Dr. Sue Johnson, developer of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (2008), explains that couples get stuck in three different demon dialogue patterns, one she named the “Find the Bad Guy” pattern that she states leads to a dead end for couples. Johnson describes the Find the Bad Guy as a “blame game” that leads nowhere but to more conflict, disengagement behaviors, and eventually creates a lack of security and trust in the couple’s relationship.
Why do couples engage in this type of behavior? Johnson purports that couples engage in this type of behavior as a way to be in a mutual attack mode, a win-lose dialogue and for self-protection from the real issue(s). Couples can for the moment feel less vulnerable and more in control when taking the stance or role of the “blamer”. This way the blamer(s) does not have to take responsibility for his or her behaviors, thoughts or emotions by pointing fingers at their partner as if to say, “you are at fault, not me!”
Blaming behaviors can also escalate the other partner to engage in the same role and behaviors. Each person can both emotionally and verbally attack each other until one backs down. The one that emotionally disengages or shuts down usually does so for self-preservation. It is a natural response for the blamed partner to divert negative attention away from himself or herself as a way to cope the ongoing relationship distress. Over time, couples can become entrenched in Find the Bad Guy dialogue and it becomes an automatic interaction that leads to insecure bonding in couples.
The way couples can work on stopping the Find the Bad Guy pattern is to find a trained couples therapist who will point out this demon dialogue to the couple. The therapist needs to explain how this dialogue only detracts from the actual issue(s) and creates ongoing emotional distress. The therapist teaches the couple to come from a new level of communication that encourages language that creates safety, trust, and a willingness to take ownership of past behaviors. The therapist also facilitates couples’ dialogues assisting them to show their vulnerable emotions to their partner demonstrating their ability to express a “softer exchange”. Overtime, and with ongoing practice the Find the Bad Guy dialogue is replaced with an emotionally bonded couple that is able to deal with and find solutions to relationship issues.
Danielle Lambrecht, RSW, M.C., CCC.,Trained in Emotional Focused Therapy at Danielle Lambrecht Counselling
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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA