Today I overheard a conversation where a female told a male (I assumed her significant other)”If you loved me, you would do it.” If you’ve ever done this, you may be using guilt as a weapon.
This behavior may get you want in the short term, but it could undermine your relationship and steal away the intimacy you have with your partner. Using guilt against your partner makes love conditional. If you manipulate your partner with guilt you are telling them that unless things are done the way you demand you will stop caring for them. You set yourself up in a position of power that can only be sustained by keeping the other person down. Relationships where power is uneven are doomed to fail.
Guilt-tripping your partner often takes the form of “if you loved me you would” or “I don’t see why you can’t just” statements. Both of these set up tasks that your partner must perform to your satisfaction in order to be accepted and worthy. It asks your partner to prove their love over and over again.
The intention of guilt is to harm. It is a disciplinary behavior designed to cause pain and make someone change their point of view or behavior. You can’t expect your partner to trust you if you are intentionally hurting them. A healthy relationship is not possible without trust. You cannot develop emotional intimacy if your partner is protecting themselves from you.
One of the most painful ways to wound your partner with guilt is to bring up past hurts and wrongdoings. You can’t take back what you’ve already done, no matter how sorry you are. Bringing up past behavior is a cruel way to punish someone. You can torture them with it forever and it will never go away. Loving someone requires forgiving the past and letting it go. If you honestly can’t let something go, then you cannot be in a relationship with that person. It simply will not work.
Using guilt is never an act of love; it is an act of manipulation. You may call it “brutal honesty”, but the intention of guilt provoking behavior is to wound, to hurt, and to break a person down. The aim of guilt is to make the other person suffer.
We often use guilt trips when we feel threatened, unloved, or unworthy. Something makes us feel vulnerable. We then use guilt in an attempt to regain control of the situation. Unfortunately, we don’t usually get what we are looking for and it causes rifts in the relationship.
In a healthy relationship there is no position of power. Both partners are genuinely interested in the other’s well being. There are no threats and no fear of attack. Both partners can be open and honest in a safe environment.
If you find yourself using guilt as a weapon, the answer to why you’re doing it is in you, not your partner. Ask yourself why you feel threatened and take some time to get to the root of your fear.
If your partner is using guilt as a weapon against you, try to determine why you are allowing yourself to be treated this way. Love isn’t supposed to make you feel small or lesser than you are. It is better to be alone than in an abusive relationship. If you think you deserve to be treated this way, you may want to see a counselor to explore why this is.
Emotional intimacy doesn’t just happen because you are in a relationship. Like trust, it has to be built and cultivated. It takes a conscious effort from both partners, but the result is definitely worth it.
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