How to Assume the Blame, part 2

by Alisa Bowman on May 6, 2010

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.

Situation #1

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.”

Situation #2

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?”

Situation #3

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.”

Some Caveats

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.

  1. Reader participation post about surrogacy
  2. How do you know when it’s time to call it quits?
  3. The books I read that helped me to save my marriage.
  4. What qualities make a bad relationship salvageable?
  5. What I wish I had known before I got married. What advice would I give to my pre-married self?
  6. Why we sometimes get irritated with our spouses when they give sick
  7. Nether grooming tips
  8. My opinion on arranged marriages
  9. How to get a errant spouse to fall back in love with you
  10. How tone of voice matters
  11. Reader participation post about when to give unsolicited advice
  12. Reader participation post about being opposites and not being in sync
  13. 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.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim May 6, 2010 at 8:14 pm

How about how to tell someone you don’t love them the same way anymore?

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Amy May 6, 2010 at 8:30 pm

How to work with a spouse (eg. a home business) while keeping the marriage and work personas separate.
.-= Amy´s last blog ..America Land =-.

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Amber H. May 6, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I would love to see an article on dealing with sex addiction in a marriage.

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Beth May 6, 2010 at 9:38 pm

What about dealing with in-law troubles? We have it from all sides. How can you apply a Buddhist approach with that (as in, his parents, my parents, and my sibling and her new husband)?
.-= Beth´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Some First Blooms =-.

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JohnMcG May 6, 2010 at 9:44 pm

So if we don’t like what’s on the blog, I guess we should assume the blame. (;-)

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Howard May 6, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Here’s a topic I’d like to see you address. How to handle a situation where your spouse is overly flirtatious. The spouse claims to be loyal, and by all appearances and actions is, except in social situations, where he/she seems to crave and encourage the attention of the opposite sex, while excluding the spouse.

Thanks, and please don’t use my name.

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Marcie May 6, 2010 at 11:11 pm

BLOG TOPIC: Is it possible to convince someone to marry? / How do you know if someone is ready for marriage?

Quick background: I have been dating the same person for almost seven years now (I’m a few years younger) and during the time we’ve dated: I have moved away for college; I recently moved closer to our hometown but still live half an hour away from him while I finish up graduate school; he also moved away for a year to complete a residency (he finished the residency & moved back to our hometown a few years ago)…

I feel like we’re both at a good point in our lives to marry (or to at least be engaged), but he is holding back… He is struggling financially as he tries to start a business… and I see where he’s coming from in not wanting to marry right now, but I’m not sure if he’s just using his finances as an excuse not to marry. We both love one another very deeply (otherwise, I doubt our relationship would have lasted as long as it has). I can’t say I would give him an ultimatium… But, I sort of feel like, I will eventually resent him if we don’t marry. (Because I have been so focused on my education during our relationship, I hadn’t really thought about getting married until recently, within the last six months or so… So this is a fairly new topic for us. Whenever marriage or wedding talk was brought up in our relationship, it was only from him… until recently.)

How do I know if he’s ready for marriage? What things do most men who marry have going for them before they marry? (It it reasonable to set a time limit on the relationship if his finances are still not in order within a certain period of time?) Is there anything I can do to encourage him?

Thanks,
Marcie

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Alisa Bowman May 7, 2010 at 5:31 am

JohnMcG: I know you used the little emoticon, but I can’t tell without tone of voice if you are upset or not. Are you? Did I make a false assumption from your comments that it was ok to use that situation? I can take it down.
.-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..What are your turn offs and turn ons? =-.

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momokeen May 7, 2010 at 6:34 am

What about how to deal with a controlling ex when you have a kid together and HAVE to deal with him (and you have no backbone)?

