Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
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Turns Out, He's NOT An Asshole

I have been laboring under the delusion, lo these many married years, that my husband is an asshole. Not a huge asshole, mind you. He's not reaching Spencer Pratt levels of assholery or not even a medium-grade asshole in the vein of Jesse James. I'm talking your average, run of the mill asshole husband. You know the kind, you're probably sitting next to one on the couch right now. Or he's in the bathroom making horrific noises that only a medium-grade asshole husband could make.

I've written about my husband's assholeness a time or two on this here site and so now, when I realize that his asshole-ishness is all a figment of my imagination, it's only fair that I come clean here as well.

Perspective is a funny thing, isn't it? It's everything, really. It's the way you view the world. Two people can watch the same thing go down and come away with two vastly differing stories. And so it is with marriage; Two people attempting to communicate with each other when, oftentimes, they are coming from two extremely different perspectives. Why else do people argue? They disagree on the way they view something, which is, in essence, their perspective.

So I've always been pretty secure in my perspective of our marriage. Namely, that I am smart and wise about most things so Serge should always listen to me. Sounds funny, but basically that is the delusion under which I've labored under for the past seven years. Now, before I sound like an epic asshole I should tell you that these delusions were based on very solid foundations.

As a result of spending most of his life in a band, Serge can't balance a checkbook, does not do finances AT ALL, is not a traditionally responsible person. Seriously. I have had to explain to him what a 401K is and how mortgage loans work or what "60 days financing same as cash" means. You get the point. Dude is not the money guy. He just hands his paycheck over to me and that's that. If I died tomorrow he'd blow my life insurance policy on books about the wild west and fly fishing gear.

Instead of acknowledging this about Serge and accepting that I am the financial person in this marriage I spent YEARS trying to change him, belittling him and mocking him for his inability to keep an accurate accounting of our finances. Not only that, but I let that first perspective of him regarding finances color everything else in our marriage. Instead of saying, 'Well, Serge isn't the finances guy but he's the guy who keeps the cars maintained' or 'Oh well, he's for shit at bill paying but I don't put out as much as I might, so maybe we're even' I pigeon-holed his entire existence in our marriage into him being the inept one. Even though nothing could be further from the truth, I let our roles regarding our financing taint everything else including, and most importantly, my perspective of my husband.

See how that works? I became a victim of my own perspective! As a result, my marriage nearly became a victim of that flawed perspective as well.

I am in the middle of some life-changing shit, y'all. Heavy, heavy shit. I'm attempting to make the hardest change of all. I'm not trying to change my underwear, my hair color or my weight - I am trying to change my perspective. It's what you do when you realize that your perspective is seriously flawed. It's hard as hell because perspective is all-inclusive. It's as much a part of me as my skin and my bones. How do you change your perspective when your perspective is the thing you view everything from? When you can't trust your own goddamn perspective what the fuck can you trust? Not much, really.

What I've been doing is this: When I'm not sure if I'm perceiving a situation correctly I kind of float out of my body, mentally, of course, because if I knew how to float out of my body for real that would be some shit. So I mentally float out of my body, out of the situation and kind of hover above viewing the scenario objectively - or as objectively as I possibly can given that I am a human being with thoughts and opinions and experiences that color everything my mind thinks about. Still, I shoot for objectivity even if it involves viewing myself as the asshole, because, let's face it, lots of times I AM the asshole. After I'm done floating above my body trying to be objective I try to enter the other person's mind kind of like how they did in that one flick Being Jon Malkovich. That's when you can really see yourself as the asshole - if, in fact, you are being the asshole.

I've been doing a lot of "floating" lately and what I've discovered is blowing my mind. I have realized that Serge isn't an asshole at all. He, like most men, is just completely clueless about women. He's not saying the lame shit he sometimes says to intentionally set me off, as I once imagined. He just doesn't know what else to say and ends up blurting out the dumbest shit imaginable. That doesn't make him an asshole. Just dumb with women sometimes. And he really can't even be blamed for that. Women are so fucking crazy and complicated it makes him more of a victim of the female persuasion than a dumb person. This girl that I have a mad crush on put it this way once: "boys are such simple thinkers and girls are masters at complicating everything that is simple." I believe that quote sums up my marriage in a nutshell - I have complicated everything that should've been simple.

