Let's Talk Why Again

I have had a situation come up in my life that brings the why issue directly into focus. I find myself saying "The Why Does Not Matter" in a completely different context from a SM. 

Hypothetical scenario:

Teenager with a really messed up background, foster care, early drug exposure, parents were addicts and physically abusive ends up rebelling, stealing, having angry outbursts and lying to anyone and everyone to get her way.  She lives with friends of the family who are stable but know the child's situation and constantly make excuses for her behaviors by saying "Yes what she did was wrong but poor thing, look at what she's been through" or "She just needs more time to get used to what it feels like to be in a loving home" or "We haven't been perfect foster parents and she's had it so tough.  We will get better and then it will be easier for her and she says she will make better choices next time."  Does her background matter when it comes to serious behavioral choices that impact the family, the legal system, the child, her long term future and the entire stability of her relationships with other people?

No.  The why does not matter.  It does not matter if this child is doing these things because she is possessed by the devil or if it is because she knows she can get away with them, the law and the consequences are the same no matter what.  When this family hypothetically makes excuses due to this kid's poor early experiences they are teaching her that because something bad happened when she was little there are no consequences to her choices now.

When we chase the why -- especially when we seek to blame early childhood, previous relationships or whatever else that is 100% on them to fix for themselves -- we are overfunctioning for them and looking for ways and reasons not to rock the boat with consequences.  We are looking to excuse away their behaviors for our own reasons of guilt about other things that have happened to them or looking for reasons why we may be to blame, because they have already had a tough life.

No matter how tough the life their lives will not improve when we enable them to continue to make choices that should have consequences.  That goes for out of control children who are rebelling and testing limits just as much as it goes for spouses.  At the end of the day it is THEIR problem to resolve.  This teenager I know has had a tough life.  She really has.  Her journey is going to be hard.  I don't wish it on anyone.  But she has to walk her journey and heal herself.  It's no one else's job, responsibility or debt but her own.

She will attract the overfunctioning types who will try to take care of her and they will end up in a codependent dance, possibly resulting in a dysfunctional relationship such as many of ours.  And at the end of those marriages, the why will not matter either.  Only the choices she made and "our" choices not to enforce consequences.  Not enforcing them actually robs her of a chance to grow and learn something new about consequences, expectations and love versus pity.
Changewilldoyougood Changewilldoyougood
31-35, F
6 Responses Feb 11, 2013

At some point, we have to shake off the past and embrace the future. I am not condoning denying it happened...we need to appreciate where we've been and the decisions we've made so that we may learn from them. I do not concern myself with others' whys...I cannot control their actions. That's their ball of wax to melt. But my own whys? Heck yes, I want to figure out what kept me in a 20+ year loveless relationship...that **** ain't right and is the primary focus of my ongoing growth.

The why doesn't matter because like WP said beautifully "it's not up to us, and it's variable"My hubby's why: in 2009 -10 Because I was pregnant (ewe weird)in 2010 because I was pregnant again.2011 his health issues just piled up, one night it was his teeth, the next his migraines, the next lack of sleep, didn't eat, stress, sad confused depressed and so on.In 2012 it was financial, (note we are in the same financial position as we were 10 years ago) he has so much work to dooooooooo.In 2013 It's me, I've pushed him away and I'm not his friend anymore, so why would he initiate????So you tell me how many more why does one need before they realize it's really not that important?<br />
I was like many other newbies here saying "what of course the why matter" because I didn't have it, I was beating a dead horse trying to find one, I looked everywhere, only after a year of reading and realizing I am no exception, I am not different than these folks who have done it all, and then it hit me, I had the why all along, but I only realized when I saw myself doing circles.<br />
And then I realized who cares what why it is now, i can fix that too and then there will be another.

Until you both realize that you don't HAVE to be there, that you are only there by choice, and that you are pulling your life together, standing up, going out, making friends, boundaries, and removing your dependence on the marriage and him for fulfillment. And THEN, he will choose to deal with his reasons, or abandon them.

He think I HAVE to be here, because of the kids.
I know what you are saying though

You, I hope, will demonstrate that you are more than capable of going out on a Friday night and leaving him with the kids. And then offering him the same courtesy.

I know! I know! sounds LOCO! doesn't it?

When you do that, it's going to mean something, to both of you.

Things changed a fair amount for me when I began demonstrating, mostly to myself, that I was able and willing to perform in the "roles" and responsibilities that my wife had typically taken up herself, in our regular division of labour. I specifically went after the things that seemed most inconvenient, or that I knew the least about. I got sitter numbers, school numbers, copied doctor info, and got familiar with some routines I avoided.

Not sure what the equivalent is, in your case. If he's throwing up "breadwinner" as a big chaffe cloud that you can't penetrate, that's likely a mountain I'd think about climbing.

There is no division of labour, he's the "breadwinner" my job is everything else/
I'd rather go around or look for another mountain, this one is only going to get me killed.

That mountain is a bunker, and your husband is hunkered within it, starving.

