Where it starts

It’s been several years since I sat quietly crying in the dark, typing words into a search engine, and finding my first ever online abuse support site.  What a shock it was, and what a relief.  There was almost a heady component to my ripping open poorly healed wounds, fueled by the belief that somehow knowing consciously would expedite the bigger change I longed for.

There was also the requisite backlash that comes when an unhealthy person starts rocking the leaky boat, especially when it’s more like a generational ship that was probably never seaworthy to start with.  As I started to unravel how a once passionate, bursting with life, hope and dreams kind of young woman had turned into me, it seemed natural to look back.  Way back.

Yep.  There’s the unhealthy marriage of my parents.  My father was emotionally and verbally abusive to my mother.  He was larger than life, charismatic, a firstborn, mercurial, and could be a lot of fun when we were growing up.  It was all about his mood.  If he was in a good mood, he might be making pancakes for us, or out would come the board games and a good time was ahead.  He liked taking us with him when he worked on weekends, or had short business trips.  He worked hard, and his business required at times a sort of brutal physical labor. He didn’t gamble, rarely cussed, rarely drank, and loved his kids.  In those ways, he was a good father.

But he was a teaser, and sometimes it really hurt feelings.  Funny thing about that, he could dish it out but wasn’t so good with getting it back his direction.  Nobody tried much, because we all wanted him in a good mood.  When his truck pulled in the driveway, it was like an automatic watch to check his mood.  If he was in a bad mood, everyone just kind of scattered.  He didn’t come in and yell at anyone of us particularly, it was more…complaining.  Resenting a broken door latch and grumbling loudly.  Checking the refrigerator, finding something gone bad, resenting and grumbling loudly, usually blaming our mother.  Scowling at the dog.  Complaining loudly about an electric or phone bill.  He was like a big old snarly bear that we all wished would go back in hibernation.

Just plain grumpiness would have been manageable, except sometimes my father and mother would start to argue and fight.  If my mother didn’t speak up, if she just took his grumbling, ranting, and blaming, then the storm would pass sooner.  That’s what she usually did.  My mother had the patience of a saint.  That’s a cliche, but in her case, it was true.   She was by nature kind, sunny, patient, and giving. She loved her tiny kitchen in our small house, and that’s where she reigned.  She had a radio worthy voice that was like smooth starlit velvet, and listening her taught me to love the tunes of the famous Big Band crooners.  My Dad could hold a tune, but sounded more like Willie Nelson.  She sang as she cooked, washed dishes, scrubbed floors, or did the endless laundry.  Except when my father was glaring, and she went quiet.  We all did.

My father was intelligent, and didn’t refrain from using his vocabulary when he was worked up about something.  We were taught that he was the smart one, although the real truth is that my kind, quiet little mother probably had the greater intelligence.  Boxes were applied neatly in my family.  My father the smart one, the strong one.  Mom was the dependent weaker one.  My only brother was the kid that could do no wrong by virtue of his unique appendages, and because he was quiet and flew under the radar; one sister was the good girl helper; another was the quiet, reliable one; another one was the black sheep rebel.  The rebel got away with it because she’d gotten Type 1 diabetes as a child and almost died.  That meant she got special privileges and much less accountability.  I was the Oops at the end.  They meant to be done having kids when they finally had my brother.  Oops, along came another girl.

Except my father was having a fling with another woman.  While my mother was pregnant with me.  That made me not only an oops, but an inconvenient and unwanted pregnancy as my mother tried to survive the pain of infidelity.  I didn’t know about that growing up, but I felt it deeply. My Mom and I weren’t bonded in the same way as she was with my siblings.  It was never acknowledged, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel it.  Unconsciously, I blamed myself.  It meant I felt in some way unlovable and not as worthy of love.

I was the one born with an apology in her mouth, ready to say sorry for anything and any way that I might have troubled or offended someone.  I was also the kid that grew into the teenager that stood up to our father.  To this day, I abhor a bully, and he bullied my mother.  The day came as a teenager when something in me snapped or turned, and as he started yelling at my mother, I got between them and yelled back at him.  Just like that.

There was a look of shock from him, and some shock and awe from my mother’s eyes.  My father and I yelled toe to toe for awhile, and that time, the storm had to pass over my mother.  From that day on, I tried to protect her from being his target.  She was never a match for him in an argument.  Her way was to withdraw and just go about her business as though she didn’t care.  His worst anger was eventually unnerved by that, because no matter how he could diminish her and blame her and sometimes call her terrible names, the truth was that he needed her.  It was as though he had a black bottomless hole of some kind of need, and she was the bedrock of safety for him.  But need is not love.