So if Serge isn't an asshole than where's the problem?

I am defensive as a motherfucker. So defensive that I'm actually offensive. Which, I guess makes me the asshole. It's me. I'm the asshole.

Go fucking figure.

I'm a combative, defensive, judgmental asshole as it pertains to my marriage. And shit, probably as it pertains to other relationships as well but I can't wrap my brain around that magnitude of assholery just yet. I've got to stay focused on the marriage.

So I am frozen. I have this knowledge. The knowledge that I am the asshole. Tough pill to swallow. I mean, you go through life having arguments and feeling all self-righteous and finger-pointy and suddenly, 34 years into this thing we call life, you realize you are the asshole.

And hey. Having trouble in your marriage? Like me, don't be so sure you aren't the asshole either.

Reader Comments (40)

Thank you for the excellent reminder to look at the men in our lives from a few different angles. Most especially from one where we're grateful for all the great stuff they're good at instead of dwelling on one little thing they suck at. My husband likes to ask me to decide something and then once I've made said decision, gives me every damn excuse in the world for why I should decide the other way. I don't care one way or the other. I just want the decision made with as little drag as possible.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaty E.

This post? Spot on. It took me much longer than 7 years of marriage (I'm now married 22 years) to discover what you have come to understand. Nice work.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

wow!! that is quite a discovery!! one that I have made before in myself but did not reach on my own terms, so may I ask, how did you get to that conclusion???

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGaby B

yeap, let me put a dot at the end on this concluson! beautiful said Monica:) very beautiful...

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranajo

Please do not wait until it is too late to seek counseling. I don't know how many couples I know who went to counseling only to have the therapist say "you should have been here five years ago". Therapy is not a last resort, it is a very useful tool and it can help you. Don't put things off until it's too late! If your marriage is in danger, do anything and everything you can to make it better, and NOW! Make it a priority, seriously. Sorry, it's just I've seen that mistake so many times and it would be a shame for that to happen with such a lovely family as yours.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterevanderz

I'm always amazed by how relevant and hard-hitting some of your posts are to my own life, even though we're complete strangers and in otherwise vastly different situations.

I recently went through a rough patch with my partner. I was also fighting some other personal demons and in a middle of a pretty bad depression, which no doubt made it even harder for him to understand my fucked-up perspective. After lots of "soul searching" or rather, examining of my life, I realized that the tendency of mine to highlight all his little annoying habits and negative behavior was probably mostly me projecting my own insecurities and self-consciousness onto him. After living with him for so long and knowing him so well, I started beating up on him over stupid little things like I beat myself up over, which needless to say isnt healthy for our relationship, or even for my own sanity. It was a humbling experience, I guess, but like you said, a hard pill to swallow. Now I've been working on concentrating on love, on letting unimportant things go, and reconnecting with my partner again on happier and deeper levels. I found that writing up a list of actions and attitudes I want to focus on more actually helped me, as silly as it sounds, but sometimes putting it down in writing helps it stick in the head. It's a work in progress, but I'm definitely in a better place than I was a couple months ago.

Hoping for the best for you and Serge.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAsh

Oh, shit, I think I'm also the asshole in my marriage. After reading your post, it really rang some bells of things going on in my marriage. I really appreciate your perspective and willingness to "bare all".
Thanks a, do I have to admit that I'm really the asshole to my husband????

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSnohotina

I'm impressed by and jealous of your realization. I'd love to hit that point. It sounds freeing, if very scary. One thing I would like to say is that to call women "crazy and complicated" (I think) belittles our feelings a bit. Trust me, I know you would never mean it like this, it's just something I'm a bit defensive of, myself. I mean, my feelings, if confusing and frustrating, are still real and caused by real things, so they aren't crazy, right? I don't know, now I'm rambling. Really great post, though. I love your shit. Just gotta say, I really love it.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

If I may suggest... you both may have moments of asshollery--> it's not usually all or nothing... it's Life. I'm impressed with your deeper understanding of how you act in your marriage; I think it's an incredibly, healthy development! Good for you, and your Surge.

