Tag Archives: Blame

I Figured Out Who To Blame For My Divorce

man and woman pointing fingers at each other

(Image/shawnpowrie.com)

After an 18-month downward spiral of misery hallmarked by sexlessness, sleeping in separate bedrooms, and crying more than any middle-class white guy living in the United States should be allowed, my wife packed a bag and drove away with our preschooler in the backseat.

And because during those final months I felt as if I was trying harder than she was to make it work, I blamed her for ruining my life and taking half of my son’s childhood away from me.

I felt abandoned. Betrayed. Rejected.

I felt like she chose someone else over me because I wasn’t good enough.

Not rich enough. Not smart enough. Not attractive enough. Not sexy enough. Not tall enough.

Not ANYTHING enough.

Must be this tall to ride.

She moved out. And before I had time to figure out what hit me, she was with someone else.

I blamed her for breaking up our family. I blamed her for disrupting our little son’s childhood. I blamed her for the intense pain I felt in my head, chest and stomach. I blamed her for leaving me alone in a town where I didn’t have roots, but couldn’t move from.

I blamed her for ruining my entire life.

She did this to me.

The Skill of Blaming

When bad things happen in my personal life, my brain quickly creates stories to explain why those bad things are as much Not My Fault as mathematically possible.

It’s kind of incredible how instantaneously it occurs.

I’d call it a superpower, but maybe everyone does it. Also, I perceive superpowers to be tools used for good, and blame-shifting even as an involuntary subconscious process that happens before we even have time to speak or act, is not something I’d consider “good.”

I don’t have to try hard to do this.

Point to something you don’t like about me, or some aspect of my behavior or lifestyle you observe as needing improvement, and I can tell you a legit story about why it’s that way.

Only child.

Small-town Ohio.

Divorced parents.

Unforeseeable economic conditions.

ADHD.

Super-busy.

Single father.

Whatever.

Something I inherited or some limitation created by someone else can usually be blamed for whatever The Bad Thing is.

Sometimes I even catch myself saying: “That’s not meant to be an excuse; that’s the actual reason” to people to whom I’m probably just making excuses.

I’d like to think I’m being honest when I say it.

But maybe I trick myself into believing my own bullshit before I ever get to the part where I challenge my own assumptions. Maybe I sometimes move on before ever getting to the self-challenging part because I’m busy or distracted or lazy. That’s probably how a whole bunch of false beliefs and general assholery happens.

I think I might thoughtlessly do what many humans thoughtlessly do: We rationalize and believe whatever story makes us feel most comfortable.

I’ve been thinking about blame ever since another writer pointed me in the direction of this Dr. Brené Brown video on blame. It’s excellent and you should watch it in an effort to keep your assholery quotient as low as possible.

When Blame is Good

I’ve been trying to work out when blame or the act of assigning blame might be useful.

If someone is wrongly accused of a crime or even just misidentified as having caused The Bad Thing at home, school or work, it seems like a good thing to exonerate the innocent by discovering the true cause.

Similarly, bad things sometimes happen on a broader scale, like a workplace accident, airplane crash or building fire. In these situations, some type of root-cause analysis and investigation is conducted to identify the reason The Bad Thing happened.

It’s good to identify reasons. To assign “blame” correctly, because then steps can be taken to learn from any mistakes that might have contributed to The Bad Thing happening.

There are very few items on my Reasons My Life is Better Because of Divorce! list that I just invented.

But one of them is: Now that I’ve identified several ways that my incorrect beliefs and asshole behaviors contributed to my divorce, I can now be confident that I’m unlikely to repeat them.

Which is a bigger deal for people like me than you might realize.

People who smoke a pack of Marlboros every day, and pound fast-food cheeseburgers and shakes for every meal are more likely to gain weight and develop heart disease, cancer or another potentially fatal disease linked to poor nutrition.

There was a time in history not so long ago where MOST people in the world didn’t know things like that.

Figuring out what to “blame” for the sickness and death was good. It was useful. It helped us collectively make better choices moving forward.

The truth is that blame is rarely good or useful. A better word for the good kind of “blame” is Accountability.

When Blame is Bad

I’m wrong more often than I want to believe (You are too. Sorry!), but I’m pretty sure blaming other things and other people for The Bad Things we encounter is almost never good.

Brené Brown says it best in that video above that you probably didn’t watch.

She said “I’d rather something be my fault than no one’s fault. Why? Because it gives us some semblance of control.”

And that very thought is, I believe, the one that helped me get from depression and borderline-suicidalness, to the place where I can find comfort and peace that my son and his mother have someone other than me who cares about them and looks out for their wellbeing.

When my needy, bitchy, nagging, unsatisfiable and overly emotional wife left me, I was a victim, and powerless to any of her personal-life decisions (which impacted me directly because we share a child). Everything was her fault, and I was miserable and kind of wanted to die.

However.

