Blame is a very thorny issue.

When you’re not feeling angry – and especially when you’re feeling very sad and miserable – the chances are that you will tend to blame yourself.

You’ll castigate yourself for your lack of sex appeal.

You’ll condemn yourself because of your inability to sustain relationships.

You’ll criticise your appearance, or your lack of intellect, or your dullness. And you’ll probably decide that you’re excessively boring, or too quiet, or too chatty. Or that you’re hopeless in every conceivable way.

In other words you will attach great blame to yourself.

This is natural, but not likely to aid your recovery.

Perhaps you can see that if a friend of yours were as down on herself as this, you would try to persuade her that she wasn’t seeing things clearly and that she was blaming herself far, far too much.

Well, don’t be harder on yourself than you would be on that friend. And, from now on, do try to achieve a more balanced view on your part in the downfall of your relationship.

Frankly, ‘blame’ isn’t a very helpful word, although we all use it. It smacks of uncompromisingly rigid condemnation. So instead of looking for who or what to blame, why not try to look for the reasons that forced an end to your relationship?

And before you decide that you can skip this bit – either because you ‘know’ that all the blame and reasons can be put squarely on your ex or because you believe that all the failure can be attributed to you – let me encourage you to consider a re-think.

The truth is that all relationships happen because of the input of two people. And, just as importantly, virtually all relationships fail because of the actions of two people. This might be an unpalatable idea, but it’s important to accept it.

Now, if your husband has walked out after thirty years of marriage and traded you in for a younger model, the chances are that you and your friends and family believe that he’s a rat, and you’re a saint.

But, if you think about it, the truth may be rather different.

Perhaps you let your physical appearance go to pot. Maybe you’ve put on stones in weight over the years. Perhaps you were bored with sex and tried to avoid it. Maybe you never interested yourself in his hobbies or his work. Perhaps, once you had children, you put them first. Maybe you nagged your man because he was untidy, or because he never put up the shelves that you wanted, or because he left the loop seat up all the time. And possibly you were pretty bored with the marriage – but would never have left it, because you wouldn’t have chosen to face the upheaval and re-thinking that a new single life involves.

Now, none of these things – if they happen to be true – turns you into a sinner rather than a saint: they actually place you somewhere between these two extremes, which is where most of us are.

They are, however, reasons why your husband may have sought attention elsewhere. By saying that, I am not condoning his behaviour, but I am looking at reasons for it. And you should be prepared to acknowledge these reasons.

Let’s take another example: what about a situation where a husband becomes a couch potato? Suppose he likes to stay home watching TV, overeating and drinking, while his wife remains lively and full of fun? Is she to blame if she starts going out clubbing without him, and succumbs to the charms of another guy?

If the marriage falls apart, she will almost certainly be branded as the ‘guilty party’, but she had good reasons for her behaviour. She’s not blameless, but neither is her husband.

blaming yourself

And what about the freelance journalist, who would value his partner’s interest and support, but she never reads the articles he writes – and only seems to be interested in how much money he can earn?

Is he totally to blame if he decides that he’d prefer to be single rather than misunderstood, unappreciated and lonely within a relationship that is supposed to offer love, support, communication and sharing?

Obviously not. But is his partner totally to blame? No: because she may have her own disappointments within the relationship which have made her hostile to his work.

And what about the situation where a woman goes right off sex and her man eventually finds a new and sexy partner? Well, he may believe that his partner’s lack of interest in physical love drove him to leave. But of course, his partner may have gone off sex because his technique in bed was lousy, or because he wasn’t sensitive to her needs. Or even because the only time he told her he loved her was when he wanted sex!

What I’m saying is that in virtually every break-up, both parties have failed. Not one.

Of course there are occasional situations where one partner’s behaviour is so extremely bad that the spouse has no option but to call ‘time’ on the relationship.

I can think of one woman who realised that her husband was a murderer. She felt she had no option but to lead the police to him, and to end her marriage.

And it would be entirely reasonable for a woman who found out that her partner was a child abuser, or a rapist, to terminate the relationship.

I knew one man who ended a new and promising romance when he heard his beloved express a harsh opinion of homeless people and asylum seekers. Her views were so different from his own, that he realised their love had no future.

Less dramatically, there are people who love the thrill and the chase of early romance, but who are terrified of any commitment. One could say that they are substantially responsible for the demise of any relationship they’re involved in.

And what about relationships ruined by drink or drugs?

Clearly partners do leave individuals who are not coping with their addiction. In fact, often they don’t leave soon enough. So if you’ve got yourself out of a romance with someone who had addictive problems, and you believe that you are blameless in that split, then I’m certainly not going to disagree with you.

cup of tea

And then there’s violence. I firmly believe that no one – man or woman – should remain in a relationship with a violent partner, no matter how sweet, how contrite, how loving, how dependent or how much fun that partner might be the rest of the time.

If you stay with someone violent, you demean yourself, and condone their lack of control.

So, the failure of some relationships is all about the actions or shortcomings of one of the partners. But most relationships fall apart because of the actions and behaviour of both of them. It’s quite important to work out the truth of your past relationship and to see it for what it was.

But why, you might ask? Why does it help to look at the reasons for the break-up after it’s happened?

Well, sometimes it can save a relationship at the eleventh hour.

Perhaps one partner felt ignored and had an affair, but essentially the couple had a good marriage, and they had children at home of school age. In this situation they might be able to acknowledge that there had been failures on both sides, and the relationship might then be rescued.

But even if the last thing that is going to happen is that you’re going to get back together again, it is useful to understand the reasons why your relationship ended. If you don’t get to grips with this reality, you’re likely to make the same mistakes with someone else.

So by seeing what went wrong – and most particularly why you put up with certain things and what you were intolerant or impatient of – you can appraise your most recent relationship in more realistic terms. You can also make a big difference to your relationships in the future.