Following up on my last post, What To Do When You’re Torn Between Wife and Girlfriend, I noted some all purpose rage in the comments directed at both the man in the middle and the other woman. The short summary being “Dude that’s immoral that you’re cheating on your wife!” and “Home-wrecking bitch!”
Okay… breathe people… let me explain my approach, and why I take a typically underwhelming moral viewpoint on people who ask me for help. So let’s play a game and assume that you, yes you my dear reader, have a very sticky personal problem that you need help with. So you write to me asking for help… you also write to Ingrid Von Banhammer over at Bridezilla of Christ Blog for help as well.
Over at Bridezilla, Ingrid makes short work of your sinful bastard / whorish ways and expresses utter shock at your disgusting perversion of morality. She clutches her pearls and wrings her hands at you, because you’re so upsetting. Won’t you think of the children?!
Now the purpose of other people expressing moral outrage, is to get you to change your behavior by evoking shame or guilt. When this happens, typically you experience one of two reactions. (1) You fold up like a wet napkin and admit to your badness, or (2) you engage your Rationalization Hamster and deny you did anything wrong. If your reaction is (2), then you change nothing about your situation and never return to Ingrid Von Banhammer’s blog because obviously she’s a heartless bitch.
Except it would be incredibly rare that you would write to Ingrid seeking a smack down. It’s far more likely that you write to Ingrid admitting to your evil behavior as part of your question. “Hi Ingrid, I know now that I’ve been a totally sinful asshole and made a real mess of things in my marriage. How do I fix it from here though?” After that point, Ingrid can offer her advice and it’s probably not going to be all that bad and sound a lot like something I would say minus the physical fitness and with a side order of prayer.
However when you write to me, I take a different approach.
My assumption is that when you write to me about a problem, you’re already unhappy about the situation and motivated to change it. Thus I don’t need to jump up on a soapbox and try and shame you into changing your behavior… because you’re already motivated to change your behavior. All shaming you does is make you defensive and thus less likely to change what you’re doing. The question is simply what do you need to do to to solve your problem and be happy?
Your problem dear reader, always stems from you doing something to try and make yourself happy, but it somehow makes you unhappy. You thought that doing X was a great idea and at first it was amazing, but now X seems to have these unexpected side effects and it’s not quite as fun anyone. Also while you were doing X, Y went to hell and now that’s all messed up too. So X and Y are now both problems and you’re even unhappier now than before you started doing X.
After that, I try and find a way to get you what will actually make you happy. Mostly that’s some combination of “Stop doing X, start paying attention to Y again. Once you have that fixed, suggest doing some Z.” Then because it’s in your self-interest to do all that, there’s reasonable chance that you’ll go do it. I WON’T EVEN NEED TO PUT CAPS LOCK ON TO BE CONVINCING. Seriously, every time someone gives you advice using caps, it’s going to be more about them being angry than wanting to helping you. I’m an italics kind of guy. I use them to let you know that I’m explaining something is in your self-interest to fix.
It’s the same reason I don’t write posts about “The Beta Male Dumbass Of The Month”… it just drives the guys that need help away. I’m trying to actually help the people that write to me. They open up their lives and share some of the nastiest most personal crap with me. Nowhere near all of it makes the blog and those that do are allowing it to be shared with you.
So dearly beloved commenters…
When someone asks for help on MMSL, you’re for lack of a better term, on their side. That doesn’t mean you need to agree with what they have done, just that you’re willing to entertain ways of improving their lot in life. Nor does it mean we all have to agree with each other, or even with me. Just that we all work from an intention to be positive and productive in assisting our reader.
I get that if you’re used to arguments for sexual ethics based on a pre-existing moral position, that my approach seems extremely counter-intuitive at best and sinfully depraved at worst. Just bear with me, with a little patience you might be surprised at how often I can explain that doing “the right thing” is the answer to the problems caused by doing “the wrong thing.” But if the comments drive the readers asking the questions away, they will likely continue doing “the wrong thing.”
Or put another way… if MMSL was a credit counseling blog, it would be really unhelpful if some comments just said the reader was just fucking stupid with their money.