Using guilt as a weapon may get you what you want in the short term, but it is a dangerous tactic that will undermine your relationship and rob you of intimacy with your partner.

Have you ever found yourself turning to your special someone and saying, “If you loved me you would...”? How about ending an argument with, “Don’t worry about me.” and sighing deeply? If so, you may be using guilt as a weapon.

If you use guilt against your partner, it destroys intimacy by making your 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 loving them. You set yourself up in a position of power that can only be sustained by keeping the other person down. Guilt attacks both your partner and your relationship.

1. Guilt sets up tests.

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 of your love. Setting up tests like this says to your loved one, “I don’t believe that you love me. Prove it.” It attacks your partner and requires that they start from the beginning and prove their love all over again.

2. Guilt destroys trust.

Guilt attacks a person with the intent to harm them. It is a disciplinary behavior designed to cause pain so that the other person will change their point of view or behavior. How can you expect your partner to trust someone who is intentionally wounding them? Without trust, a healthy relationship is impossible because trust creates the environment where intimacy can grow. It is the basis for honesty, openness, and vulnerability. You cannot develop emotional intimacy with someone if you have to protect yourself from them.

3. Guilt refuses to forgive.

One of the most painful ways to wound your partner with guilt is to bring up past hurts and wrongs. No matter what your partner has done in the past or how sorry they are for doing it, there is absolutely nothing they can do today to take it back. Bringing up past behavior is a cruel way to punish someone. If you choose, 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 go of something that has happened, then you cannot be in a true, loving relationship with that person for very long. It simply does not work.

Why do we use guilt?

Laying a guilt trip is never an act of love — it is always an act of violence. It may masquerade as “brutal honesty,” but the true intention of guilt is always to wound, to hurt, and to break down. Whatever it is we’re after, guilt aims to make the other person suffer. So why do we do it?

We often resort to using guilt when we feel threatened, unloved, or unworthy. Something in the relationship — or in our past — makes us feel vulnerable, so we resort to guilt in an attempt to regain control of the situation. Unfortunately, using guilt never gives us what we really wish to accomplish. Instead of building the intimacy we crave, we become pulled apart from our partner when we use guilt as a tool for manipulation.

In healthy relationships there is no position of power. Both partners are genuinely interested in the other’s well being and so there is no reason to feel threatened. There isn't any fear of attack. Both partners can be open and honest with each other, nurtured in a safe environment where they are valued and cared for.

Getting past guilt

If you find yourself using guilt as a weapon in your relationship, the answer to why you’re doing it is in you — not your partner. Ask yourself why you feel threatened in this relationship. Is there something in the past that you cannot forgive? Is there a good reason for you to be afraid? Do you have trouble trusting people? Do you suffer from low self-esteem? Do you feel that the relationship is moving too quickly? Take some time to get to the root of your fear and ask yourself:

If your partner is using guilt as a weapon against you, find out why you are allowing yourself to be treated this way. Love isn’t suppose to make you feel small. If you have made a mistake in the past, that doesn’t give your partner the right to punish you for it forever. It may mean that you need to keep your distance and not be together; it is better to be alone than to be in an abusive relationship. If you feel that you deserve to be treated this way, I encourage you to seek out a counselor to find out why.

A relationship is only worth being in if both partners are free to be who they are. You cannot love or be loved properly in an environment where guilt is used as a weapon. It cannot last for the long haul. Emotional intimacy doesn’t just happen because you are in a relationship with someone. Intimacy, like trust, has to be built. It takes conscious choices and effort from both partners, but the result is definitely worth it.

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This article was written by: Claire Colvin

Photo Credit: Lauren Rushing