Updated: Jan 8
One reason human beings are so amazing is the mind-boggling number of unhelpful and illogical coping mechanisms we all instinctively make use of.
Near the top of the list is Excuse-Making.
Think about it. We live in a results-based dimension that requires action.
And sometimes...we take action to….do all we can, up to and including mental gymnastics to justify inaction or detrimental action, ESPECIALLY in our relationships and dreams.
So before your brain turns on autopilot with very VERY sound rationalizations that are very comforting and make total sense right now…
Remember that this life is finite.
Remember your purpose, the reason you are even in this relationship (with others and with yourself):
You are here for RESULTS.
I’ve quoted Alec Baldwin’s character Blake from the film Glengarry Glen Ross before, and I’m going to do it again because it’s a reminder that you have to deliver, you have to “close” the deal. Nothing will ultimately distract from the fact that you don’t have what you don’t have:
“Cause the good news is you’re fired. The bad news is you’ve got, all you got, just one week to regain your jobs, starting tonight. Starting with tonight’s sit. Oh, have I got your attention now? Good. ‘Cause we’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired. You get the picture?
Nice guy? I don’t give a sh!t. Good father? F*ck you, go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here? Close.”
In your life and in your relationships, there comes a point where you realize that there needs to be a pattern of actively “closing” more than passively “promising” or excusing. Winning personality, connections, chemistry, looks, money, cool stuff, smarts, whatever are great and all but...You still have to come correct HERE. Otherwise, “go home and play with your [status symbol here]”.
When it comes to excuse-making and excuse-makers (including yourself), one has to get unswervedly practical. You have to remember what you can and can not do with an excuse:
What You Can Do With An Excuse:
Feel justified and delusionally hopeful while postponing the inevitable
Feel frustrated and ashamed
Look foolish or turn into the "nagging harpy psycho" partner
Learn painful lessons—the hard way
Keep your life in hold in uncertainty
Feel trapped and limited
What You Can NOT Do With An Excuse (from yourself or others):
See the results you want to see
Eat, shelter yourself, pay the bills
Put its arms around you and get a loving, supportive hug when you need it
Have a meaningful conversation
Feel seen, heard, important, and fulfilled
Give someone a personality transplant through sheer earnestness and force of will
Satisfactorily resolve issues
Get creative and explore options
The definition of excuse alone says it all: “release (someone) from a duty or requirement”.
Why would we continually let someone sign their own honorable discharge from their promises and most basic relational duties? At that point, what is the point of even being in a relationship if you have to excuse even the BASICS????
I get it and I’ve been there, I know it’s hard to risk being alone and discarded (*womp womp*) again. Or to have yet another nasty fight or pointless talk where you patiently explain AGAIN.
But where does that leave you?
I’m going to assume that if you are reading this you are ready to stop the excuse-making once and for all, regardless of how or what it takes because enough is enough is enough. So let’s get to it:
HOW TO HANDLE EXCUSE-MAKING (AND STOP EXCUSING THE EXCUSE-MAKERS) AND GET THE LIFE AND RELATIONSHIPS YOU WANT AND DESERVE
0.) PERCEIVE THE PATTERN OF DELIVERY (OR NON-DELIVERY):
This goes for yourself and anyone else. Do they offer a valid reason along with a compromise, solution, or rain check (that they follow through on as promised)?
Or do you get an excuse (a self-signed discharge) that is a dead end? Or a valid reason…that is a dead end? Or a promise to make it up later…that gets broken, and broken, and broken?
Sure, EVERYONE is busy with something. Crises always seem to happen all at once (“it never rains, it pours”). But eventually the pattern of being strung along will become obvious.
Anything can be an addiction, and anyone can be an addict. Some people are addicted to empty promises and “good intentions”. Some people are addicted to “keeping their options open” and having one foot out the door. They may have very valid, very understandable, entirely subconscious reasons (starting in childhood) to fear getting close, being vulnerable, etc. I’m not condemning them (or you), nor am I labeling them a “bad person”. But you have to get out of denial about what that will mean for you, for them, for your goals, dreams, hopes, fears, time, sanity, heart, self-esteem. ESPECIALLY if they can’t face the fact that they have issues that they need to work on, refuse to change, or presto change-o any concerns you respectfully share with them right back onto you (word twisting and projecting).
Going back to being practical about it: a dead end is a dead end, malicious or not, unintentional or not. Again, you can’t pay the bills, heal, hug, feel secure, seen, heard, important, or fulfilled with an excuse.
You can’t hang your hat on constant uncertainty.
It’s like if a loved one needed a medical operation, and you had no knowledge or experience in that particular surgical field. Your ignorance is a completely valid reason not to work on them, but that doesn’t make them well. If they want a successful operation, they are going to have to find someone who can do that.
