Don’t forget that I’m on a ‘break’ until September so I will mostly be featuring some of yours and my favourite posts from the archives.
One of the things that I’ve recognised as a differentiator between healthy and unhealthy relationships is the presence of excuses, whether it’s yours and/or theirs. In the worst of situations where you may be denying, rationalising, and minimising, you may even be making excuses for their excuses which only goes to show how poor the original excuse was.
Just like how on the other side of a jumped boundary lies disrespect, on the other side of an excuse often not only lies at least some element of disrespect but also the real reason.
An excuse is a reason that is given to justify an offence or fault but its primary purpose is to lessen responsibility by getting you to overlook, excuse, or even forgive off the back of it. This of course is rather tricky because when there’s excuses it means that any commitment is being lessened, which means everything else tied to it becomes pretty flimsy. You may also be overlooking things that are busting up your boundaries.
People often get ‘reasons’ and ‘excuses’ mixed up because there appears to be some crossover. Excuses allow people to remain in their uncomfortable comfort zone, dodge conflict by avoiding honesty both with others and themselves, dodge accountability, and cast themselves in a better light.
Saying “The dog ate my homework” gives the impression that you’ve been a victim of misfortune and avoids conflict whereas saying, “I couldn’t be arsed to do my homework” or “I forgot” makes you look lazy and lacking in conscientiousness.
Likewise saying “I’ve been really busy” gives the impression that you’re so busy (ya know busier than a world leader) that you haven’t had the time to contact or see them whereas saying “I’m not interested / am half-hearted / have been trying to get back with my ex” will not only have you in the position of saying something that most people squirm at and possibly inviting ‘conflict’, but if you’re the type of person that likes to hedge your bets, you may want to keep them as a rainy day option. If anything you’re hoping they’ll take the hint and do your job for you and at the worst of things, you may be hoping the excuse allows you to avail of their ‘usefulness’.
Excuses are inherently negative whereas things happen every day that are positive that have reasons behind them – that’s what a reason is; a cause or an explanation and yes sometimes a justification for something happening.
A reason doesn’t lessen responsibility or even act as an automatic precursor to being excused or forgiven and what I’ve found differentiates a genuine reason from an excuse is that when someone provides a reason for why something has or hasn’t happened, a solution is in the offing.
People who make excuses aren’t really looking to ‘make sh*t happen’ or find a solution that you can both live with, or even ‘rectify’ or make amends. Excuses are not real reasons; they’re BS ones.
In my post about ‘Sorry’, I explained how when someone gets on your case about accepting their apology or forgiving them that it really means:
“Look, can you hurry the eff up and accept my apology so I can stop feeling bad about it? You perceiving me as wronging/hurting/abusing/whatever you is terribly inconvenient and my ego doesn’t like the pinch of reality, so if you don’t mind, get a shuffle on, accept my apology and let’s move on so I can slam my palm down on the Reset Button. “
Well guess what? When someone uses an excuse, they’re really saying:
“Look, hurry the eff up and get off my case so I can get my shag / ego stroke / shoulder to lean on / money / perfect image back etc. You perceiving me as wronging/hurting/abusing/whatever you, is setting off my responsibility alarm bells which is setting off my reality alarm bells which is setting off my commitment, expectation, and intimacy alarm bells. The sooner I’m excused, the sooner I can get back to doing what I always do.”
Or “Look, can you hurry the eff up and get off my back because I’m only offering up this feeble justification for what I’ve said/done or failed to say/do because the real reason doesn’t sound too great when said out loud and may invite conflict, plus if I gave you the real reason, it would put me in the position of actually having to do something.”
Or “Please reduce your expectations of me and this relationship immediately.”
Sometimes, they’re even saying “Look, you know and I know what’s happened here but if you want to go along with this charade, I’ll throw you an excuse and see how much more of a free ride I can get.”
Sometimes, they’re saying, “Wow, it seems like you don’t seem to see what’s really going on here! Can’t you see I ain’t sh*t?!/ Can’t you see that I clearly am not putting in the time and effort here? Hmmm…well I won’t be direct with you because I don’t want to look like the bad guy here, so I’ll palm you off with this excuse in the hope that you get the hint. And if you don’t, well it’d be almost rude not to avail of what’s on offer…”
Often it’s literally “I cannot be arsed to put some real effort into a real reason.”
And when you make excuses for their excuses “I’m telling you….I’m not leaving! You’re the best thing I’ve never had or only had for a short time before the Future Faking ended and I don’t want to let go of the fantasy because then I’d have to see and accept some uncomfortable things and even get out of my comfort zone. You’re gonna love me!” – Note, best read as if singing with Jennifer Hudson’s voice.
And when you make excuses for yourself “I’m not really looking to find a solution or take any action that would involve making a decision and leaving my comfort zone.”
Behind every excuse is the real reason.
Sometimes it simply boils down to “I don’t want to try” and what’s really important is that you don’t clog up your life with excuses whether it’s yours or theirs because you’ll become a person of inaction that doesn’t make decisions. Excuses, especially when we buy into them make things appear more complicated than they are.
The next time you’re presented with an excuse, it’s time to ask “So what does this mean?” or “So what happens next?” I remember when Dot Dot Dot Man told me how busy he was for the umpteenth time and how he’s not ready for a relationship and I told him that he clearly doesn’t have time for a relationship and this meant that our ‘relationship’ was over.
That’s what it meant and that’s what happens next when someone keeps excusing themselves for not having the time, energy, decency or even ability to evolve into a copilot in your relationship.
Trust me when I say that when someone is looking to maintain the status quo and keep palming you off with excuses, no solutions are on the horizon, after all, if they’re the one making the excuses, they have to be a part of the solution, which means they have to be responsible in the relationship, which means that excuses become redundant.
You’ll know you’re in a healthy relationship when you don’t have to listen to excuses or make excuses. Instead of accepting excuses, start accepting the reasons.
By the time you read this, I’ll [hopefully] have set up our tent at Camp Bestival and will be sipping on mojitos. The kids have got temporary tattoos with my mobile number on them (please Nia don’t pull a disappearing act), I’ve packed enough food to feed a village and I’ll make sure to post some pics to Instagram so check the feed on the right hand side. Em has spared me from Barbara Streisand filled journey although I’ve heard a lot of Five Star and as I type this he’s singing along with ‘123 shake your body down’…
Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the Museum of Childhood (one of my favourite places!) with one of my oldest friends from back home in Dublin. It was flipping sweltering and we made feather headdresses out of paper. I was last to finish as I was enjoying making mine so much…
My mother-in-law is arriving in a couple of days and I’ve been so busy with the kids, Em will have to get the spare room set up. Haha!
There’s been lots of relaxation as we’ve had playdates or activities all week. I’ve also been giving a little bit of help to friends who are on the verge of launching businesses. Don’t worry – I haven’t been working too hard!
I’ve ended up watching Breaking Bad this week and I laughed so hard in the second episode, I damn near thought I’d wet myself laughing.
For those who have been asking, the values and being valued posts are on the schedule for revisiting.