Games People Play: The Marriage Blame Game

Games People Play: The Marriage Blame Game

Backstory: Skip if you would like…..

A few years ago I stumbled upon a box of books that my older brother had saved from his college years. I of course gravitated towards the psychology books and one stuck out. It was a book titled, Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis by Eric Berne, M.D.. The title itself made me pay attention. I decided to take it with me and it sat on my shelf for many years sadly. When I moved after college I found it again and decided to take a look inside. It is not a joke when I say that this book changed the way I saw my relationship with others, and the relationship with myself. Check the end for a link to the book.

Although this is not an in depth review of this book, I wanted to tell you a little about the purpose of this book. Games People Play helps readers understand some of our basic social interactions. It describes “games” or “tactics,” that we use in our everyday relationships. These games can be used in areas of our lives such as marriage, sex, friendships, and centers around tactics of power or control that we may adopt in order to get what we want from others. Needless to say this book also teaches those that maybe are being “played” by people like the ones outlined in this book, and that is exactly what I learned. I was fairly young at the time and I was in a very committed relationship for my age. I was probably in too deep and was blinded by the type of young love that makes you crazy and makes you relinquish control. Reading this book was as if I was getting advice from someone who knew my story all too well and was telling me what was going on in the background scenes of my relationships. I want to start with one of the first chapters that expanded my awareness of the “games” people play.

In Chapter Five titled “Games” we are introduced to a description of what these games truly are. Berne describes the word “games” as: “…an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome,”(pg.48.) That is, people play these “games” with the knowledge that if they do these certain things they will get what they want from the other person. They have a motivation to keep on repeating these games because most often they work. Berne tells us that most of these games are dishonest and the outcome usually creates a response that leaves the other person hurt or is left at an disadvantage. Some of these games are more often seen in relationships such as a friendship, professional relationship or the case of the following: marriage. Here are some examples that I came up with after reading this chapter of the book:

Games People Play in Marriages: The Blame Game

“If it Weren’t For You”

This game is described as “If it weren’t for you,” but I also understood is as the blame game. The blame game is what I will use for these examples.


We may often try to release some of our own blame by putting it on our partner. We twist and turn their words and actions and dismiss the outcome of situations as simply not being our fault. If we are powerful enough in our words we can even convince our partner that they are truly to blame for what happened, and we essentially get the upper hand in the game, or argument.

    • Ex: “I did not want to yell at you, but you know how much I hate when you bother me about working late. I only work late because you do not have a job and stay home all day with the kids and that adds pressure to me.”
    • “I spank the kids because my parents spanked me and you do not discipline them like you should. I do not mean to be the bad one but I have to step up since you do not do it.”

Note* We may be on the other side of this story and maybe we are bullied by our partner into taking the blame for things that were not completely one person’s fault. It may begin to feel like a game of accusations that seem endless.

img_7670We may blame or attribute our actions to others by making them believe that because of them we HAD to do something or not do something.

  • Ex: “I would be going to the gym more often but YOU always get home late and I NEVER HAVE a chance to go because I cannot leave the kids.”
  • Ex: “I would not be so overweight if YOU would just cook healthier meals for me when I got home.” “It is your fault that I HAVE to eat fast food all the time.”
  • Ex: “ I am a jealous person because YOU never tell me where you are, That is why I HAVE to check your phone.”
  • Ex: “I would be more positive if you would not mess everything up. I cannot even trust you to do what I ask you to do so I HAVE to do it myself”

You may blame others for the person you are now by claiming or stating that because of them you are the way you are.

  • Ex: “I USED TO be so patient, but YOU have a way of making me so frustrated and I snap.”
  • Ex: “I USED TO go out a lot more but YOU do not like to go out and now I am such a boring person who does not have much friends.” “It is your fault I feel lonely.”
  • Ex: “ I USED TO keep up more with my appearance but YOU do not help me with the kids and because of you I never have time.” “YOU do not even notice when I get ready so why try.”

