102: Who’s Fault Was Your Divorce?

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By Brian Mayer, The Remarried Life with Brian Mayer. Remarriage, and Blended Families. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Brian Mayer talks about the concept of fault when it comes to divorce. As human beings we often want to assign blame for the failure of our marriage. Sometimes we blame our spouse and sometimes we blame ourselves. This might not be the most productive use of your time and it also might not even be the right question. We will explore this today. We hope you enjoy today’s message. For more information and additional resources please visit our website at http://www.theremarriedlife.com

Today's Goodies

  • Unfortunately, our culture has taught us to become very quick to blame someone when it doesn’t go our way. More often that not, we are taught to blame someone else. For example, if I run out of gas I might think to blame my wife for not telling me the tank was low when she drove the car last night. Or maybe since my boss was so hard on me yesterday, that he caused me to not be able to concentrate on anything but the mistake I made at work.
  • Sometimes this blame is so prevalent that it just comes very quickly and almost automatically.
  • We think about how sue happy our society has become as well. There has been lots of work done to reduce frivolous lawsuits but they still happen with great regularity. I am sure you can think of lawsuit that you heard of that is in that category. Many people felt that person that sued McDonalds back in the 1980’s over hot coffee was just such an act.
  • So all this being said, when we go through a painful divorce we are often looking for who to blame. Blame can often make us feel better to a degree because it is like our brain is then able to wrap around why something happened. A divorce and dissolved relationship is already confusing and complicated enough but if our brain can make sense of who did what and who is accountable then it can sometimes bring relief to anxiety and uncertainty.
  • But is someone really to blame solely for a divorce? Unless, we are talking some sort of abuse then the answer is generally “No.” Even in cases of affairs and infidelity, we could ultimately trace back the issue to a disconnection in the emotional bond between you two.
  • Additionally it isn’t the right question to ask because the two of you are involved in a system of dancing in which you both play a part. You act and react based on things you see in the system and the thoughts and feelings that are generated from that. It is much more complicating than looking at the actions on the surface.
  • I like what Sue Johnson, the creator of something called Emotionally Focused Therapy says about this dance. She says that we as a couple get caught in one, two, or three types of “Demon Dialogues.” These are patterns of behaviors that develop and take root due to actions, thoughts and feelings. Here are the dances of dialogues that she says are most common:
    • Find The Bad Guy: This dance involves two people pursuing and pushing to determine who the worst person in the interaction is. This often will result in the kitchen sink coming out against one or both. The fight will generally continue to escalate because neither wants to back down.
    • The Protest Polka: The dance involves a pursuer and withdrawer. One pushes and escalates as the other retreats and withdraws. As each person goes further into their pattern, the more it pushes the other’s buttons
    • Who This involves two people who have withdraw and simply do not communicate. One person in the interaction may have been a pursuer who pushed but not anymore.
  • The longer these patterns and dialogues exist in a relationship the higher the chance of relationship demise.
  • According to Johnson’s work, neither person in the interaction is the bad guy, but it is the interaction they get entangled with that is the bad guy. Once couples start to realize this the more they can work together to interrupt these cycles.
  • So what are the things that you should look out for in this cycle?
    • Your actions
    • Your Partners Actions
    • Your thoughts (and your partner’s thoughts) or “what you made up about this situation”
    • Your triggers (and your partner’s triggers) (past events that may have escalated the issue – this can include past relationships, your childhood, and/or things that have built up over time in your current relationship
    • Your primary emotions (and your partner’s primary emotions) (there are 6 that most accept – Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness, Surprise)
    • Your more vulnerable emotions and your partner’s more vulnerable emotions (the softer feelings underneath the primary emotions like loneliness or unworthiness for example)
    • Your and your partner’s unmet attachment needs
  • So what does all of this means. It means the idea of who is to blame is rather complicated because of everything that goes into a decision or action that is made. Rather often times our actions make complete sense when we line them up against our thoughts, emotions, triggers, and unmet needs.

So the key here is to be more aware of all that is going on especially in our own brains so that we can interrupt decisions that might detrimental to the dance we are engaged in with our partner.

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