When my unsupported, emotionally abandoned wife who had spent several years trying her best to help me understand how my actions and attitudes were harming her and our marriage (while I repeatedly denied it and refused to change) FINALLY worked up the courage to leave the relationship in the face of sacrificing so much time with her son, and suffering the personal-life fallout of all who would judge her disapprovingly for that choice…

Everything became MY fault. 

Because—despite tricking myself and others for many years—I had been a monumentally shitty husband.

And after coming to terms emotionally with the depths of my failings, my misery turned into power.

My despair turned into hope.

Because I finally, finally, finally understood how my actions had lead me to the place I was in, and I could feel the incredible power that comes with being in control of my own life again.

And when you understand how something you did or didn’t do lead to the worst thing that ever happened to you, you get to stop being afraid of it happening again for the same reason.

We can’t fix things when we don’t even know what’s broken.

Blame blinds us to accurate diagnoses.

Brown said: “Blame is the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability. Accountability is a vulnerable process.”

Similar to how The Gottman Institute has conducted incredible amounts of research and amassed huge quantities of data on which to base its relationship-counseling advice, Brown also has taken a research-based approach to helping people develop better relationship skills.

“Blaming is simply a way to discharge anger. People who blame a lot seldom have the tenacity and grit to actually hold people accountable because we spend all of our energy raging for 15 seconds and figuring out whose fault something is,” Brown said. “Blaming is very corrosive in relationships, and one of the reasons we miss our opportunities for empathy.”

And if you don’t exactly know what empathy is and why it’s important (I did not throughout the entirety my nine-year marriage), then you’ll be pleased to know it’s the one thing you can start practicing today that will literally change your life and those of everyone you interact with regularly in profound and positive ways.

Nine out of 10 doctors recommend it for curing a bad case of assholery.

When I blame other people and happenings for the bad things I experience in life, then nothing I do matters because everything good or bad that happens to me is out of my control.

The poor helpless victim that I am.

When I accept responsibility for all of my choices from an appropriate age of accountability through today, then everything I do matters because everything that happens to me is a result of something I can influence by whatever I choose next.

It’s the difference between anxiety and confidence; between despair and hope; and between a life where things just happen to us, and one where we decide what happens next.

It’s easy to blame everything on my ex-wife.

It’s hard to be accountable for everything that happened to my family.

But my most important discovery following the worst thing that ever happened to me is this: I can do hard things.

And so can you.

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It’s Not Your Fault, Men; Just Your Responsibility

(Image/dfay.com)

(Image/dfay.com)

Many men neglect and abuse their wives emotionally, and it leads to thousands of new divorces every day.

Husbands do this totally unaware and accidentally, and sometimes wives think it’s a cop-out to say so, but it doesn’t make it less true. Their husbands don’t know, even though their wives have told them once or a thousand times.

There are more than 3,000 daily divorces in the United States, two out of three which are initiated by wives. It’s too depressing to figure out how many children that affects, so I’m not going to. Too many.

But, guys? IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

Sure, some guys are the worst kind of human beings imaginable. Disgusting. Violent. Physically and verbally and sexually abusive. Criminally irresponsible. Dishonest and unreliable. Remorselessly unfaithful. I’m still trying to figure out how women end up marrying men like this, but regardless, these marriages usually end badly, and it’s generally safe to point fingers at the guy in such situations. Your fault, dick.

But that’s not who most of us are. Most of us are—flawed and imperfect though we may be—decent people with aspirations of being “good.” Most of us are good men. Good men who are also bad husbands. Being good at marriage is like being good at your job, or being good at woodworking, or being good at motorcycle repair.

Being a good husband is a skill. And the reason it’s not your fault you’re shitty at it is because no one told you that you were shitty at it until your wife did. The person you gave up your previous identity for and promised to faithfully love and share resources with forever. The person you tell “I love you.” The person you help provide for. The person you trust with your life and the lives of your children.

She’s the first one to break the news, and it doesn’t go down easy: “You are a shitty husband who makes me feel bad and unloved.”

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. It wasn’t my fault, either.

My great-grandfather didn’t teach my grandfather who didn’t teach my father who didn’t teach me. Maybe it’s my great-great grandfather’s fault. Or maybe his dad’s. I don’t know.

I just know that I got married when I was 25, and no one had ever said anything until my wife did around the age of 30. I had the same reaction as the rest of you guys.

Really!? My fault? Why is it ALWAYS the guy’s fault!? The ones who don’t gossip, who stay out of drama, who rarely complain, who never have fights with others, who never start fights at home, who forgive and forget? What a crock of shit.

I’d get really pissed and defensive just like you. Because it wasn’t my fault. And it’s not your fault, either. Maybe other people are blaming you, but I’m not.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

But your wife’s wellbeing? The state of your marriage? The stability of your family?

It’s your responsibility.

