Monday, November 11, 2013

Responsibility and False Obligation

When I defined the ROpocalypse the other day, I had said something about how people don't have to be stuck in the pain of fulfilling their responsibilities, and that statement had Jason asking for clarification. 

When I looked at what I'd said, I understood why he was concerned, so I changed "responsibilities" to "false obligations," which is more accurate, but less how it feels when you're dealing with it in real life.

See, there's a pile of bullshit surrounding the idea of "responsibility." I was married and had three kids who called me dad, two of which were my own offspring. My relationship was toxic, and my life was hell. My spouse was abusive, and blamed me for all the problems she faced in life. She convinced me that I owed her a living because we had kids. She played on social standards, on my pride and sense of what makes a human male valuable as "a man." She played me like a violin.

What happened was I fell for an exagerrated sense of responsibility. Yes, I was responsible for my kids. Yes, to a degree, I was responsible for providing for our family. But I was not the sole party responsible for that provision because... 

I was not the only adult in the relationship. 

I took on more than my share of the responsibility, and I took the abuse and the manipulations and the constant blows to my sense of worth because I felt like it was my responsibility. I didn't pursue my joy because I felt obligated to suffer because I'd had kids with a poisonous woman.

But guess what? I was wrong. 

I am responsible for providing two things for my offspring: financial support to cover food, clothing. and shelter, and a role model of male humanity to base their expectations on. Money and a social example. That's what I'm responsible for. And that's it.

My ex is responsible for her choices, and her decisions. It took a lawyer to really explain that to me, and a therapist, and today in conversation, I realized I'm still working through some of this stuff. Humans are responsible for their offspring up to a point, and then they are responsible for themselves. That's what being an adult is all about, being responsible for yourself. 

Yes, we can get ourselves in bad situations that we are responsible for. We have to dig ourselves out. But we aren't responsible for other adults who are not helping. It's ok to say, "Hey, I'm doing my part, will you do yours?" and if they refuse, to leave. There is a limit to what you are expected to do in a relationship. It's a partnership, and neither adult partner has to change to suit the other if they don't want to. You can leave at any time.

It's a tricky thig, "responsibility," it's valid at its core as a concept, but if you are trapped by your responsibilities, it is worth taking a serious look at whether or not you are actually trapped by actual responsibilities, or if you've taken on a false sense of obligation where another adult is concerned.

If you are fulfilling your responsibilities in a healthy way, you're going to feel good. If you're feeling shitty, worn down, unappreciated, if you're making excuses to others about the behavior of your spouse, or how they treat you, if you're constantly having to get through the day by reminding yourself that it's temporary and that "this too shall pass," then wake up and take stock. Life feels good when you're healthy. It's not always going to feel good, of course, and you'd have to be an idiot to think that you'll always be happy no matter what. I'm not saying that.

But it feels good when you're doing it right. Most of the time. And I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say about that.
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