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Ann May 7, 2010 at 6:56 am

Blog Topic Request: How to not give up on having difficult relationship discussions when there’s been emotional distance and disconnect for years. The parameters are these: when you feel like you’ve already asked and asked for the changes you need (and requests have been specific, behavioural and non-blaming by the way!) and you’re continually met with stonewalling, ‘I don’t knows’ and silence, but his face looks remorseful and sad. I am losing the will to have another one of these unproductive, one-sided ‘discussions’ but know if I give up, the marriage will likely disintegrate because I seem to be the only one of us who is willing or able to confront the disconnect. (ps – He’s refused to come to marriage counselling). If this is too complicated for a blog post, I’ll completely understand. Thank you very much for your efforts in writing your blog – it’s greatly appreciated.

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JohnMcG May 7, 2010 at 7:15 am

I’m not upset — I found it to be a funny coincidence that you were launching the request feature at the same time when we were discussing accepting blame. So, if we don’t like the next few blog posts, we need only look in the mirror.

Sorry if I caused undue distress.

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Alisa Bowman May 7, 2010 at 7:42 am

JohnMcG: Ohhhhh. I totally get it now. This is probably a function of me not having quite enough caffeine in me. No undue distress. Just wanted to make sure things were good, and they are. Thanks for clarifying!
.-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..What are your turn offs and turn ons? =-.

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Christa R May 7, 2010 at 8:20 am

Topic: The longer I know my husband, he progressively gets worse at arriving on time to places. He doesn’t get ready soon enough to leave, and adds stress to our trip, causing tension, arguing, and driving erratically at times to get to our destination. Our friends are used to use arriving late and crabby!

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Sassygirl May 7, 2010 at 8:26 am

Blog topic idea – how to stay connected to your spouse when you are going through a stressful situation (personally it is infertility issues/treatments, but could be death or illness of a loved one, loss of a job, etc…). Ideas for things you can do to become closer to your spouse during these times, and not let the stress get to you and tear you apart.

Thanks! I can’t wait for the post with tips from a recovering anger-a-holic…I think I need it :)

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Stephen May 7, 2010 at 8:49 am

How to move on when trust has been broken by numerous lie.

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Lisa May 7, 2010 at 9:03 am

What do you do when there is a reoccurring problem but there is never any followup with the agreed upon solution?

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Tired May 7, 2010 at 9:19 am

How do you suggest talking to your husband about going on a prescription for sexual issues?

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Marissa May 7, 2010 at 9:22 am

I’m looking forward to the post on surrogacy, and would also love to hear about sex addiction in a marriage.

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Becky May 7, 2010 at 9:30 am

You may find the solution to all your marriage challenges at a Weekend to Remember by Family life and if you join our group at http://www.familylife/groups/legacylove and enter group name legacy love you can Save $80.00!!! Check it out!

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Drummer Guy May 7, 2010 at 9:35 am

Excellent stuff as always Alisa :-). I really look forward to seeing some of the suggested topics discussed. Number 6 so applied to me. I worked through it but on occasion it does pop up. All of them look great though & should generate a lot of feedback. Keep up the GREAT job. This blog has been really beneficial to me & I appreciate all you do. Keep on rocking :-)

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Drummer Guy May 7, 2010 at 9:36 am

Opps I did it again. I forgot to check the notify me of follow up box. Senior moment perhaps? ;-)

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matt May 7, 2010 at 10:00 am

Topic suggestion: How to recognize patterns of abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, or some combination thereof) and when NOT to try to work on the relationship anymore, for your own good.

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momokeen May 7, 2010 at 10:18 am

I second matt’s suggestion! While victims of physical abuse know they’re being abused, it’s sometimes harder for victims of verbal or (especially) emotional/mental abuse to realize what’s happening to them until they get so deep into the cycle that they can’t see an end to it.

A great book on the subject that I fully recommend is Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. Bancroft also notes that the advice given in the book can be for men OR women, gay or straight, but he writes it as man = abuser, woman = victim only because that’s what is statistically a more frequent arrangement. (He makes a point of reiterating this in just about every chapter.)

(p.s. I hope my HTML worked, otherwise this comment will look weird, and I’ll have to hang my head in shame.)