Did he love her?  My siblings like to say so.  They say things like, “Dad loved her in his own way.”

I loved my father.  I still love my father, and later in his life, he became a Christian.  For some years, he was a hypocritical kind of Christian, the kind that still felt entitled to be hurtful to his wife and yet somehow it wasn’t his fault.  Towards the very end, I saw an absolute change in his heart and his behavior.  He behaved like the man and father that I’d always wanted him to be, and had a patience and care for my mother.

But by that time, my mother had dementia and my father was close to dying from cancer.  I’m thankful that in the big, eternal picture, he finally ‘got it’.  He understood, and like the Grinch, his heart seemed to grow.  Or maybe it was the work of godly sorrow and true repentance finally having its way with him.  In the world of dementia, how much did my Mom know of all this?  Only God knows, and both my parents are with Him now.

What I do know is that I look back to understand, not to blame them.  After all, they were the product of their parents and upbringing, times and culture as well.  Where does the blame stop?  I don’t even want to blame my husband, but I do want to understand.  I want to know the truth.  I’ve always wanted to believe that he loved me… in his own way.  But what if love wasn’t there?  What if all along, I’m the bedrock of safety for his black hole of need?  Not a pretty truth for someone who longs to be passionately loved and enjoyed.  Who longs to be wanted.  What I do feel that I am is ultimately disposable to him.  On a bad day, I feel disposable to life in general.

I know that where and how it started is not how I want my story to end.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Where it starts

  1. Exodus says:

    It’s never been about casting blame for me either but there’s nothing unhealthy about expecting our loved ones to acknowledge their mistakes and rectify them. My father taught me to question everything when I was a young girl and I even remember the exact day that he told me this as we walked down the gravel road from our farm. I didn’t realize the value in his words in those days but I do now. I have always wanted to understand the root cause of everything. I don’t even take medications because I’m not into depending on temporary relief. I want to cure the problem forever. Conflicts arose when I realized that my family did not want me to question anything and therefore, nothing was ever acknowledged, no apologies and no healing. We never evolved out of our dysfunctional roles and I finally severed all ties with my family when I was 28. I gave our family a second chance when I was 49 and it took about 2 visits before I realized that not only had nothing changed, the dynamics that I observed were even more dysfunctional and terribly disturbing especially since I have two nieces that joined the party. I haven’t had any contact with my family since then.
    I’ve come to realize that the difference between toxic and non-toxic dysfunctional families is true love- not narcissistic love, not dependent needy love or competitive love but rather a sincere and unselfish benevolent love for each other. I’ve observed how other more well-adjusted families deal with each other during disagreements and difficult times. I’ve seen parents and children apologizing to each other and hugging and within seconds, they were back to themselves. They don’t become bitter and harbor resentments. They don’t ignore each others pain and pretend that it will mend itself on its own. They don’t grow up to become PA adults. I never had this kind of dynamic in my family. I never had any positive education in relationships and mitigating conflicts. If my mother got mad at my father or me, she would lock herself in her room , sometimes for days or until my brother or I begged her to come out. It didn’t take long before I figured out that she was manipulating us and so, I would just ignore her and leave her in her room. My brother, her golden child, would sit for hours or days, begging and begging and he was so determined to show her how much he loved her and needed her. I thought he was a foolish idiot. Now when I remember those moments, I cry for him and he too wears the scars of our mother’s narcissistic love though he won’t admit it. .
    I moved out when I was 17 because I graduated HS a year early. I planned it that way. Sadly, I think that was the only time in my life that I had any real drive to pursue anything! Once I got out though I was terribly lost and all alone and I had to seek the help of other adults and guidance counselors to help me create direction in my life.
    I’m 53 now and although I’m not codependent and I have grown-out of my toxic conditioning by leaps and bounds, I’m left with the collateral damage from the unhealthy choices of my youth -especially my current marriage. My husband’s personality disorder is even more disturbing to me now that I know what ‘healthy’ looks like.
    PJ’s, it’s not up to us to fix others. Our husbands have absolutely no reason to question anything because their life works for them- thanks to us who make it so comfortable. My husband’s therapist told me once that my husband has it made and for me to expect him to want to change anything is silly and unrealistic. BTW, my husband only attended two therapy sessions and then he quit because he claimed that the therapist hated him and liked me. Whatever!


    • lonelywife07 says:

      PJ….wow, your family sounds a lot like PA Mans family…except his dad was a drunk! A funny drunk, but still…and a cheater also!
      I’m learning more and more about how our family of origin really does impact us later in life….
      Exodus….I’m also 53 and I also feel that I’m now dealing with the unhealthy choices of my youth.
      I have a question? We’re you co-dependent before and if so, how did you become non codependent? I’m stuck on this and can’t seem to move forward.
      Any help you can give me I’d appreciate!


