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Greg Davis

Husbands, A Convenient Excuse
By Greg Davis
Nov 18, 2007 - 8:23:56 AM

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The other day my wife suggested a title for an article, "Husbands: a convenient excuse." Just prior to that she had been going over a list of things that she had wanted to get done, but she hadn't, and jokingly she said, "And it's your fault." That's when she came up with the title. She thought it would be funny. I thought it had possibilities.

Obviously, if husbands were in fact responsible for all they get blamed for, there would be no time left over for eating, sleeping, working, watching football, whatever. So there has to be something else behind wives so quickly pointing the bony finger of blame at such readily accessible and easily targeted scapegoats.

It's kind of like the following variation of an old saying. "If a husband speaks in a forest, and there is no wife to hear him, is he still wrong?"

Early in our relationship, I came across a T-shirt that I almost got for my wife. It said, "I didn't say it was your fault, I just said I was going to blame you." I thought it would be perfect for a funny gift. But I was in a hurry, so I didn't buy it. When I came back to the store a week or so later, they were all gone. I guess there were plenty of others who knew someone that saying would fit, maybe even themselves.

My wife is a person who likes to get things done. She seldom second-guesses her decisions. If something doesn't work out right there's a reason. But that reason couldn't possibly include her. She is a part of that large segment of the population that has a congenital deficiency that makes it almost impossible to say the word "wrong" when it is preceded by the words "I was." Because this is a very specific disability, this group of people seems to have no trouble saying the "W" word when it follows "You are" or "You were." Although I have no statistical data to back this up, my guess is that this malady affects most, if not all of us at some point, and is extremely contagious.

There is no argument that husbands are a convenient excuse. But the statement contains some loopholes for the clever husband to help him weather the storm. Aside #1: I know some wives would not put the words, clever and husbands, in an adjective noun relationship.

The word, excuse, carries the implication that husbands aren't the real or the primary cause of whatever went wrong. An excuse is given to divert attention from the main cause, which could lead to the necessity of using the "W" word proceeded by "I was". That is not going to happen. Aside #2: Certainly some wives feel that if their husband chooses to take the blame or feel guilty when used as an excuse, so much the better.

The word, convenient, carries the connotation of being readily or easily available, handy. Aside #3: This is another group of words some wives would not use as modifiers for their husbands. Some would use the word, handy, as in able to fix things. But many would prefer the phrase, lying around, to define convenient.

Husbands, when you face blame without basis, don't take the bait. An angry reaction will only give credibility to the accusation. Remember it is not about you. You are just a tool for misdirection and avoidance, a convenient excuse. This knowledge should help you take it like a man. Just kick back in your recliner, reach for the remote, smile and say, "Yes dear."

Honestly, we all make excuses. Wives, husbands, children, parents, pick a relationship or job designation, if you are human, you make excuses. Some are better at it than others; some do it with more regularity. Whether you've elevated excuse making to an art form making it a way of life or you are just a recreational excuser, the problem is part of us. People have been making excuses and blaming others since the first finger pointing back in the Garden of Eden where Adam blamed Eve and God "the woman you gave me..." and then Eve in turned blamed the Serpent. And so it has been ever since.

But excuses don't really fix problems. They may temporarily allow us to avoid dealing with our inadequacies and inconsistencies. But when we use them, we miss the opportunity to grow and find real solutions and resolutions.

I found the following information about excuses and explanations by Dr. Pauline Wallin to be helpful:

A true explanation shows a cause-and-effect relationship: Situation X caused Consequence Y. Excuses masquerade as explanations, but are really distortions of the truth. Excuses include the following elements:

  1. They usually blame other people or external circumstances -- e.g., "I hit him because he made me mad," or "You're too sensitive," or "It was just my bad luck."
  2. When they blame oneself, they usually invoke a personal trait or limitation -- e.g., "I'm not good at keeping track of bills," or "You KNOW I never remember details," or "I have no self-discipline."
  3. They minimize the impact of insults, breaches of trust, and harm to others -- e.g., "Everybody does it." or "Why are you so upset? It's no big deal"
  4. They attempt to absolve the excuse-maker of personal responsibility.
  5. They seem to make more sense after the fact, than they would have beforehand -- e.g., you might rationalize, "I deserved that pound of Godiva chocolates because I worked hard all day." But would it really make sense to say, "If I work hard today the best reward for my efforts is a pound of Godivas?"

Excuses serve to protect you from facing your own shortcomings ... No one has ever felt uplifted by making an excuse. Facing the truth is sometimes difficult, but it gives you the opportunity to take charge, to make positive decisions and to gradually eliminate the need for excuses. 1

Dr. Wallin is right (except maybe about the chocolate thing) facing the truth is difficult.

For me, the most devastating excuses, the most difficult ones to face, are the ones I make to myself. Those excuses prevent me from making the changes in my life that I want and need to make. But it's not "those excuses". It's me. It's me using excuse-speak to help myself feel good about not following through, not facing up to my poor choices or failures, for not being true to myself.

Sometimes when I start a writing project, I'm not exactly sure where it will end up. What started as a joking comment with the potential for some entertaining jabs about husband-wife dynamics, turned into an opportunity for a serious look in the mirror. I hate it when that happens. So, I either need to do something about it or find a really great excuse.

Greg Davis, B.Mus., M.Div.

Greg teaches Elementary Music, first though fifth grades in Pleasanton, CA.

1 "Explanations?... or Excuses?" by Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. From

Dr. Wallin is a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, and author of "Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating Behavior" (Wildcat Canyon Press, 2004)

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