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Accepting Responsibility for Past Mistakes in Relationships

December 14, 2020 Kate Beveridge

Accepting responsibility for past mistakes in relationships can be tricky when you live with a mental illness like borderline personality disorder (BPD). Because of my tendency for black and white thinking, I spent a lot of time refusing to own up to my part in relationship failures.

Blaming Others for Mistakes in Relationships

One of the hallmarks of BPD is black and white thinking, also known as splitting. For me, it usually manifests as feeling like I have been deeply wronged. If I have a fight or an argument with someone, the anger and sense of injustice consume me completely. When that happens, I momentarily or permanently lose any positive feelings or associations with that person.

Many past relationships, whether they were friendships or romantic, ended explosively. At the time, I couldn't see past my anger to examine the mistakes I had made. Because of this blindness, I took a long time to move on emotionally from these perceived injustices. I also permanently damaged my relationships.

Responsibility vs. Self-Blame

One of my main problems was not being able to distinguish between responsibility and self-blame. I was in a long-term relationship that became physically violent at times, which was deeply emotionally traumatic. I didn't want to fall into the trap of blaming myself for what he had done to me, so I adopted a victim mentality.

I don't believe that I or any other person is to blame for being abused. However, treating myself like a pure victim didn't allow me to grow or move on from the relationship. By acting like I had no part in any of the relationship problems, I felt defined and at the mercy of my ex's actions.

Once I realized that I could compassionately examine the history of the relationship, my perspective shifted. I could see how I had miscommunicated and acted poorly. I still didn't blame myself for the physical violence. However, I could get closure and take some positive feelings from the end of the relationship.

Accepting Responsibility for Mistakes

Once I realized that taking responsibility for my past mistakes helped me move on, I started applying the process to other relationships from my history.

These are the steps that I follow:

  1. I take the time to acknowledge my feelings of hurt and pain. I identify that the relationship event was painful, regardless of any ideas of "right" or "wrong."
  2. I extend compassion to my past self. I tell her that she was acting from a painful place, as was the other person. I offer forgiveness to the other person and myself. Even if I don't fully feel it yet, I try to think about how I can get to a place of forgiveness.
  3. I look at the mistakes I made in the relationship and identify areas where I would like to improve. These areas could be communication, regulating my emotions better, or setting healthy boundaries.
  4. I try to balance the positive and negative aspects of the relationship in my mind. By doing so, I can have a clearer and more objective view of the events.

The end of relationships is difficult for everyone, especially those that live with disorders like BPD. However, I firmly believe that with compassion, forgiveness, and accepting responsibility, I can avoid making all the same mistakes in the future.

Do you feel like having BPD has affected your relationships in the past? If so, let me know your experiences with mistakes you've made in relationships in the comments.

APA Reference
Beveridge, K. (2020, December 14). Accepting Responsibility for Past Mistakes in Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2020/12/accepting-responsibility-for-past-mistakes-in-relationships



Author: Kate Beveridge

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Ariana
December, 15 2020 at 11:02 pm

Having been diagnosed with BPD myself a few years ago I find myself fluctuating wildly between black and white views of relationships and people as well. Looking back on a recent relationship that was emotionally manipulative I remember having a too high obsession with this person so I would avoid being contentious or calling them out for behaviour that in hindsight I found problematic because I was too afraid to disagree or draw boundaries for fear of being rejected. Being kind to myself and understanding why I acted the way I did at the time while trying to learn to stand up for myself and be aware of this when it is happening for the future. Was lucky enough to complete DBT recently which has taught me some really helpful skills but still need more practice. These steps are useful I will try to put them into my own practice! Look forward to your next piece :)

December, 18 2020 at 8:01 am

Hi Ariana,
Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. I'm glad that DBT has been helpful for you and I too learned a lot of important skills from my cycle. As with everything, I think the skills become easier the more you practice, but I sometimes forget and have to remind myself. I hope that some of my advice can be helpful!

Lizanne Corbit
December, 14 2020 at 5:54 pm

I think this is something many people can deal with, and even more choose not to take the time to really look at. I love your steps and suggestions for how people can begin to accept responsibility for past mistakes. Extending compassion to your past self is a beautiful thing and a practice we can use for many instances. Thank you for sharing!

December, 15 2020 at 11:35 am

Hi Lizanne,
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I'm glad that you appreciated the steps and I agree that self-compassion can be very helpful. Do you use similar strategies or different ones?

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