      • Exodus says:

        Hi Lonleywife07. Yes of course our family conditioning impacts everything. No family is without dysfunction. It’s just that not all of us were blessed with wise unselfish parents who realized this and would make a sincere attempt to equip us with a healthy self esteem, healthy social skills and model functional relationship skills. Yes, I was codependent ( still am recovering) and I’ve known this since my twenties. If you don’t know much about it, read the book, ‘ Codependent No More’ by Melody Beattie. My mother is very codependent due to her narcissism and I became very aware of this dynamic at a young age..how she would use her friends until she used them up. I became aware of how she was doing this to me as well and found myself always in rescue mode. After years of attempting to fix all the broken and emotionally-unavailable people in my life ( my mother included) I realized I was drained, depressed, lonely and had little to give back. I got fed up with everything and everyone. When I was about 29, I severed ties with my family but that was a first attempt at creating a better life for myself. It was awful. I had a really difficult time letting go. Then, after I got married to my current husband and realized what I was dealing with, I got SUPER fed up!!! I guess I was around 41. I got so fed up that I literally removed all the toxic people, famly and toxic customers from my life- except for my husband. He’s the last bit of toxic waste in my life and unfortunately hinged to me through our business. Anyway, I had no other choice but to make the changes.. It’s really sad to know that your own family, those who are supposed to want the best for you and love you ‘unconditionally’, don’t. I had been pigeon-holed into a role that my mother created for me so that her life worked well for her and she didn’t give a rat’s patooty whether I was happy or healthy. In fact, when we are happy and healthy, the vampires get uneasy and defensive and create more drama and chaos to bring us down and assume our role again. I had a friend once who was an alcoholic and so was her husband. She woke up one day, fed up, left him and went into treatment and became sober. After several months, he wanted her to come back and she did return but it only took her a week to realize that he wasn’t happy that she quit drinking. He felt judged and uncomfortable around her, tried tempting her to drink again. He needed a drinking buddy that would not threaten his way of life and make him feel like a loser. Instead of falling victim to his desperate pleas, she left after that first week and she dumped all the toxic vampires from her life too!

        One of the reasons that I left last week was to expose myself to other people in an effort to get feedback from others about myself. I’ve been so isolated that I simply don’t know who I am anymore…..am I funny? am I pretty? am I mean, boring? Am I able to converse with others? Will I appear stupid and pathetic? Will I find that I’m too sensitive to triggers? It was truly an enlightening experience and although I still haven’t solved my problems, I came back home with a lot more self respect than I left with. I even fixed my hair and I’ve lost 3 lbs ( I went kayaking…I’m still recovering..heheheh). I need to travel and meet different people. We all need to step out of our comfort or rather, discomfort zone and reclaim our spirit that we have neglected to nurture.
        I know that I’m a very caring and compassionate person by nature but, by nurture, I’ve been taught that I’m not worthy of receiving the same from others. I realize now the latter is a lie. So, I strive for balance by making a very conscious effort not to invite or entertain needy emotional vampires into my life and when I get that feeling that I’m being sucked into someone’s game, I will walk away. It’s very easy for me to do this now because I’m older, grumpier and have less tolerance for such nonsense. I guess I’m just 53 years fed up! I only do for others what I can when I can and I only give what I’m able to afford to give and that’s it. I have now officially retired from the Humpty Dumpty assembly line.
        I will warn you that in the beginning stages of reclaiming yourself, you may become very defensive /protective of your well-being to the point that you may offend others or lose your temper with people that threaten your well-being. That’s ok. The extremes are necessary in order to weed-out the toxic vampires and discover the well-adjusted middle. Those who truly do care about you will understand and be there cheering you on. Don’t be surprised though if there’s no one cheering.

        Oh and PS…my husband is NOT happy at all that I’m taking care of myself. Yesterday when he got home, I was working out on our elliptical machine and he rolled his eyes and mumbled a typical insult. I just smiled and asked him what he was planning for dinner 😀 I no longer cook for him. If he won’t respect me enough to call me to let me know when he’s planning on coming home from work, then , he can fix his own dinner. I’m not his lady in waiting any longer. Pfoo!

        I am very sincerely cheering you on! You can do it. There’s no need to waste another minute waiting for something to change. We may not be able to leave our marriages right now but we can always find a way to create joy for ourselves amidst the misery. I’m already planning my next road trip for this weekend. The hubby will be eating hot dogs alone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s