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Angelia May 7, 2010 at 11:01 am

I haven’t posted in a while but this series hits close to home. Hubby and I have a real problem with this kind of thing. He tends to be very defensive and I am a pleaser so I’m constantly saying “Yes” or giving in and then resent him. Thanks so much for this!

And I’ll try not to be such a lurker. :)
.-= Angelia´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesday =-.

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Drummer Guy May 7, 2010 at 11:22 am

Here’s an idea for a blog topic. When your spouses values change or you no longer share the same values. It happened in my first marriage. In our case it was religious based, but may be other values with different people. In other words she wanted me to stop playing music (we played bars back then), Sex didn’t become dirty but certian sexual acts did. Nothing way out there at all but things we had always done & both enjoyed were suddenly off limits type stuff. There is more but you get the idea. There may be others have faced or are facing this & not just based on religion. It may be values on how to raise your kids, your social circle, & I am sure you can come up with more. Just a thought.

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summer May 7, 2010 at 11:50 am

blog topic suggestion: how to know when to stop trying to save ur marriage!! how to stop finding excuses for his behavior, and get out knowing u did ur best and tht’s the right choice..

How to know tht your spouse stopped loving you, evnthough he says he does, but you can barely see it in his actions.

Is it acceptable that the man lets his stress affect his relationship with his wife, sex life, communication (barely talks or listens to her, avoids her, controls each n every move but on the other hand doesnt let her give him any suggestion n accuse her of wanting to control him…etc) while he continues having normal relationships with his family and friends?

Thanks Alisa, both your blog and the fans’ comments are amazing!

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Misha May 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm

How about this as a topic–what to do when you feel like you’re the only one trying to work on the marriage?

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Stacey May 7, 2010 at 1:11 pm

How about how to deal with passive aggressive issues. For example, if I ask my husband to help clean out the garage, he balks at doing it, but if my father-in-law tells him to clean out the garage, he’s all over it.

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summer May 7, 2010 at 1:36 pm

@ Stacey:
this is very likely our everyday’s trend!! the nicest way to ask, nicest voice, whatever i do, the response is always no!! but with his family, it’s another story!!

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Shannon May 9, 2010 at 4:53 pm

What is meditation class? Where can I find a meditation class?

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Alisa Bowman May 9, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Hi Shannon– there are many different styles of meditation. The one I practice is called the New Kadampa Tradition, which is a sect of Tibetan Buddhism. You can find info on centers here: http://kadampa.org/

I’ve also taken mindfulness meditation in the past, and I’ve gotten a lot out of it. It’s very easy to learn. Some hospitals teach a medically based system of it that is covered by insurance. It’s the type of meditation that was popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn. You can learn more about it here: http://www.umassmed.edu/Content.aspx?id=43102
.-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..It’s Not Him, It’s You =-.

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Bern May 10, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Blog Topic Suggestion: How to manage an emotionally immature spouse. Too late for me unfortunately as she desperately wanted to leave we have just finalised the divorce, but interested to hear any views on this anyway. For years I thought I must be the one who was unreasonable, going crazy, etc, but the more I discover what went wrong in our marriage it would appear that I had a wife who seemed to have the emotional maturity of a teenager. I tried very hard to keep the marriage together, and probably spent the whole 20 years we had together essentially parenting her, but in the end found out that trying to be an even better ‘doormat’ ultimately doesn’t work anyway. I’m sure I wasn’t perfect either, but realise it was a situation I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to manage – as I say, the marriage has ended anyway, but I’d still be interested in your views.

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OneHotTamale25 July 6, 2010 at 12:36 am

Good examples, Alisa. I especially like what you had to say about the wife with the “zesty” sex drive as I sometimes feel like that woman. What I said was, “Sometimes when you don’t respond to my sexual advances I feel undesirable. If you don’t want to have sex, I could handle it much better if you would communicate it in a way that reminds me you do want me and you aren’t rejecting me. Would you be willing to do that? Also, could we compromise and maybe not have intercourse but do some fondling or something? That would help to curb my urges at times when you may not want to have intercourse.” That worked out quite well for us. :)

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