Blame Shifting and Minimizing: There’s no EXCUSE for Abuse


Why do we make excuses? You tell a friend that you’re busy with something else because you’d rather just put your feet up and watch the game. You tell yourself that eating that pint of ice cream was fine because you went running the day before so that cancels it out.

To some extent, everyone makes excuses.

When it comes to people making justifications about their unhealthy actions, it can be difficult to see through these excuses or recognize them for what they are.

Why do we want to believe the excuses a partner makes when they’re treating us badly? Sometimes the justifications sound really good. Especially when we’re looking for something — anything — to help make sense of how the person we care for is acting toward us. It’s normal to want to rationalize what’s going on, because abuse is pretty irrational.

Abusive partners are also skilled at coercion and manipulation. They use excuses to make you feel like what’s happening is your fault.

Let’s take a look at common excuses that abusive partners use and talk about why these, like all “reasons,” aren’t justification for violent and hurtful behavior.

  • “I was drunk/I was using drugs.”

Substance abuse isn’t an excuse for abuse. There are people who drink and use drugs and don’t choose to abuse their partners. Ask yourself: how does your partner act when they’re drunk around their friends? How do they treat you when they’re sober?

A statistics teacher would tell you, “Correlation does not imply causation.” Just because two things happen together (like drinking and violence), it does not mean that one causes the other.

  • “I control you because I care about you.”

Acting jealous, controlling or possessive is not a way to show someone you care. 

  • “You got in my face/made me mad/got me wound up on purpose, and I had no other choice. I can’t control it.”

Stress and anger issues don’t cause abusive behavior. An abusive partner’s actions are always a choice that they make. Ask yourself: how does your partner react when they are angry with other people? Would they fly off the handle at their boss? Chances are probably not, because they know they can’t get away with that behavior around others.

  • I have mental health issues or a personality disorder — ex. I’m bipolar, I have PTSD.”

There are people who have mental health issues and don’t act abusive toward their partners. If an abusive partner is dealing with a mental health issue, ask yourself: have they been diagnosed by a professional? Are they seeking help or taking medications? Do they act abusively toward others (friends, family, coworkers), not just you? Learn more about mental health and abuse.

  • “I grew up in a violent home where I experienced or witnessed abuse”

There are a lot of people who grow up in violent homes who choose not to abuse their partners. Many choose this because of how they grew up — they know how it felt to live in that situation and they want healthier relationships for their partner and their family.

Do you find yourself making these excuses for how you act toward your partner? Or, on the other hand, do any of these excuses sound similar to what you’ve heard your partner tell you when they’re treating you badly?

Being able to recognize excuses for what they are — blames, minimizations, denials — can be a step toward realizing that abuse is never the fault of the person on the receiving end. Remember: partners who are abusive always have a choice about their words and actions.

We’re here to talk: 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).

minimizing violence

Excuses, Excuses…

Just as people make excuses for their own poor behavior, it seems to be human nature that we often make excuses for others as well — in particular, our significant others. Have you ever found yourself apologizing for the actions of your partner? “Sorry about that, they’re just tired and had a really long day,” or, “They don’t mean to act like that, they’ve just been stressed at work.”

Has a family member or friend ever directly asked you about the way your partner treats you? How did you respond? Did you come up with an excuse to put them at ease — or, to put your own mind at ease?

In an unhealthy or abusive relationship, making justifications for a partner’s behavior is common. When your partner continually makes excuses for how they treat you, it’s only normal that you may start making similar excuses and echoing their sentiments.

What do these excuses sound like?

“It’s my fault. I made a mistake and did something that upset them.”

“They said that I’m controlling. I drove them to act this way.”

“They’re just stressed/tired/having a bad day/kidding.”

“They aren’t usually like this.”

“It’s not that bad. At least they don’t hit me.”

“They didn’t hit me that hard. It could be worse.”

“They weren’t always like this.”

“They were abused as a child/they grew up in an abusive family — it’s all they know.”

“They just have a drug/alcohol problem.”

“They’re bipolar — it’s a medical condition.”

“I’m just overreacting. They say I’m too emotional.”

Why do we do this?

If your partner is treating you in an unhealthy way, it’s often really difficult to acknowledge what’s happening. It’s hard to believe that someone we care for and love could hurt us. Oftentimes a relationship doesn’t begin badly — so it’s confusing when one can change so drastically.

We may also be in denial about what’s actually happening.

It can be tough to stop making excuses for a partner who is treating you badly, but beginning to accept what’s happening is the first step toward holding them accountable for their own behavior.

You are not responsible for your partner’s bad behavior. Your partner’s hurtful words and actions are their own choice — there is always a choice.

If you’re in a relationship where your partner is emotionally or physically abusive and you find yourself making excuses for them, call us at 1-800-799-SAFE. Our advocates can confidentially speak with you more about this and discuss safety and plans for the future.