Something that differentiates 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 might even be making excuses for their excuses which only goes to show how poor the original excuse was.
Just as disrespect lies on the other side of a jumped boundary, on the other side of an excuse often lies not only an element of disrespect but also the real reason.
An excuse is a reason that‘s given to justify an offence or fault. Its primary purpose is to lessen responsibility by getting someone to overlook, excuse, or even forgive off the back of it.
This, of course, is rather tricky because when there are excuses, it means that any commitment is being lessened. In turn, this means everything else tied to it becomes pretty flimsy. You might also overlook things that bust 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. They 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 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 unconscientious.
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 put you in the position of saying something that would make most people squirm (and possibly invite ‘conflict’). If you tend to hedge your bets, you might also 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. At the worst of things, you might hope that your excuse opens the door to using this person again.
Excuses are inherently negative, whereas things happen every day that are positive that have reasons behind them.
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.
What differentiates a genuine reason from an excuse is that when someone provides a reason for why something has or hasn’t happened, a solution follows.
People who make excuses aren’t really looking to ‘make shit happen’. They’re not trying to find a solution that you can both live with or attempting to rectify or make amends.
Excuses are not real reasons; they’re bullshit 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? Perceiving me as wronging/hurting/abusing/whatever you is terribly inconvenient. 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. 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.”
Sometimes the excuse(s) translates to “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. Still, if you want to go along with this charade, I’ll throw you an excuse. Let’s 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 shit?!/ 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. Instead, I’ll palm you off with this excuse in the hope 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.”
Sometimes 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!” Side note: best read in the style of Jennifer Hudson.
And when you make excuses for yourself, it like, “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”.
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 wasn’t ready for a relationship. 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.
When someone is looking to maintain the status quo and keeps palming you off with excuses, no solutions are on the horizon. After all, if they’re the ones making the excuses, they have to be a part of the solution. This would mean 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.