Bottom line is this: No one wins in these scenarios. One of the partners is left feeling even more guilty while the other one is left in control but feeling frustrated with no resolution. We do this more often than we think. We may fail to take responsibility for the things we have some control in and we shift the blame. This does not create resolution and may fuel the resentment in a relationship. We may “play” these games unconsciously or without awareness. We may become so used to just taking the blame or doing the blaming that we do not realize these tactics are toxic. This book made me aware of how easy it is to accept these “games” as normal parts of relationships and we often overlook how much better things could be and should be. The first step is true awareness. Reading this book has not only strengthened my ideas of how relationships work, but made me aware of the things that slowly turn relationships toxic and unproductive to our mental health and well-being.

Disclaimer: If you would like to read this book I highly recommend it. Follow the direct link above to purchase through Amazon. I may receive monetary compensation or small commission from sales acquired using the direct link. The opinions expressed in this post are genuine and I have read the book myself and continue to read it daily. I added the link as a way to get you guys connected to a great resource using the Amazon Affiliates Program as well as a way to expand my earning potential. Thank you

Let me know if you have read this book! Or have found the “games” interesting or if your learned something new. I plan to do a few more posts about other sections of this book so I hope this is something you enjoy and want to read more of. I appreciate your ongoing support. Send me your comments, suggestions, or questions!


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18 Responses to Games People Play: The Marriage Blame Game

  1. azehpraise says:

    Wonderful one Elena.
    Really eye opening.

    Love how you write also.

  2. Karissa says:

    Blame helps no one! My husband and I learned this when we went through a rough patch in our marriage.

  3. Relationship says:

    Hay Elena, this is one more wonderful article by you. You have made an excellent attempt to let the readers understand meaning of relationship:) Thanks for sharing this article

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed it. That is my aim in my posts. And a lot of times I learn a lot myself along the way. Thank you again. 🙂

  4. I haven’t read the book, but I found your post to be very thought provoking. I think all of us are guilty of the blame game, and I’m in total agreement that it can be very damaging to our relationships with others. It’s definitely something that all of us could use some awareness around. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you for reading. 🙂 I’m really guilty of that too. Especially when I was younger and did not know how to handle conversations. I am glad you enjoyed it and that you found it interesting:)

  5. Great read. I’ve been on both sides. I’ve had people convince me things were my fault when they weren’t. I’ve also noticed sometimes my first reaction is to turn things around on my husband to make me feel better when I’ve messed up. You’re so right- that is so unhealthy for relationships!

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I do the same thing. It’s easier to blame others and even more when we feel so guilty! And like you, I have also been on the other side taking blame for things I didn’t do

  6. beehappy says:

    It sounds like an interesting read. I’m sure I’m guilty of some of this though I try not to do that. You’re right, no one wins in these scenarios and lashing out at each other doesn’t solve anything.

    • It really is a good book. I found myself really feeling guilty after reading some of the stuff in the book because I wasn’t aware I could be the problem too. Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  7. Heather says:

    This was a particularly interesting read for me. As an acting teacher, I teach my students a lot of this language: what do you want from the other person, what is your overall motivation, what tactics do you use to get it. All of this is the basis of human interaction, and it’s not always negative. Blame is never healthy in any relationship though, but is so easy to fall into when we are hurt.

    • Heather, thanks for reading and commenting. I think it’s great that you are aware of that and that your students and learning the fundamentals of human interaction and relationships. I agreee that when we are upset it is so easy to resort to negative tactics unfortunately.

  8. bellegabriella1 says:

    Oh my, this was so convicting. My boyfriend tells me all the time that I blame him for everything. I always deny it, but after looking at the examples, I can definitely see a pattern. I think self-awareness is a really important part of changing. I can definitely see how blaming produces a negative outcome. I will def be trying to watch myself more closely now. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. The same happened to me! I was always starting petty arguments in my last relationships and assumed it was his fault. I had to realize that I am in control of my own actions and cannot hold others responsible for how I react. I am glad you found it useful 🙂

  9. Louise says:

    I read this book a long time ago and loved it also! Thanks for this easy to understand explanation of this game. It’s a great reminder for me! When you’re aware of it, it’s so much easier to spot it in your relationships.

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