Have the two of you discussed an alternative approach to financial roles in the household, where you both contribute more equitably? Maybe him less so, and you moreso, and somewhere in the middle you scratch some for daycare?

Because I'll warrant, that will change your dynamic plenty.

There is no alternatives, negotiations, suggestions he's a stubborn mule.
It's his way or no way, I told him many time's your perseverance will be your down fall. I don't know what to say, he knows we have a problem, but he thinks we are strong, and all this will be laughed at in a few years.
He doesn't understand the damage he is doing to me, to us, he truly thinks it's unconditional. I don't know what else to say or try.

He cannot prevent you from finding work, if said work, covers off daycare. That's a starting point, and you might be able to build from there.

Let me put it this way, based on your current trajectory - no changes - where are the two of you going to be in two years?

Supposing your destination in two years isn't necessarily together as husband and wife, is THAT the time that you will want to be bottom rung, entering the workforce? Our would you feel a bit more solid if you had a couple years experience or training under the belt when you reach the end of your rope?

If it goes that way, do you think a more even split of income might be beneficial for him too? When I ran the math in my own case, we both came to the conclusion that in this city, she's just going to to have to go to work full time, and maybe take work that was less personally fulfilling to make a buck.

4 More Responses

There is only one "why" that I comes to mind that, for me, I could accept.
If I were with someone, deeply in love with a passionate sex life and they had a terrible accident of some sort that left them physically unable to perform or bedridden - I could completely open my heart enough to accept a sexless marriage. Purposely withholding for any other exacuse and "why" does not matter as it produces the same results. I can stand by someone I am totally in love with, should they endure a physical trauma that takes sex out of the equation, though.

Your post hits very close to home with me. I lived in a violent, drug and alcohol abusing home until I went into the foster care system at the age of 11 after my mother's death. I spent the last several of those years in a foster home with another foster child who closely fits your description with the exception of gender. For someone who has been abused, neglected, and then discarded as a child, the whole "pull yourself up by you bootstraps" mentality is a complete farce. One can only use the skills in life that one is taught, and putting someone in a loving home after years of neglect and abuse won't change the negative survival skills that WE learn as we cope with such an environment. The analogy I always use for myself, particularly as it applies to my first foster home is that expecting me to fit into a "normal" family is akin to taking a wolf into a house and telling him he is a dog. His nature will always be wolf.
The biggest difference that I see in my foster brother, who still leads a broken life full of lies, drug abuse, and instability is sheer will and hard work. The will to face those demons, and the will and hard work to get the help to exorcise them as best we can. I have made different choices in my life, and have a home and family and my own business because of those choices.
So the "why" in this instance is totally irrelevant. Why someone was abused and neglected doesn't heal the deep emotional scars left by being abused by the very people who were supposed to protect you. It is what that individual chooses to do with her life that will determine her outcome. A stable and loving foster home is a good start. That's where I learned that beating my wife and children was not the right way to live. A lot of in depth, caring counseling so she can face and defeat her demons is her only way out. Without that, she will continue to use the survival skills, as unhealthy as they are, that she learned growing up. Those survival skills don't go completely away, but they can be replaced with healthier ones if she is up to doing the work.
I saw some telling statistics (these may no longer be accurate, so feel free to correct them) about what they referred to as "foster care alumni". According the the numbers I saw, the college graduation rate was 3%, and the incarceration rate was 26%. This young lady needs help so she can beat the odds.

You're right. And help doesn't mean pity. It doesn't mean more abuse either. It means BALANCE and appropriate consequences that you would give a child who didn't have all this happen to her. Because you know what? She's just as or more capable than those kids because she does have more life experience and more internal strength that she's already road tested.

Agreed. A reason should not be confused with an excuse. At best, the "why" reveals a path to appropriate consequences that get a better result.

In your theoretical example, the "why" is actually known. But the behaviour continues on in any event, and it is the behaviour those around the kid have to deal with. And - eventually - it is the performer of the errant behaviour who wears the consequences (though it may be years and years down the track if the performer of the errant behaviour hooks up with the 'right' enabler(s).

In a functional dynamic (not necessarily a marriage) errant behaviour brings a pretty swift consequence. Thus, the connection between choice and consequence is learned pretty quick.

In a dysfunctional dynamic, the errant behaviour does NOT bring a pretty quick consequence. So the errant behaviour continues. The connection between choice and consequence is NOT learned. Invariably, an unavoidable consequence emerges. And there, is the performer of the errant behaviour like a deer in the headlights, with no skills to deal with the situation. The opportunity to learn these coping skills was robbed from them. Robbed by the enabling people around them.

The enabler has done the performer of the errant behaviour no favours by constantly lowering the bar of minimum expectation.

Supporting your post CWDYG, and rating it up.

Tread your own path.

My way of looking at it is that the enabler doesn't think they know the why, but they really do. Many of us also run around asking WHY but we kind of already know. We don't like the answer or we can't control the answer so we ask the question hoping for a different why.

When I answer to this parent "the why does not matter" it is not to tell her to stop chasing the why. It's to tell her no matter what the why is, the consequences don't change.