The divorce dichotomy: blame vs. blameworthiness



It is a part of the alchemy of every divorce action, this notion that someone is to be blamed or is blameworthy, and then there is the martyr or victim who is harmed who does the blaming.
Divorce has this weird transcendent power to transmute love into this war where, on opposite sides, you have the villain and you have the hero. Never mind what has actually transpired during the course of the actual marriage between two people, the days, months and years in which the combat of matrimony resulted in bruised egos, broken hopes and demolished dreams; the two-way street of speeding insults, head on crashes and reckless cohabitation.
The mutuality of blame and blameworthiness is never more acute as it is in an intimate marital relationship: the mutual breakdown of communication, sentiment and respect cannot be controverted. Yet, that is all washed under the bridge the minute the summons and complaint is filed. Suddenly, the broken marriage splits into a dichotomy of who is right and who is wrong; who has wronged and who is the victim – the villain versus the saint.
But what is reality? What is the truth of it? Is blame and blameworthiness legitimate dichotomies in a marital breakdown, and/or divorce? Obviously not. The notion that there is one villain and one victim in a marital breakdown is intrinsically fallible. This theory can never be shown to be fact. In a recent lecture given by George Soros at the Central European University, the billionaire philanthropist writes:

In the course of my life, I have developed a conceptual framework which has helped me both to make money as a hedge fund manager and to spend money as a policy oriented philanthropist. But the framework itself is not about money, it is about the relationship between thinking and reality, a subject that has been extensively studied by philosophers from early on.

More couples need a conceptual framework in which to understand and come to terms with the breakdown of their marriage, so that there is less finger pointing and a more linear path to resolving the outstanding issues without the bloodbath so that they can more expeditiously move on with their lives. It’s a lot more cost effective too. That is not to advocate “no fault” divorce. But it is to say that couples ought to try to establish a framework in which to conceptualize the reality of their situation and act rationally, without the parties resorting to these roles of one being the blameworthy villain and the other the innocent, blameless victim; because this distortion of the truth leads to combative divorce warfare which harms everyone – children in particular.
As I continued to read The Soros Lectures, Mr. Soros writes:

I can state the core idea in two relatively simple propositions. One is that in situations that have thinking participants, the participants’ view of the world is always partial and distorted. That is the principle of fallibility. The other is that these distorted views can influence the situation to which they relate because false views lead to inappropriate actions. That is the principle of reflexivity. For instance, treating drug addicts as criminals creates criminal behavior. It misconstrues the problem and interferes with the proper treatment of addicts. As another example, declaring that government is bad tends to make for bad government. [Emphasis added]
Both fallibility and reflexivity are sheer common sense. So when my critics say that I am merely stating the obvious, they are right-but only up to a point. What makes my propositions interesting is that their significance has not been generally appreciated. The concept of reflexivity, in particular, has been studiously avoided and even denied by economic theory. So my conceptual framework deserves to be taken seriously-not because it constitutes a new discovery but because something as commonsensical as reflexivity has been so studiously ignored.

This philosophy of Soros’ is interesting when you really think about it and is applicable in many other contexts other than economics. Because isn’t it totally true, in the context of divorce, that when one spouse demonizes the other, the demonized spouse acts more like a demon? That is the whole idea with reflexivity. False views lead to inappropriate action. It is almost like the parties begin to “reflexively” fall into one or the other emotional framework: blameworthy or blameless. And this dichotomy is what produces so much conflict and malice in the most protracted of divorce battles….
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