Your life is an operation too. People have relational roles to FILL with you, not evade from (and make you feel like it’s your full-time job to HELP them evade—it’s exhausting and crazy-making).
1.) REMEMBER SOME THINGS ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE:
There are some things that no amount of reasoning, excuse-making, compromising, rationalizing, debating, negotiating, delaying, or bartering will EVER make okay.
This is one reason why “getting closure” is such a painful, impossible, mind-f*cking task. You miss them, and nothing they say is going to alleviate their absence (especially if you feel “owed” their presence). Even truly genuine remorse and reform won’t undo abuse or pain you suffered, much less words you *know* are hollow (to get you off the phone so they can move on to their next prey). Trauma doesn’t work that way. If it did, the entire fields of psychology and sociology would have to be re-written.
Non-negotiables that, for the sake of your sanity and well-being, should never be “excused”:
Openness and Communicativeness
Constancy (Including Object Constancy—remembering how much and why you love someone, even when they aren’t in the room or when you feel negatively towards them)
Self-Awareness Rooted In Reality (Including Whole Object Relations—being able to be fair & objective no matter your current emotional state--positive or negative)
Gentle Honesty / Forthrightness
A Nurturing Environment That Fosters Security And Trust
Generosity With Reciprocity
You can certainly try to convince yourself you have these in a relationship when you don’t, or brush them off, but trust me when I say that you will be miserable. And the thing about misery is that it isn’t sustainable. Or healthy.
2.) THERE IS NO E.E.O.C.* OF RELATIONSHIPS:
*Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
We have a moral obligation to allow people their own beliefs and practices, whether cultural / religious, values-based, philosophical, experiential, and otherwise.
We have NO obligation to be (or continue to be) participants or victims to these practices or beliefs.
Some religions, traditions, and subcultures are extremely exploitative, and for many of us, our first taste of excusing terrible behavior & principles, + getting talked out of our instinctive agency, power, and boundaries are the brainwashing our caregivers put us through so that we too can “belong” to the group (or possibly escape some kind of completely and conveniently unverifiable "eternal torment" for non-cooperation).
I grew up in an environment where the arbitrary micromanaging and daily emotional abuse *always* had “watertight” and “noble / virtuous” “reasons” dictated from the (get this!) CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE HIMSELF, IN ALL HIS MIGHT, POWER, AND FEARFUL GLORY (wow!). I was taught not to trust myself (“lean not on your own understanding”) (despite, I might add, “I will write My laws in their hearts”).
It was truly a world of “tossed salad and scrambled eggs” where disempowerment, control, and shame (down to my very thoughts and feelings) had THE MOST valid of reasonings and “excuses”—no matter how contradictory or unhealthy. The punishment for asking questions of having doubts was eternal torture, so I got really good at ignoring my intuition & logic and perfected the art of unquestioning, tautological excuses (circular logic): “‘god is right because god is right’”.
As an autonomous adult with critical thinking skills, experience, and options in life, we don’t have to excuse gods that read like a case study for narcissism (hierarchical thinking; perfectionism; black-or-white absolutes; need for worship / pedestalling / approval + blind, absolute faith without proof; infantilization and game-playing with “testing” as a common tool / theme; supremacy; micromanaging; extreme mood swings from complete benevolence to complete wrath and destruction; sensitivity to slights; random unpredictable intermittent re-inforcement of "prayers answered" or "miracles"; love blurred with fear to ensure compliance; coercion; double standards; no sense of proportion or fairness / disproportionate reactions; etc.).
Nor do we have to associate with or submit to practitioners who feel obligated or entitled to *your* compliance and enabling / excuse-making in the name of “tolerance”.
There is no Equal Employment Opportunities Commission for personal relationships. They have the right to their beliefs—from afar. And their rights end where others’ rights begin.
All that to say, today may be the day to reassess the stories and beliefs you grew up being told to believe (and excuse), be they religious, pseudo-religious, or secular.
So What Do You Do When You Can’t Seem To Stop Making Excuses For People In Your Life (And Yourself)?
You build your own credibility and self-esteem.
Remember how Doctor Elinor Greenberg said, “[Having low self-esteem] not so hard to fix. It is simple. You just have to pick a few things you esteem and do them.”? Do that. Start embodying those things that are so important to you. And when you have noticeable, sustainable results start showing up in your life, you’ll stop having excuses for everyone else because you will realize that if you can do it, anyone (who really wants to) can.
You’ll have proof of your value (that was always heretofore questionable to you) in the flesh, undeniable. And suddenly, it won’t be such a seemly idea to spread that value on…what? What? You’ll be able to answer that “what?” with new perspective and more importantly, new, authentic standards. Standards that are authentic because YOU set the precedent.
You've got this.
All My Love (Always!),
Want to work together one-on-one? I'm here.