You probably have never heard of this term before. That is because I just invented it. Now there always exists the possibility that someone else discovered this principle before I did. Maybe they even gave it a similar name. But, I did not borrow the concept; I only coined this term one day when it suddenly popped from my brain. To the best of my knowledge, it is not out there anywhere.
Everyone has done this. It has initiated or aggravated more arguments in marriage than anything else I can think of. It goes something like this:
● Why do you have to leave such a mess in the kitchen just to make a sandwich?
● You are just never happy with anything I do, are you?
● I just don’t like walking into the city dump every time you get hungry.
This dynamic is as transparent as the process is destructive. Two people are intent on blaming each other. In this case, a bread wrapper and an empty mayonnaise jar being hardly an impeachable offense in a marriage, the tactic on both sides is to exaggerate the offense so as to be able to cast it in a more offensive light. We EXAGGERATE the offender’s action & ATTRIBUTE the greater offense to them. The problem is always, of course, that exaggerated attribution only adds considerably more fuel to the fire of discontent in any conflict. It is an unfair negotiating tool because it is a dishonest tactic.
Here is the problem expressed as a contrasting reactions and what they are most likely to evoke:
Scenario No. 1:
● Husband cleans up after himself.
● Wife is happy
Scenario No. 2:
● Wife: “Wife cleans up after husband & says nothing.”
● Husband: “Thanks, dear. I shouldn’t have left such a mess for you. I’m sorry.”
Scenario No. 3:
● Wife: “Do you mind cleaning up your mess?”
● Husband: “O.K.. Sorry.”
Scenario No. 4: (mild Exaggerated Attribution)
● Wife: “Can you PLEASE try to not be such a pig in the kitchen?
● “Sorry. Did you have a bad night’s sleep or something?”
Scenario No. 5: (Destructive Exaggerated Attribution)
● Wife: “Are you kidding me? Did those Vikings from that credit card commercial just have lunch here?”
● Husband: “WHAT?” I just spent 20 minutes in the bathroom gagging on hairspray and nail polish remover, and you want to call a sandwich wrapper a Viking invasion?”
Solution: If you can’t engage on the level of Scenario 1, 2, or 3, than at least don’t Photoshop the lizard in the terrarium to look like T Rex.
Suggestion: Have a “cuss jar” on the counter. Every time one person exhibits “Exaggerated Attribution,” they have to put $1 in the jar (or $5). When it hits a certain amount, go have dinner on it & post a cozy picture of the glorious event on Facebook. . . . but don’t exaggerate the menu in your description . . . .