Quick story: my mom and dad are celebrating their 52th wedding anniversary today... and they are MISerABLE, but are so entrenched in their behaviors, they will never be set free, or be HAPPY. That is a sad, sad state of affairs... I wish so very much that you and Serge move toward more happy, marital days!

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Monica and Ash, I could kiss you both. I can be an unbearable nag to my husband and I would get so frustrated with him (not totally past tense, actually) and then I realized one day that OHMYGOD I am trying to change him and it'll never, ever work. This problem is all me and expectations I had no right to in the first place. I mean, how in the world can I expect him to be just suddenly be clean when he has NEVER been that way? And the nagging; it'll just make both of us miserable. Now I work on accepting things like that the mess IS mine to clean up, and will always be so, and that is fine because let's review the list of awesome things about my husband that I would never, ever part with of my own volition. In fact, he is so much better than me in most areas of life that I am glad to have an area of clear contribution. Would that I didn't have my cranky days and urge to nag though . . .

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Thank you for this.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbec

I'm married to a communication PhD. So he is really good at telling me when my perception is off. The really annoying thing is he is usually right. Seriously, it will piss you off for real. He says that the reason most people fight is because they assume that the other person communicates like them. So when he says something I would say if I were trying to be shitty, I assume he is trying to be shitty....but he really isn't. Sounds like everyone could use a little more grace....including the grace you may need to give yourself. Your husband loves you. You have two great kids. And you love him enough to try to work on getting better, being kinder. Sounds like a winning combo to me.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

Wow - I am almost speechless after reading that post. It's so honest and so dead-on for me, too. Very brave of you to discuss - thank you.

We have a 2 1/2 year old and a 4-month old, and you can't overestimate the stress having two little ones (including a baby!) puts on a marriage. I'm not trying to excuse your defensiveness and combativeness (EXACTLY how I am), AND I'm scared at how this will affect my marriage long-term, but my gosh, having two young children is SO hard on a marriage. In my case, we are both so engaged with/devoted to our children, then turn all the frustrations onto each other.

I remember you saying recently that you still felt "off" post-partum. I think it's great you are being thoughtful and intentional about all this, but once you start feeling more like yourself, then I bet that will help too. For me, feeling more tied down and dumpy and all those things with two children makes me more snappy at my husband. And I hate to admit that, right now, I enjoy my children so much, and not my husband. That has to change. :( Good luck and thank you again for your honesty.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterB.

You gave me this very lecture a week ago and it helped me so much! It's not all "them" ....but probably me. Too quick to jump to the "dealbreaker"... And you know what I'm talking about...

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermama

You know, I used to be on the "visiting The Girl Who for the dramaz" ship awhile back, but...something happened as time went on. I started to genuinely like you, and it's because of this, right here.

Do you know how rare it is for people to actually evolve? To look at areas of their life and say "this could be better," and then DO something about it...? Well, I'll tell you. It's Really. Fucking. Rare.

When I think about where you came from with this blog, and where you are now, all I can say is--respect to you, woman. Respect to you. Keep on doing what you're doing, because I'm pretty sure it's working. I truly hope that life brings you and your family the greatest happiness.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjust fyi

These comments are awesome. I really appreciate YOUR perspectives.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

Thanks for the good reminder about keeping perspective. Money isn't our flash point, the bureaucratic bs of dealing with the kids school, schedules, etc. is ours. After divorcing when his kids were still in diapers, he got full custody last year. My poor husband was in over his head. Having done all the bs for my daughter, I was more versed in school-speak (aka a certain school secretary being a gatekeeping, judgmental spawn of the devil) Add that to his ex-wife belittling him to the kids so they always came to me for permission for stuff, etc. (because as they had been raised up to that point men are all incompetent - didn't you know? Even though the child support is what kept a roof over their head but whatever.) Anyway, we ended up in some unhealthy behavior patterns. But we evolved. I reminded myself that this man I picked is a smart guy, a fast learner, and loves his kids beyond all reason and that he might have some good ways of doing things that weren't the same as my way. He faced the reality of the vast amounts of minutiae it takes to have kids with you every day 24/7. Factor in the emotional aspect of the situation - the kids were in actual danger at their mom's home but didn't know anything else and didn't want to leave and it is amazing we made it. So we are still taking one day at a time...