Come With Me If You Want To Live

Terminator 2: Judgment Day Spoiler Alert: An artificial-intelligence computer called Skynet developed for military applications becomes self-aware, takes control of U.S. military weapons systems, and launches a global nuclear attack to wipe out humanity. Judgment Day.

The computer processor which would evolve into Skynet was invented by a cybernetics scientist named Miles Dyson. He was a decent guy. Married with a young son. He was Director of Special Projects at Cyberdyne Systems Corp. Just a guy doing his job, developing advanced technology. He probably believed he was doing something valuable for the world.

But his greatest achievement led to global destruction.

As most of you know, this was an accidental side effect of Dyson’s work. OF COURSE he wouldn’t have developed those technologies if he knew humanity would face global extinction as a result.

The end of the world WAS NOT HIS FAULT.

But it was his responsibility, which is why he helped the protagonists blow up his lab and destroy all of the research, losing his life in the process.

Sacrificial redemption.

The Secret to Making Your Wife Happy and Your Marriage Awesome

Men are looking for the cypher to crack the code. A solution to the problem. They want someone to say: “Here’s what’s wrong! And if you do X, Y, and Z everything will magically get better!”

Bad news, guys. There is no actual secret code.

There’s no shortcut. There’s only the long, slow way, like saving for retirement or building a successful business:

We love hard. We listen to our partners and believe them when they tell us things. We devote the same energy we devote to learning how to be good at our jobs, or how to succeed in our competitive endeavors and hobbies to learning the intricacies of our spouse.

We don’t stop flirting with them and courting them and learning about their hopes and dreams just because we don’t feel all young and lusty like we did when we were dating.

We give a little bit more to them than we take for ourselves. (And of course they should do the same — so no one ever vampire-sucks the life out of the relationship.)

And then we all show our kids how to do it, so future generations won’t have all this broken shittiness.

It’s not just that our parents and grandparents and ancestors didn’t pass down any secret knowledge about how to not ruin our relationships. No one else talked to us about it either. Not in school. Not in some secret How To Be Married Club. Not even some random older married-couple mentors to talk to you about what this is all supposed to look and feel like. But please don’t blame them. It’s not their fault. Because no one bothered to tell them either.

Someday, we will need to start having these talks before we get married. But no one is motivated to figure this stuff out until their marriages fall apart and it feels like the sky is falling. When we’re young and care-free and ignorant, we don’t know enough to even ask the right questions.

The reason no one can figure it out is because it’s not just one thing. And there isn’t an 80-20 rule either where there’s one big thing to concentrate on that might help.

It’s a million teeny-tiny, imperceptible moments.

And simply by being ourselves, combined with our lack of awareness that being ourselves causes emotional damage to our partners, we fail these little moments over and over again without realizing it.

And it’s fine when we’re dating. And it’s fine in the first couple years. And it might even be fine after the first baby.

But after a couple of kids, and several years, and work and financial stresses, and one of your parents dying unexpectedly?

BOOM.

It’s finished. And you didn’t see it coming because you didn’t know you were supposed to be looking for it.

The vast majority of men have absolutely no idea what it looks and feels like to meet a woman’s emotional needs, and no one has EVER talked about it with him before in his 20-30 years of life prior to engagement and marriage.

These aren’t just foreign concepts. They’re entirely absent.

No one is talking about these things with young men. These kids just think they’re supposed to be well-mannered. Respectful. Polite. Kind. To help protect. To help provide.

You can do almost all of those things through the prism of the male experience and neglect your partner emotionally completely by accident.

Which is what usually happens. Then the emotionally neglected wife is often unable to communicate the emotional neglect in a way that A. Makes sense to him, and B. Doesn’t come off like an ungrateful attack on his faithful husbandry.

Then they both slowly push one another away, one angry disagreement at a time, but with the husband often never considering divorce. Because of that list of things he’s been raised to believe about what he must do for his wife.

Being responsible for her “feelings”!? That seems like an incredibly unfair burden to a man who wasn’t educated on the intricacies of human emotional response and psychology.

He never asks his wife to be responsible for his feelings, but he’ll tell her all about it when she “attacks” him. He’ll fire back about the times he was upset about something she did, but that he never “stooped so low” as to try to make a fight out of it, or suggested marriage might have been a mistake, or tried to make it out like she was an inadequate spouse simply because she hurt him.

It’s unfair to her because he doesn’t give her what she needs, and when she tells him, he simply denies it, or rejects the idea that he owes more.

It’s unfair to him because she doesn’t give him the same courtesy he gives her: He doesn’t EVER threaten the marriage because of disagreements that seem minor and petty compared to his promise to love her and remain faithful forever.

This is where almost everyone waits for the other person to finally “see the light” and agree how right the other is. Then almost everyone ends up divorced because no one ever “sees the light.”

And IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

We husbands do a million little things to destroy our marriages. But until we understand how and why, it’s not our fault that it’s happening.

But is it our responsibility? You’re damn right, it is. And now it’s our responsibility to change it.

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