kindness and respect. I don’t think that teaching people how to live with or speak with a cruel individual is the right approach. I know many women choose to stay with abusers. It is curious to me why they don’t value themselves more.

    If you value yourself, you don’t find creative ways to no avoid risk, you eliminate the risk. Trying to use new form of defense against cruelty gives you protective shields in battle. Why not just get out of the battle zone, turn in your soldiers uniform and join the rest of the women who didn’t marry abusers? The aggressor has no interest in changing. Why expose yourself to a single conversation with a person who spews poison at you? It is unacceptable. You are worth so much more than to tolerate a man who speaks to you, even once, in such a manner.

    • Jessica, on behalf of the Leslie Vernick & Co team on May 25, 2022 at 10:04 am

      While it is true that there are many homes filled with kindness and respect, the statistics show that one quarter to one third of marriages are destructive. This is not a small number!
      If this many people are experiencing destruction in the home, how many more will experience destruction in their friendships, workplaces, schools etc?
      Without the empowerment to change the dynamic and know how to interact with difficult people, we will be caught off guard in these interactions and can easily be harmed in the process. Understanding how to remain calm and engage curious questions can be used in a myriad of situations, and is why what Leslie is teaching here is so important to everyone, regardless of their marital status.

  16. Allyson on May 21, 2022 at 12:50 pm

    So very helpful just exercised this in a common situation where my husband is mean or disrespectful to our children and they react in a negative way or withdraw and gets more angry or frustrated about their reaction. I am sure to talk to our child later about healthier ways to handle their frustration but when I later privately tried to let him know how his comments hurt our daughters feelings he tried to blame me for her reaction – that she is just taking her cues from me. I asked, “ help me understand how our daughter feeling hurt by what you said is my fault (she’s 17)? Cycle of blame continued…so I said “ok I appreciate you point of view but our daughter is almost an adult and her reactions are her own and are very understandable considering what you said. I am not going to take responsibility for that so we are going to have to agree to disagree on this and walked away. He got pretty pissed about that (he always needs to have the last word) and tried to keep the crazy dance going saying “you can’t just end our conversation like that and walk away”. I just ignored his comment and walked away to go take care of other matters. Absolutely empowering to be able to take control of a hopeless attempt at communication in a kind, calm effective way. No more crazy making!!! I feel at peace and have put the conflict behind me. in the past I would have spent the rest of the day in a major thought storm about the whole interaction rehashing what I did wrong or trying to revisit the argument later with him to find resolution (only to fall further into frustration/despair). Thank you for helping me get my sanity back, disengage from toxicity (instead of adding to it) and helping me take big steps towards being my best self no matter what!!!

    • Jessica, on behalf of the Leslie Vernick & Co team on May 25, 2022 at 9:58 am

      Excellent example Allyson!
      Not only did you use curious questions, but you did not JADE, and you stood up for your daughter.

    • Jessica, on behalf of the Leslie Vernick & Co team on May 25, 2022 at 10:05 am

      Excellent example Allyson!
      Not only did you ask curious questions and refrain from JADEing, you stood up for your daughter and modeled empowering behavior for her; well done!

  17. Barb on May 22, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    I tried the above statements not to JADE and it made him go into a rage.

    • Moon Beam on May 24, 2022 at 12:29 pm

      Barb,I completely understand. This guidelines and suggested comments are useful in a difficult marriage. But for those of us in a destructive marriage, these suggestions are dangerous. I know know of want to hear it, but in situations like ours, the only solution is no contact. Psychological abusers have no empathy violate personal boundaries and are driven by their thirst for power and control. Have you considered a short term safety plan and developed a team for your exit plan?

    • R on May 25, 2022 at 5:58 am

      Yes, an abuser gets very angry when he realizes he’s not controlling you anymore. You want to make sure you don’t react to his rage, but you also really need a safety plan in case his rage turns into violence.

      • Autumn on May 26, 2022 at 10:46 pm

        R, rage is violence. I think we accept so much and deny the depth of our mistreatment. Things like blocking an exit of a doorway are considered domestic violence and one can call police to assist you if your abuser does such a thing to you. Blocking any exit is domestic considered domestic violence and coercive control. It might be a good idea for all of us to review the domestic abuse guidelines in the state we live in. I think it would be a very important exercise for Conquer participants.

        • AnneM on July 14, 2022 at 9:00 am

          what if he locks me out in the garage area and won’t let me back in the house, then mocks me when I plead to get back in the house, then after all is said and done, he says he had to teach me a lesson, and said it was my fault, that I was full of pride? I forgive him, but this is so hard to forget about and I think it could happen again. of course I always keep my phone on my person now, and I have spare keys if needed, but that does not excuse his behavior to me.

          • Leslie Vernick on July 15, 2022 at 3:04 pm

            Anne, What if you called the police when he locked you out of the house instead of begging him to let you into your own house? It does not excuse his behavior and he is not your parent to “teach you a lesson”. You forgave him which is fine, but you still don’t feel safe or trust him. He hasn’t repented of what he did nor does he recognize what he did was scary and abusive. What are your next steps forward?



    • Jessica, on behalf of the Leslie Vernick & Co team on May 25, 2022 at 10:10 am

      I’m so sorry you experienced that Barb!

      Remember that neither you, nor your choice of words forced him into a rage. He made the choice to allow his anger free reign, and by doing so, he is showing you who he is.

      Unfortunately, we have no control over how our words or actions are received or what the other person decides to do with them. We are powerless to change anyone else, we can only choose to change ourselves.
      Now that you know what he will do when you point out the flaws in his thinking, what can YOU do to protect your emotional safety from his anger?

  18. AnneM on August 1, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    thanks Leslie; no he has not understood how painful that was to me; he often invalidates me/my feelings; taking things ‘one hour at a time, one day at a time ‘ is a thoughtful gem. I am keeping boundaries, good friends and looking for more positive ways to deal with things. it is difficult to think about how/why my spouse wants me to give up my individuality, uniqueness , and that he really has low appreciation for who I am . I often have to remove myself from this unhealthy behavior, and it takes its toll on me. counseling is helping me but he has now refused to continue, saying that we never needed it and it wasn’t that bad, and why did I begin the counseling, etc. [gaslighting has been verified by the counselor].

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