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAshleen

This is something I've slowly been coming to the realization of in the past little bit. Not even consciously...but now that you put this down it's really ringing some bells. Our marriages sound earily. I'm pretty bossy and I know it all. Very defensive. He kinda bumbles through life. I need to attempt to change my perspective too.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChan

I've got tears in my eyes after reading this. I've been through this same thing and it's humbling. But bravo to you for being willing to do the painful work that is SELF AWARENESS. I'm not afraid anymore to look my guy in the eye and say, "You know, I could have handled that better and I'm terribly sorry. You did nothing wrong and I was reacting all over the place and I want you to know that I'll try harder next time. I'm sorry." There's nothing wrong with admitting when we've been the turd in the punchbowl. Being open and honest and direct about our OWN flaws and learning from them and appreciating our partners in a new light is called GROWTH. You are growing and I don't know you but I feel all proud of you right now and full of love.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

I'm so glad you are taking steps to make things better for you and Serge. I think so many people don't even really try and they let things go until it's too late. I don't think I was the main asshole in my first marriage but I can see now how I treated my ex badly at times, and by the end we had no respect for each other at all. I am married now to a man I respect very highly and since we were both had bad marriages before we are very careful with how we treat each other. We do argue, but then we listen to each other and talk things out, and try to see things from the other's point of view. And I think most importantly we don't have any outrageous expectations of each other. So it's great that I have the kind of marriage I always wanted now, but the cost was 17 years of misery and two traumatized children. You have such a beautiful family; it's worth every effort to make your marriage the best it can be.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

This post blew my mind! I now have some serious thinking of my own to do...thanks!

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSwayer

I and Serge both..word porn..heats up my brain..speaking of that..Serge..write more..please. I just heart you that cheesey..I don't really know you so I say heart instead of love kinda love..the honesty, the talent, the laughs..always leaves me wanting more. My husband and I are coming up on 10 years married in December..everyone gets their turn to be an asshole around here..the secret is just trying not to pick the same day! Plus we came up with a code word..we never outright call each other an asshole's Collins..don't ask :) "you're sooo Collins..such a Collins right can you truly get pissed at that? on the other hand, you're such an asshole right now! that tends to burn..even if you know you are totally being one..a giant hairy one. Thanks for sharing your lives..hearting you in TN :)

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

So I guess maybe you should start putting out a little more - should even things out some and make you feel better.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjls

I needn't this today.
But, this asshole isn't letting her husband read this today!
maybe tomorrow after I win this argument.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWendi

You're pretty awesome for beginning that journey and your children are going to thank you for it in the future.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAdrienne

btw... I remember a comment you made maybe a year (or two) back that told me you were really settling into yourself. It was something like, looking at Violet and loving her so much, you realized that you were born like that, too--- totally innocent and deserving of love. I really liked that!

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

and Isn't it great to make peace with your inner arse? It is for me! I have come to that same place recently. Have to keep reminding myself to 'LISTEN' and stop being so defensive and long winded! Hard to find a balance want to stick up for yourself but you also need compliments and to hear criticism nicely sandwiched between two positives. I think men have logic and so much to offer woman but we are so busy git'nit done. We can learn from know. anyhow. Your honesty is refreshing. It is certainly cleansing to stop oneself in ones tracks and HEAR yourself talking and then knock yourself down a few notches with the truth, while giving him the proper respect. I love that book "Seven Things He Will Never Tell You (but you need to know) by Kevin Lehman. I guess the world is brutal enough and we all need to appreciate and cherish each other...the less criticism the better. I just heard a beautiful song about this sort of thing: A CASE OF YOU -Joni Mitchell. Thanks again for sharing.

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergina

This is so against girl code!

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

I hope that my husband doesn't resent me for not being perfect.

