What was my part? And why it matters …

Woman admiring sunset from mountain topWithout fail when I meet a guy who’s divorced, he refers to his ex as a “psycho” and when I meet a woman who’s divorced, she refers to her ex as an “asshole.” So either there are an excessive number of assholes marrying psychos (quite possible) or there are two sides to every story (even more likely). Also, worth considering, divorce often brings out the worst in people so it’s likely that asshole-ism and/or insanity can emerge in that process (hopefully the conditions are temporary).

“The truth shall make you free, but first it shall make you miserable” – Gestalt therapist Barry Stevens*

It’s easy to feel like a victim. To tell a story of our own rightness, virtuousness and moral superiority. I have hung my own hat on the notion that I am the good guy. That I have done the right thing. But, I cannot in good conscience tell the lie that I did not contribute to the disillusionment of my marriage. Just because I thought I knew what would make my marriage and family life better and I can identify all the ways my ex “dropped the ball,” doesn’t mean I was right.

For one thing, it is explicitly clear in retrospect that my idea of what a successful marriage was differed from my ex’s all along. I can see how we missed each other so many times. When I was trying to connect, he was distracted and fed up and vice versa when he was trying to connect. I was more concerned with our marriage and it’s viability than I was with his feelings. I was impossible to please at times. I was resentful that he wasn’t intrinsically motivated to do the things that I thought were imperative (that’s just scratching the surface of what I consider “my faults” and Lord knows I’ve got plenty of his to highlight another time).

Overall though, I look at my ex now and I see someone who I think didn’t feel that he could fully be himself within the confines of our marriage and family life. I see that he tried, he pushed himself to the limit at times to make it work. And I did too. If I told our story one way, my ex would come off as an insufferable asshole. And I guarantee that if my ex told our story another way, I would come off as a raving psycho. And, it just occurred to me that maybe we are just another coupling of asshole and psycho who finally combusted!!! More likely, we are two people who came from different backgrounds who had no clue how to maintain an intimate partnership while managing all of the stresses and nuances of family life.

Acknowledging my part in the failure of my marriage, though painful, has come naturally to me. I’m kind of obsessed with taking responsibility. And I do think that that has led to a fair amount of misery. But, I’m convinced that honesty is the best policy and that if I resist the black and white of blaming, I will emerge from my divorce a better person. I sure as shit hope it doesn’t bite me in the ass in legal proceedings where it seems pitting sides against each other is just part of the adversarial nature of the beast. I will have to defend myself and my rights without demonizing him … Am I being naive? We shall see. Regardless, once the dust settles, I’d like to think the blame game will be over and in summarizing our divorce we will respectively tell others “we tried and failed to make our marriage work.” That is, after all, the truth.

6 thoughts on “What was my part? And why it matters …

  1. The whole psycho/asshole categorization is so easy. And yet so oversimplified and its own prison. People who get stuck in those tapes are the ones I now flee from . . . everybody plays a part.

    • Yeah, well, if I flee from all of them, I’ll be fleeing from pretty much everyone. Ha!

      I should confess that it is not beneath me to bitch about my ex (my blog might be exhibit A) but when I’m really objective about the marriage pre-separation, I know I have to take 50% responsibility. And I also meant to include in my post that sometimes there are really egregious offenses and I’m not trying to diminish those. I don’t take responsibility for or excuse my ex’s or anyone else’s ex’s misdeeds…I just know it’s not black and white in the bigger picture.

      Thanks for joining the conversation! :)

    • Good therapist! All too often they are more inclined to validate rather than challenge. Granted, some people need validation, I prefer to be challenged and encouraged to grow. Thanks for your comment. I like that 100% even more than 50%!

  2. This post has stuck with me for a couple of days because you are so right. My husband and I are in therapy right now and I can definitely see how the asshole/psycho scenario could be us if we chose to divorce.

    I am sorta obsessed with personal responsibility too so I’ve been constantly questioning my role in this rough patch of our marriage. Often times, being brutally honest with myself. I like to think I’m open to learning and becoming aware of my negative traits and tendencies. However, when I go to seek advice from my closest friends and family, I can see so clearly how I make him out to be the asshole when really, it’s so much more complicated. I can also see how he might characterize me as a psycho.

    For many months there was such a disconnect in what we were saying, and what the other person was hearing. I have never been so baffled at the breakdown in communication when both of us are speaking English. Nothing either one of us was saying was penetrating and it took a smart therapist to be our translator. Just recently we have turned a corner in our marriage counseling and it’s been a real eye-opener.

    But I can definitely see your point; when the nails are driven into the proverbial marriage coffin it’s so easy to stick to the justifications of why the marriage is over instead of accepting personal responsibility. Everyone wants to believe they made the right decision especially when the decision is such a painful and life-altering one.

    Best of luck to you.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful and well articulated comment! I liken the communication breakdown you describe to one person speaking Russian while the other is speaking Chinese. Sometimes it is that extreme. I am so glad for you that you have found a good therapist. In a way therapy is like brain surgery, very delicate and easy to screw up. Sometimes my ex and I would leave therapy hating each other more than before we went in.

      I recommend the book Divorce Busting by Michele Weiner-Davis. I kind of wish I had read it before my ex gave up on us…though now I wonder if we were just impossible together. But, it’s worth taking a look at.

      I wish you the best of luck. The most important thing you can do is try to remember why you love your spouse and how the very things that drive you crazy, when flipped around are the things you love most about him.

      Again, thanks for joining the conversation. It means so much to me to have your input and to know that people are reading and getting something out of my blog.

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