For stronger relationships, stop the excuses

Man is not a rational animal but a rational animal. – Robert Heinlein

Source: Pexels / Zimmerman

“We got pregnant the day we met.” Brittany was telling me a tale of passion, anger and chocolate.

She met Joel on Denny, where they were on other dates.

Joel suggested going to an ice cream place with a challenge: If you eat the whole frozen pile, it’s free. His date was unenthusiastic, but Brittany liked the idea.

She and Joel ditched their dates and headed out together to see if he could have one. he did.

He said, “I love sweets.” He was a skinny 35-year-old cop who was boring and intense. He had a short beard, as well as his hair, and agreed that their relationship was very fraught. “I love her lifelong enthusiasm,” he said, “and she’s a great country dancer, but it drives me crazy.”

Joel complained of her fussiness and forgetfulness and how she kept bouncing checks. He said, “Our son, Sean, needs help with his school matters, but she always forgets things he needs or makes him late.”

“I work part-time,” Brittany said. “I have a lot on my side, and I’m the one taking care of Sean and the baby, and you just criticize. You stress me out, so I forget things.”

Joel was quick to respond, “I’m just trying to help you. You need reminders, and I’m telling you to calm down because you’re so angry at Sean that he gets upset. You’re a bad influence.”

“You’re the bad influence,” she replied. “You are a critic and always think you know the best way to parent.” She turned to me: “Only because he had children in his first marriage, he thinks he is a genius at raising sons. He hasn’t even seen them.”

“Well, I know things that you don’t,” said Joel. “If you calm down and try my suggestions, it might help.” Back and forth. Brittany accused Joel of excessive drinking, and said it was because she grumbled. At this point, they were staring at each other and away from helping out the ice cream. They were proving something that they were both adept at justifying.

Sorry – justification in relationships

Justification is the justification of behavior. Justification is deceptive because it is wrong to say that actions are reasonable when they are selfish.

When Joel said he was trying to teach Brittany how to raise sons but was really critical of her, he was justifying it. When Brittany yelled at Sean but blamed it on Joel, she was guiding her because Joel didn’t make her scream. They have apologized to themselves in many ways.

Once, Joel cut Brittany when she told me about a fight. He said, “You rambler. He doesn’t want to hear all that.” However, he was not protecting me. He just doesn’t like being told.

Joel was disturbed at another session when he found out that Brittany had treated her friends to an extravagant lunch and hid it from him. Her excuse was not to tell that she had forgotten. But the real reason was that she knew that was a poor use of their money. She loved impressing her friends and felt she deserved to do whatever she wanted.

Joel’s default excuse for criticizing him was Brittany’s housekeeping. It was an all-purpose justification for getting angry, drinking, and turning away. However, his accusations did not inspire her to clean up. They have just created new problems of resentment and anger.

She hated being pounced on, so she was ignoring the mess to stick with him. Justification fuels conflict and solves nothing, but everyone does, especially when things get tense.

Have you ever hurt someone’s feelings? Have you claimed that your behavior was reasonable under the circumstances? Did you make excuses for not doing something you committed to? You underestimated your mistakes or exaggerated your partner’s mistakes? We all have it.

Searching for rationalization

I have studied how excuses arise in a couple’s conflict and have found them to be both common and devastating. Partners in my study were able to acknowledge the times they overestimated their own goodness to blame the other, as one recalls: “I would selectively recall the few times that [helped with housework] To make it seem like I’m doing more than I’ve been doing.”

Another admitted: “I cried on purpose . . . [and sometimes] I cry a little louder, so he hears me even if I’m in the other room.”

Even more disturbing is how those in abusive relationships blame their partners for their mistreatment. One’s memories were typical: “I would freak out about the physical abuse, and then I think it probably wouldn’t have happened if she had shut her mouth.” This man felt bad about hurting his wife but turned to justification to make his violence seem acceptable.

In relationships, it is critical that partners honestly take responsibility for their actions, apologize for wrong behavior, and try to improve. Those who blame and make excuses will harm their integrity and the quality of their relationships.

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