Andy and Julie

A Deeper Look at the Defenses of Criticism and Blame.



Have you ever heard the phrase, “emotionally unsafe,” but didn’t quite know what it meant?  Or, have you ever really felt emotionally not safe but weren’t sure why?

You feel that way when you’ve been treated badly by someone who matters to you. That’s how you know. And unfortunately but usually, that person doesn’t even pause; he goes right on.  He doesn’t seem to “get it.”  That feels bad enough but, even worse, if you stand up for yourself, he blames you for what he calls “arguing.”  Then the whole thing becomes very confusing and you know that you are in a bad space. 



Andy had been having trouble handling his finances for a long time.  After struggling for a while, he asked Julie to do a favor for him.  Julie was a long-time friend who had helped him out of his financial clutches previously a few times.  “Oh sure,” Julie said, ever-the-Pleaser, even though she was backed up on her own work.  So, that afternoon she put in more than three hours at the computer, collecting information on bankruptcy, really hoping it would help Andy. 

A few days later, Andy asked for it.  After reading it, he started picking at her.  “Why isn’t there more here?  Do you really think this is going to help?  What??  You’re telling me that the least charge for a bankruptcy lawyer is $150.00.  Where am I supposed to find $150.00?  I’m filing for bankruptcy!!”  Andy yelled.   Julie’s answers, when she could get them in around his “attitude,” were pretty normal.  She didn’t know anything about bankruptcies.  “I was just doing you a favor,” she said, trying to explain.

Hoping to defuse a little of his anger, Julie changed the subject.  She said she was looking forward to seeing the movie they’d talked about earlier.  “Oh no,” he said, he wasn’t taking her anywhere; he was going out with his buddies.  He needed to let off some steam.

A few days later on the weekend, Andy started in on the bankruptcy thing again.  Julie said she wasn’t going to talk about it because he’d hopped on her for no good reason.  She just didn’t want to go through that again.  Andy, of course, denied hopping on her at all.  It was just her “take” on it and he didn’t intend to take “the blame” for their argument.  As far as he was concerned, it was her fault.  She always was oversensitive.


What’s Wrong in this Relationship?

Andy is aggressively defensive; he isn’t taking responsibility for:


  • what he says to Julie, or
  • how he says it.


He doesn’t even think about that.  For him, it’s strictly about getting the information.    It’s not about how he acts when he receives it.

But, here’s the reality.  Andy asked Julie for a favor.  When he got it, he didn’t appreciate it.   How do we know this?


  1. He didn’t thank Julie for her gift of time and care.  He felt entitled to it.
  2. When Andy read what she’d given him, he criticized her because it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  As though she had control over the data.  In reality, is she responsible for providing something soothing that he wants to hear?  No.  The bankruptcy is his problem, not hers.
  3. Andy criticizes Julie again because she chose not to talk about it a second time.
  4. Lastly, Andy labels her “oversensitive” and blames her for the trouble between them.


So, is Julie “emotionally safe” with Andy.  Not at all.  Did she know it?  No.  Does she now; has she “put it together?” 


So, what about Andy; what does he get out of acting like this?  Most people get a feeling of power and Andy is no exception.  As long as he refuses to give any value to the favor she did for him, he can feel superior to her.  As long as he refuses to be concerned with her feelings, then he has the “top dog” position.

I’m sorry to say that Andy never did “get it,” even though Julie gave the relationship a couple more years.  But finally, the weight of Andy’s criticism and blame and numerous other defenses plus his refusal to take responsibility for what his actions actually meant, just eventually did the relationship in.  It was too bad; Julie loved him.



Solutions for Those of You Who Want a Loving Relationship.

Imagine two people who both know what makes a great relationship and are willing to give that.  Each of those people:


  1. Know themselves pretty well.  (Frankly, all good living starts here.)
  2. Each one understands that they’re responsible for their own feelings, thoughts, and actions, including their “talk.”
  3. Each understands that most of us can be defensive about certain topics or habits but we should acknowledge our defenses, and handle them when they slip out.
  4. Each is dedicated to the relationship between them and each one wants to nourish and enhance the flavor of it whenever they can.  After all, the relationship is the third party in the couple and it has a life of its own.  Relationship people understand this.


The bottom-line success word here is “commitment.”  Each person must be willing to be vulnerable and unafraid to face the other in partnership.  You can see real, authentic, healthy and loving relationship in action when partners value and respect each other.  They are committed to growing the love they share, staying together to come through the hard times. And, along the way even in hard times, they are committed to appreciating and enjoying each other.  I’m telling you: it’s so possible; it’s within your reach.  Go For It!!


Warmest wishes until next time,



Thanks so much for reading.  And, if you think someone else might enjoy this article, please share.

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