Every newly-wedded couple expects to meet only shared bliss and mutual delight. Sadly, marriage can lead elsewhere.
Whenever I hear the phrase, “See what you made me do!” I recall it being said by siblings to one another — in anger. One had jostled or knocked the other (either inadvertently or on purpose) and there’d been an accident or some type of breakage. I recall one of my sons berating the other when popcorn was spilled on the floor or ketchup ended up on the family room couch. It didn’t happen frequently and as they matured the remark was said only in jest.
I recently heard this statement in a completely different, more sinister context. Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC Radio has made a series of podcasts Welcome to Paradise. It’s about intimate partner violence which she suffered at the hands of her husband when she was 23. The marriage lasted one year. This is the first time this highly acclaimed journalist has spoken publicly about her personal trauma.
In the second episode, we learn that the couple had eloped and set up house in Nova Scotia. One day, something about her attempt to jolly him out of a bad mood had triggered his first episode. After physically attacking her with a pot of hot coffee and then pounding her back with his fists, he yelled, “See what you made me do!”
Behaviour Can be Prompted by a Partner
Thankfully I have never experienced any physical violence, but these words sound like the type of blame a guilty person would attempt to assign to another — after behaving badly themselves. It’s natural that anyone inclined to purposely injure another would deny ownership after realizing they’d lost control.
Perhaps there are situations when the statement, “See what you made me do” is valid. People can influence others to go against social norms and break the rules. Let’s consider adultery.
One of the highest profiles cases of adultery prompted the sad disintegration of Prince Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana. It is not my intent to declare what really happened because the only people who know are those inside the relationship. But the more books and documentaries I absorb regarding their marital life, the more I believe that Diana deeply loved Charles on the day they wed in 1981 — in spite of his quirks.
As they settled into married life, they likely had different priorities and outlooks; I have the impression that Charles didn’t understand how she thought or make much attempt to meet her needs. He was too busy being the heir to the British throne and carrying out his royal duties — or playing polo. Their 12 year-age gap didn’t help matters and they’d each been raised in a bizarre environment: his family was royal and formal; hers was impacted by her mother’s abandoning the family when Diana was only six.
In the 1980s, as everybody began to fall in love with the lovely Princess Diana and she became the most famous woman in the world, Charles appeared openly jealous of her fame. In turn, she became increasingly disillusioned with his cold, distant behaviour. Many distraught people who suffer from eating disorders are obsessed with controlling the one thing they still have control over — what they put in their mouths. Marrying her prince had not turned out the way she’d expected.
During their marriage it’s now clear that Charles still loved Camilla Parker-Bowles with whom he’d had a romance when both had been young and single. The fact that those two are now married makes Diana’s statement to the BBC interviewer, “There were three of us in this marriage,” likely spot-on.
Neither Party is Blameless
When the stunning Diana began flirting openly with the attractive men clustered around her, her self-esteem must have grown exponentially when they flirted back. Both tabloids and seriously researched books have listed a multitude of her lovers: bodyguards, riding instructors, doctors, and wealthy playboys.
Just prior to their legal separation, one can imagine loud, raging arguments about infidelity. I wonder if Diana ever said something like, “See what you made me do! Other men treat me well and appreciate me. I fell for Tom (or Dick or Harry) because you are so busy loving Camilla, the Rottweiler. It’s not my fault.”
As a marriage breaks down, each partner is consumed with their own disappointments and cravings. They’d pledged to love and support each other “until death do us part” and yet all those forever feelings have disintegrated.
Perhaps the statement “See what you made me do!” is warranted after all. I’ve chosen one famous pair’s behaviour to illustrate this concept, but maybe it applies to a high percentage of people who have affairs which then destroy the marriage. But what triggered the affair?
As a woman whose own marriage dissolved after 41 years, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what causes divorce. My research convinces me that neither partner is completely blameless, no matter how innocently they try to paint their own behaviour. They may have stayed too quiet when annoyed, spent too much money without consultation, had casual flings to find love again, hidden their frustration when their spouse withheld affection, ignored bad behaviour hoping it would just go away, or lied about being happy and contented.
In my opinion, both parties can authentically make the statement, “See what you made me do.” It takes two to marry and it takes two to split.
This article was first published on Medium.com