In 2014 a thirty nine year old Texas man was punched out for bravely standing up to a group of men who were cat-calling women from their vehicle. Upon him telling the men something to the effect of "hey, watch what you're saying…" one leaped from the vehicle and punched him in the face sending him to the concrete where he lay unconscious, awaiting medical help. This isn't the first time that men behaving badly toward women has ended in violence nor sadly likely the last.
This past Saturday after a gloriously fun day of sunshine, floats, Irish music, snow cones, barbecue and southern potato salad, my daughter and I left the St. Patricks Day parade we had attended and pulled into a gas station en-route home. As I exited the gas station a man entering spoke to me "Hey, what's up baby doll! How you doin?" Disgust rose within me and I instinctively wanted to respond, to lash out, as I thought to myself… Hey, Neanderthal, how would you like my knee to meet up with your testicles? But, no, I bit my Irish tongue. I ignored the comment and continued on, him emitting a low guttural sound of indignant ego-centric injury; bewildered I wasn't enthralled with what he believed to be a splendid choice of words. As women we may be blamed for these scenarios. Some may ask "Well, what were you wearing?" or think "Well, you're too sensitive, it could be viewed as a compliment, maybe you need to lighten up."
But the truth is… none of those responses apply, as women shouldn't be made to feel as though they are the ones with the issue.
It's really no different in the aftermath of a breakup. Some may tend to shift blame to the wrong person.
A couple weeks ago I met a friend for lunch and after her sharing the updates of her life I shared the good news I had a new job, that I enjoyed my work, liked my boss and found my co-workers delightful to work with. I explained that post divorce I had at times been beating myself up for the fact I hadn't had a career during my marriage. I had worked part time here or there but for the most part as a whole I had primarily been a stay at home mom. After marrying and starting a family I had wanted to be at home with my children, especially when they were young at least… I had wanted to give them that stability and enjoy their childhood. But then post divorce I found myself occasionally thinking if only I had worked, if only I had done this, if only I had done that… I'd be further ahead, I'd be financially set, I wouldn't be focused so much on bills, savings and retirement.
But as I did that… I realized it was fine to acknowledge I could have done things differently and even to say I wouldn't make the same choices in the future, but not in taking on more blame where I shouldn't.
In a self-imposed blame game we may attempt to act as the aid, the salve, the repairman, or woman, to an ex's poor behavior. Maybe we find ourselves thinking: "Well, if I'd done x, y, z, I wouldn't be in such a mess… if I'd done THIS or THAT it would have offset his or her screw up aka infidelity." But we cannot make someone behave. We are then subscribing to the false idea we can control someone else's actions.
Like those guys who were cat-calling and the guy at the gas station sometimes people truly are to blame for poor behavior and less than swell circumstances. Yet they may or may not take responsibility for their poor choices. In hindsight we can all take responsibility for where we could have done better whether it be in our marriages, friendships, even our parenting. The problems begin when blame starts getting shifted to others, when people won't own up to their part in a situation. Or alternatively issues start when we begin blaming ourselves for something instead of having a balanced and healthy view of it or merely our hand in it amongst others contribution.
No matter what your marriage was like; no matter how amicable or even "War of the Roses-like" your divorce was… there are lessons to be taken from it. One of those lessons is learning to give yourself grace. Not an excuse for bad behavior but yes, please don't beat yourself up with all the coulda woulda shoulda's post relationship. It may be tempting to go there but at the end of the day give yourself sweet, sweet grace.
It's never wise nor healthy to take on the role of the victim in our failed relationships. It deems us powerless in our past where we had choices but either refused to make them or simply naively believed, hoped, that a grossly dysfunctional situation would get better. Both men and women are capable of being married to narcissistic, sociopathic people… those who marry them are without a doubttargets… but we don't have to sign the dotted line as a victim nor a target for infinity. We each have the ability to move on, to take responsibility for our portion and then rebuild our life to reflect that blessed insight.
Taking responsibility post divorce for what areas we could have done better in, even what we would do differently if in a new relationship, takes clarity, maturity and wisdom. In life we can learn from our past and forge forward with more information to make better choices in the next chapter(s) to come. In taking responsibility we need to be cautious in how much we are assuming… are we accepting the whole pie as ours when it burned up? Or are we accepting responsibility for a quarter of it? Or half? What was your role in it burning to a crisp? Do you even have one? Don't accept the entire pie as yours if portions of it truly belong on someone else's plate.
If you grew up as the black sheep, the scapegoat in a family where a narcissist was the head of the flock and always found fault with you… then you may have grown up in a pattern of being told you were the sole cause for x,y,z to happen… even if that wasn't reality. It's never too late to say "No" to that unhealthy pattern, even years later and reclaim your life… you don't have to accept blame and gross responsibility from others where it doesn't apply… instead you can subscribe to a new outlook, one of clear, concise objectivity…
And like the pie just accept the slice(s) that belong to you.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2015
7 Steps To Release Blame:
1. Acknowledge your anger
2. Talk about why you're angry; with either a trusted therapist, friend or pastor
3. Use your anger in a healthy way; start a new project, hobby, career, workout routine/class, volunteer, write/journal, find ways to channel that anger into something positive and life changing.
4. Acknowledge any fears you may have; are you afraid you will never find someone and live a life all alone? Are you clinging to blame out of the fear of failing financially? Maybe a general fear of the unknown future?
5. Can you make a list of what you did right in your relationship? What things could you have done differently?
6. Acknowledge any improvements in your new life; there have to be some no matter how small. Celebrate those and think of how to add more.
7. Focus on each of your daily choices because you are in the drivers seat; are you reaching for the Ben n Jerry's when a run might be more beneficial? Is isolation really better than meeting up with friends? Being aware of our daily actions can dictate if we spring back from a divorce or stay stuck in the pain of the past.