Yesterday, I brought you a real-life story of how I assumed the blame. Today I bring you three somewhat made up, somewhat not made up situations, along with examples of how I would assume the blame if I were the person involved.
Tomorrow you’ll get tips from a recovering anger-a-holic (me) to use to defuse your own anger. Then, for the next few weeks, I’ll be writing whatever you tell me to write. More about that at the end of the post.
Wife asks husband to leave work early to pick up daughter #2. Husband assumes wife needs him to do this so she can get dinner ready. He rearranges his workday and then picks up daughter #2. He arrives home from work. He finds his wife playing a game with daughter #1. He looks around the house. He sees dishes in the sink and messes everywhere. He thinks, “What did she do all day?”
The wife asks, “Could you make something for dinner?” He gets angry and feels taken advantage of, but he thinks, “If I tell her that I expected dinner to be on the table, she’ll accuse me of being sexist.” This is a recurring problem in their marriage, one that is causing them to grow more and more distant.
How can he solve this problem without putting his wife on the defensive?
Here’s how I would say it: “I feel resentful whenever I come home from work and the house is a mess. I don’t want to feel resentful. I hate that I feel this way. I’m worried about what it says about me that I feel this way. This is why I’ve kept these feelings to myself for so long. I wish I could make them go away, but I’m sorry. I can’t. I feel so guilty about this because it’s like I’m this 1950s stereotypical provider who expects his dinner on the table when he gets home. I never thought I was that man. I thought I was much more evolved than that, and I think that I still am. I want to be able to respect and admire what you do. Could you help me do that? Could you describe what your typical day is like, and could you help me see if our division of labor is fair? I think that will help me to feel less resentful.”
Live-in boyfriend has been unemployed for three years. Whenever he thinks about going back to work, he gets anxious because all of his past jobs have sucked the life out of him. He says he doesn’t see the point of working a job that makes him miserable. Girlfriend pays all of the bills and supports the two of them, but she’s tired of this arrangement, and she’s embarrassed to be living with an unemployed guy. She’s so sick of this that she’s thinking of severing ties and moving on. How does she talk to him about this without causing an argument?
Here’s how I would say it: “I wish I were the type of person who didn’t mind supporting her boyfriend. I want to be that person. But that’s not who I am. I am the type of person who feels taken advantage of whenever I come home and see you watching TV. I want to love and admire you, as I did when we first met. I know you don’t want to work for a toxic employer again and I understand that. I wish I could support you so you would not have to do that. The truth is, though, that I don’t have it in me. If I support you, then I’m miserable. Can you help me solve this problem? Is there a way we can both be happy?”
Wife has a zesty sex drive. Husband has equipment failure and continually begs off having sex. Wife suspects as much, but she’s beside herself with desire and can’t think straight. She also doesn’t want to hurt his feelings or make him feel inadequate. How does she confront this situation without starting a fight?
Here’s how I would say it: “I miss you. I crave you. I think about seeing you naked multiple times a day. I fear that you do not feel the same way about me. Whenever I initiate sex and you tell me that you are not in the mood, I worry that you are no longer attracted to me. Have I gained too much weight? Should I dress differently? I worry about such things. I wish I didn’t. But I do. I also feel unfulfilled, and I worry that I might not have the self-control that is necessary to keep a cork in my sex drive. I wish I knew for sure that I was stronger than that, but I don’t and I really don’t want to find out the hard way that I am weaker than I thought. Can you help me to understand why you have been putting off sex? Is it me or is it something else? Are you willing to work with me to solve this problem? I really want to feel close to you again.”
Many factors come into play during a confrontation, and the right thing to say will vary based on the personality of the person you are confronting along with the specifics of the situation. I also, at times, modify what I am saying based on someone’s body language.
You Get What You Ask For
Yesterday, I promised to write whatever the first 21 people told me to write. I haven’t gotten to 21 yet, so you can still suggest a topic if you have no already. Tomorrow I’ll be doing a post about anger. Then, for the next 21 or so days—I’ll be writing the posts you tell me to write. Note: there will be a few posts tossed in here and there that you DID NOT ASK FOR as I’ve been planning them for a while and they are somewhat time sensitive.
That said, here are the topics we have on deck so far.
- Reader participation post about surrogacy
- How do you know when it’s time to call it quits?
- The books I read that helped me to save my marriage.
- What qualities make a bad relationship salvageable?
- What I wish I had known before I got married. What advice would I give to my pre-married self?
- Why we sometimes get irritated with our spouses when they give sick
- Nether grooming tips
- My opinion on arranged marriages
- How to get a errant spouse to fall back in love with you
- How tone of voice matters
- Reader participation post about when to give unsolicited advice
- Reader participation post about being opposites and not being in sync
- What to do about a procrastinating spouse (ie “I’ll do that tomorrow” and tomorrow never comes)
There’s still room for more. The next 8 people can have their dream post come true. Just leave a comment here on the site. Note: if you get the post via email, just click on the headline (How to Assume the Blame) to get to the site. The comments area is at the bottom.
Announcement: I have FINALLY created a fan page on Facebook. I’m going to use this to replace the old group page that just isn’t working. On the fan page, we’ll have discussions about all sorts of topics. We’ll talk about the virtual book club. And who knows what other exciting stuff. Click on the “like” button to join in the discussion.
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.