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Excuses, Excuses

May 9, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

Cut your spouse some slack.

I once saw a book entitled "101 Excuses Parents Make for Their Children." Because we love our children so deeply, we want others to see them with the same glowing eyes that we do. (And if our eyes briefly stop glowing, that doesn't mean anyone else's should!)

I'd like to suggest that we are conscious of the need to judge others favorably, particularly our children. I'd like to believe that we are fearful of speaking slander, especially about our own offspring. But I think it is instinct that leads us to spring to the verbal defense of our kids, much in the same way that a lioness protects her cubs. And frequently with the same ferocity. If one of our children acts up (just a hypothetical postulation of course), we have a whole bag of excuses at our immediate fingertips. "He was up very late last night." "She had too much sugar." "He's not usually like this." And that's just for starters. We discover a whole new level of creativity when challenged to find excuses for our misbehaving children.

As creative and flexible as we are with our kids, we frequently behave in the opposite way with our spouses. We cut him/her no slack whatsoever. "You had a bad day at work? Get over it." "You're tired and hungry. Learn a little patience." And even though it may be appropriate to expect more mature behavior from our mates than our children, we also need to find some excuses. They are, after all, only human.

We are often reminded that the Almighty judges us the way we judge others. Do we want even our spouses to hold us to the same rigid scrutiny that we hold them? Or would we like the Almighty (and our mates) to make excuses for us? (Perhaps not 101, but some...)

It will only work if we're willing to do it for them.

We are so quick to turn any slight lack of attention into a test of love.

I'm sure when my husband's grumpy, it's the pressures at work, a deal gone sour, not enough sleep (this one works for grown-ups too) or even hormones. I'm sure when my wife loses her temper, it's been a rough day with the kids, a frustrating day at the office, she's had no time for lunch (note the recurring theme of sleep deprivation and hunger) or even hormones.

We are so quick to jump to the most negative conclusion. We are so quick to judge. We are so quick to turn any slight lack of attention into a test of love. You can love your wife and still find it difficult to bounce back from having lost a valued client. You can be happy to see your husband but still be smarting from the dressing down your boss delivered. You can enjoy your children but still need dinner before you're ready to play.

We are so focused on our children's needs that the excuses flow easily. With our spouses, we frequently put our own needs first, which is where the hurt begins.

If we would think about their needs first, not only would we be able to excuse "imperfect" behaviors, we would be more responsive and sensitive to the cause.

Perhaps dinner would be ready earlier. Perhaps we could provide a listening ear. Perhaps a warm smile and some encouragement. If our mates know we are with them and not against them, it's much easier to rise above their frustration. And even if they can't, it's still better to be understanding than judging.

I think there's a market for "101 Excuses Spouses Make for Each Other." I won't even ask for a commission.

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