“The more you take responsibility for your past and present, the more you are able to create the future you seek.” – Author Unknown
Sam and Annie has been married for 20 years.
Sam worked hard and spent many long hours away from home working in his office. Providing was how he showed love for his family, plus he enjoyed his career and was quite good at it.
Sometimes he would come home and be present physically, but his head was still at the office on all the issues he dealt with today and the challenges he would be facing in the coming days.
His wife, Annie, wanted to use that time to connect. She wanted to share what was happening in her life or challenges she was facing. She wanted to talk about this kids. She wanted to talk about her work. She wanted them to make plans together and create shared hopes and dreams so they both knew for what they were working so damn hard.
But he couldn’t really hear her. His mind was elsewhere.
Rather than get frustrated or start an argument, Annie just stopped trying to connect with Sam. She gave up but never really told Sam that she did so.
Over the years, the disconnection between Annie and Sam grew wider and deeper. Because she needed that connection, she noticed its absence. Annie no longer felt close to Sam, almost as though he was a stranger sitting across the table at dinner, if we was there.
Again, she didn’t want to nag him or beg him to spend time with her or open up to her. She assumed if he wanted to connect with her, he would make an effort to do so.
Annie grew more and more distant, feeling more and more hopeless. At some point, she felt like the distance was too far to bridge and the only answer was to leave. Annie asked Sam for a divorce.
Sam was blindsided. He had no idea why Annie suddenly wanted to leave. He said he did everything he could for her and the family, and that he worked as hard as he could. He didn’t understand how their relationship had gotten to this point, how she was unhappy enough to leave. He felt betrayed and frankly, frightened as hell.
Was there someone else? There had to be someone else…….that would explain it…..
How could she do this to him and the kids? She’s changed….
What’s gotten into her? She must be having a mid-life crisis…
Let’s be clear – They both played a role in the creation of how their marriage had gotten to this point:
He was emotionally absent and didn’t make an effort to connect with his wife.
She gave up trying and never communicated that to Sam.
But neither could see their role in the experience; each blaming the other person.
It is always easier to blame the other person. Blame feels better than sadness or regret. Blaming something outside of ourselves (another man, a mid-life crisis) helps us to not have to look within and own our role in all of it.
I get it. Blaming just feels better. But, there is no opportunity for growth there.
We cannot change anything we’re unwilling to see. But when we are willing to look at our actions and take responsibility for our contribution to the troubles inside our marriage, it gives us the opportunity to make a conscious decision about whether or not we want to do it differently in the future.
We can always choose a different response. We can always make another choice.
When we choose another option, we have the chance to create a future that looks and feel different. We do not have to choose the same response and recreate our past.
Maybe Sam will see the role he played in co-creating the troubles within his marriage and choose another response. Maybe he won’t be able to do that. Maybe he’ll remain stuck blaming Annie, carrying the blame into his next relationship.
It is a choice. An important choice. A difficult choice, maybe, for Sam, but a courageous one.