In fact i'd be absolutely heartbroken if i'd thought he'd spend our entire relationship thinking i was useless and incompetent and an areshole.

But then I expect and kind of hope that he'd have bailed years ago if i had emasculated and denigrated him the way you have to Serge.

I think it is incredibly sad that you have spent such a long time thinking so lowly of him.
And even sadder that he's been trapped in a marriage with such a complete and utter bitch.

But it has taken you until your mid 30s to figure this out? immature much?
At the end of the day it isn't even about whether you recognise your not-so-inner-bitch, it's about that very simple but fundamental concept of RESPECT. And very clearly, you have no respect for Serge.

and then...reading the above comments..... to think that there are even more people out there who still, as grown adults, have not been able to accept and embrace the flaws and imperfections of their 'loved' one... have you all really spent 20, 30 or 40 years thinking and believing that those weaknesses make them a lesser arsehole? and that you are so perfect? Didn't most people learn the concepts of respect and diversity at school?

You're right about perspective - you all need to get out of middle america and go and see people living in a world where being able to balance a check book doesn't make it into the top 100 of things to stamp your feet about. Seriously...get on a plane and go and see how most of the world just struggles through one day at a time just to stay alive and then think about how bloody important Serge's maths skills are.

August 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Geez, Sarah, for being so hard on the rest of us imperfect people, you sure come across as bitchy yourself.

And I think it's admirable for a person to try to better themselves at whatever age or stage in life they are.

August 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAsh


Hey, me again, former TGW detractor turned supporter. This one is for Sarah, who somewhat incomprehensibly decided to turn a raw, honest, vulnerable post wherein Monica acknowledges her own weaknesses and expresses the efforts she's making to improve her relationship and perspective....into a platform for attacking Monica BASED ON THE SAME WEAKNESSES SHE ALREADY OUTLINED. O___O

Basically, what you just did looks something like this:

Person One: "You know...this is hard for me, but, I've realized that I've been making some serious mistakes lately. I'm not proud of it, and I'm trying to change."


All I can say is, wtf.

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjust fyi

Oh my it sure sounds like Miss Sarah has herself worked up into some little snit about something. One thing for sure Monica, it isn't about you. I imagine reading your words were like looking in a mirror for her, she didn't like what she saw...and the mirror cracked. Either that or she has been harboring a crush on Serge and her fantasy just melted.

You, on the other hand my dear, have shared with us such a lovely life lesson. ostensibly about perspective. But really about grace. Thank you. You are MY girlcrush which my husband finds amusingly hot.

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Turns out, SARAH is the asshole!

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

First of all, I really admire the fact that you post negative comments on your site instead of just the "you're awesome!" and "Love it!!" comments. I think it is incredibly brave and it just makes me love your blog all the more. To be honest about your relationship is what allows it to ebb and flow the way it needs to in order to survive. Sometimes i wonder if we are meant to be mongamous. I have been married for 4 years and am deeply in love with my husband, but it isn't like it was when we first got together. It is different, deeper and yet somehow less intense and more intense simultaneously. I will fight for our relationship and there is very little that could ever make us walk away from each other and I see that in your telling of your own experience. You have created something so beautiful and honest on this blog. Your writing is important to a lot of us. Also, I just read some of the "tour of duty" posts by Serge. Please tell us that he is writing a book. He is gifted in a way you rarely see. Love to you and your family.

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJaime

lol Jenny!!!!!!

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaggie may

Awwww man! Now I have to ADMIT I may be the asshole too! Thanks, Monica! :)

September 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Thanks for this. I've just started this process with my husband after 9 years together (6 married). It's hard to admit that I'm not perfect and that I can't change him, nor should I try. And it's hard to admit that he's not the source of my misery - I am. I wish you the best in your journey, and thank you for making this process less lonely.

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterK

Someone bitter about Americans? Bloody? Realise? Hmmm.

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermama

Excuse me, it was "recognise"

September 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermama

Oh, my. I've just come to this realization as well. It is hard and it hurts a little but I'm glad to be trying to change for the better. I can't say how much I admire you for putting this out here.

September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErika

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