Oops, My Bad
THE Relationship Blog
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In the Big Chill, Jeff Goldblum’s character asked, ‘”Don’t knock rationalization. Where would we be without it? I don’t know anyone who’d get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex. Have you ever gone a week without a rationalization?” A human being, just to survive, rationalizes every one of their behaviors. From the dieter who rationalizes the cookie by not eating lunch to the pedophile who says, ‘She seduced me.’ You may see a world of difference but in the end, rationalization is a cornerstone of human experience. It helps us avoid guilt, sadness, loyalty, pain and, most importantly, responsibility.
The lead up to this post is a way for me to make sense of my own behavior. You see, even those who work tirelessly at having integrity and practicing healthy communication, can fuck up royally. Of course, I am writing this 24 hours post realization of past transgressions so I may be beating myself up a bit, too. So here it is:
I have been married for 22 years. In those 22 years, my spouse has had issues with his FOO*. As I have written in the past, cut-off is one of the most dysfunctional things a person can do. It stunts your mental health and begins to define your future relationships. It’s like a child who refuses to play with anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Pretty soon, they find themselves all alone. Due to these issues, and since my spouse was the father of my child (this goes way back before the 2 boys were in the picture), I chose to intervene and coach my husband in not cutting himself off from his FOO. I explained the Bowenian Theories of Differentiation and the need to maintain an open line of communication for his own well-being. Sounds good, right? I even intervened when it would come to my child. My husband felt that we were not being respected as parents and did not feel comfortable allowing our child to spend time with his FOO. I disagreed. I encouraged the relationship and would remind him that contact with extended family was a good thing for our daughter.
Through years of this crap, I maintained the party line, ‘Don’t cut them off.’ And for what? My husband has worked on himself for years. The clearer he gets, the more he can see his truth. For me, the recent experience of his cut-off from his FOO (not self generated), has opened my eyes to my own behavior.
What was the purpose of my coaching to my husband? Was I trying to have him pummeled by mean comments and disrespected for 20+ years? Sure there were good times but ultimately it hinged on one statement that he made when the recent shit went down,’ They have never gotten me.’ Wow. Those words have swirled around my brain for the last 2 months. Those words are probably one of the worst things a kid can say about their FOO. They never understood him so may as well disrespect him. Of course the issues are even deeper than this but this statement was the catalyst to my own soul searching as to my behavior.
My actions and coaching were nothing more than rescuing. I rescued his FOO for the off-chance that they may, at some point, get me. I was never out-right shunned but after sitting around listening to them bash mental health and the need for my profession, their feelings became crystal clear. I was barely tolerable, my profession was a joke and I was a snake oil salesperson. The need to be accepted and approved fueled the rescuing behavior. I recued them. I rescued our daughter from the loss of extended family. I jumped into the role of rescuer because the FOO was firmly ensconced in the role of victim. Instead of listening to my husband, I rationalized my coaching as something good for him. Bad Lee, shame on you!
I became very angry after his FOO cut him off. I felt guilt for expressing myself and adding to the gas soaked timber that was their outrage. But ultimately I felt angry that they never accepted me after all I the times I had intervened on their behalf; thus, the cry of the consummate Rescuer, ‘After all I have done for you, you treat me like this?’
So I take this post now to apologize for my transgressions to my family. I apologize to my children, for rescuing them from the fate of not having some extended family, which was my issue, never theirs. I apologize to my husband for not listening to him and pushing my own agenda. I apologize to myself for putting the need to be accepted and loved above the most important people in my life. I take responsibility for all of my mistakes and hope never to repeat them. And mostly, I hope that this post will help others see that sometimes our best intentions are veiled in a thick blanket of rationalization. Unfortunately, you won’t be warm under there. It’s one of those very scratchy, itchy kinds of blanket that are more for show than coverage.
*Family of Origin