There are so many choices to be made. From as simple as what’s for lunch to as significant as who am I going to spend the rest of my life with. Some of these choices are no-brainers. I want a grilled cheese sandwich. Done. Sometimes even those significant choices are easy too. I’m in love, and they love me. We’re very happy together, and I can see no reason that it could ever change. That’s an easy decision, isn’t it?
Or so it seems.
The lady I’m dating is going through a horrific divorce. The man she has spent the last 30 years with turned out to be a narcissistic asshole. She left a good job so she could stay at home with their young children. When she did go back to work, she took two jobs so he could go back to school and learn a new trade; a trade that eventually earned hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Everything was going great. And it was great; until she found out that he had been cheating on her for years and years, with many different women. And Bam! Just like that he was gone and living with his latest girlfriend. And ever since then he has done everything he can think of to screw her out of everything. After all that time, sacrifice and commitment, he has lied, cheated and stolen so he could get it all and leave her with nothing. She’s fighting it, but it’s already cost her $15,000 in legal fees, and they’re just getting started. He’s not helping with the bills at all, and if it weren’t for me feeding her she wouldn’t even have any food. (No, I don’t buy her groceries… but I have to cook for myself, and there’s no reason I can’t share.) And she’s constantly beating herself up for making such a bad decision to marry him.
How could she be so stupid?
But that’s not really fair to herself. When they met he was a perfect Gentleman. He was kind attentive, and considerate. She hadn’t been treated that way in a long time, and it felt really good. She had a daughter from a previous marriage, and he accepted her as his own, providing her with a much needed father figure. She was struggling to make ends meet; he was financially secure. He may have even loved her then. She certainly loved him.
And yet, it turned out so horribly.
But was it a bad decision? I don’t think so. It just seemed so real then. And it probably was real. So why should she blame herself for making that decision? She shouldn’t. It was a good decision at the time, the circumstances just changed in ways she couldn’t have known.
And that’s the way it goes sometimes. Choices are made for the best of reasons that turn out to be bad ones. Sometimes even bad decisions end up having good results. But there are times when decisions are made in spite of knowing that it’s wrong. We’ve all done that, and odds are we’ll all do it again sometime. Eating onions doesn’t really agree with me, yet sometimes I just have to have them on my hamburger. They just taste so good! And boy do I pay for it later, just like I know I would. You really want to buy that new car even though there’s nothing wrong with the one you have, and the payments are going to put a real strain on your finances. And you drive the new car home. It may seem inconceivable, but some people even get married knowing it’s a really bad choice.
I did that with Wife # 3. Damn.
And sometimes you don’t have a choice. Decisions are made for you. People lose jobs that way, get dumped by someone they really cared for, even have children they had no say in the choice. But you have to deal with the resulting circumstances still happen even if there was no participation in the decision.
Just like being Bipolar.
When I’m in the middle of a manic episode, my choices are completely out of my hands. The illness completely takes over, and even the craziest things make perfect sense. You buy that Rolex watch without any regard to how it’s going to be paid for. Or maybe you just take it. Sex with a stranger? Why yes, thank you! There are no worries, even if it’s a different stranger every night. And the guy you beat up because he was looking at you funny deserved it. There was nothing bad about that decision. Sooner or later though it’s time to pay the piper and clean up the messes. It’s ultimately your responsibility even if you had no control of the choice. Depression can make decisions for you without any help. You stop bathing, you shun those who care for you, you quit your job…
You decide you can’t live anymore.
These are not rational decisions, yet the outcome can be final.
Theodore Roosevelt was credited with saying “You do the best you can with what you have”. I rather think that ‘You do the best you can with what you have at the time”. Times can change, and what works today may not even be feasible in a few years. Relationships and the people in them mature, and are guaranteed to change. You grow old. Nothing remains the same. So how can you blame yourself for making choices and decisions based on the information available? Do the analysis, go through the due diligence, follow your gut and take ownership of the results; good or bad. And don’t beat yourself up if it turns out different than you expected.
You did the best you could with what you had at the time.