We all know them. The blamers. The ones who are the quickest to deny responsibility. Instead, they say things like, “the bank bounced my check,” or “I missed the deadline because my assistant’s kid was sick.”
When I’m working with my divorce mediation clients, I never ever ask why they’re getting a divorce. Yet it comes out almost always, and it’s revealed in the form of blame. “He’s irresponsible.” “She cheated on me.” “He can’t hold down a job.” “She’s an alcoholic.” You get the picture. The State of Nevada does not require divorcing couples to name anything other than “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for divorce, but that’s not true in many other states. Depending on where you reside, you may have to prove the other spouse is at fault in order to obtain a divorce.
If finding fault with everybody and everything else works for you, and nobody’s ever called you out for your questionable behavior, then you might as well stop reading now. But if you think you might be a blamer, hopefully the next few paragraphs will shift your perspective.
There are a couple of valuable points to consider when you automatically issue blame. Obviously, if the wind knocks out the power to your house and all the frozen food thaws, it’s pretty clear that the weather is to blame. On the other hand, if your teenager and his friend are arrested for shoplifting, it might not be the friend’s fault. Shoplifting, adultery, alcoholism, lying, and neglect are all pieces of the pie that makes us human. Any one issue is simply a slice. It’s up to us, sometimes with the help of a neutral third party, to figure out how to label the other slices. Then, and this is easily the most challenging, instead of assessing fault, we have to figure out what we’re supposed to learn.
Lesson one is to patiently review the problem. When someone rear-ends your car at a red light, ascertaining fault is instantaneous. When your spouse stops asking about your day, it’s not quite so simple. Take some time to look at it from a different perspective. Once in awhile in a divorce mediation, I will ask the parties to speak in each other’s voices, and use the other person’s words. It’s amazing what a different perspective can reveal.
After you’ve honestly viewed the situation from another perspective, the second lesson is to take some accountability for your own contribution. Remember, we’re talking about slices of the pie here, and not every slice is the same size. If you’re ready to label your own slice and learn the lesson attached to it, you’re ready to leave “Blameville,” and head over to “Repair Town.”
Many years ago, when I worked for an attorney I refer to as “Leonard the Lunatic,” I learned that whose fault it is doesn’t matter nearly as much as figuring out how to fix it. I hope you agree.