The effects of parental abuse are longstanding. Whether people admit it or not, the methods parents use to raise their kids weave themselves into the fabric of who we are, and eventually reemerge when we date as adults.
Years ago I dated a soccer goalie from my college. Though handsome and charming, he was also aloof and angry most of the time. I remember trying to be perfect in order to make him happy. A few times in conversation he’d suddenly say concluding statements like, “You know what? If you don’t like it, you can leave – don’t let the door hit you in the ass!” I remember being shocked at his explosive statements.
Decades later and deep into therapy, I was married to an alcoholic who had the same anger issues. “That’s just the way I am and don’t ask me to change, cause I’m not changing for anyone!” my alcoholic ex-husband had said sternly. He was right – he didn’t change. Even after spending a week in jail for driving drunk.
But thanks to therapy, I changed.
As it turned out, those fools were just surrogates for my emotionally absent father. *sigh* Oh, sure, fathers get blamed for a lot, absolutely. But if you follow my Periscope Live Broadcasts, you’ll realize I’m a stout defender of good dads. My father could have been good, but he wasn’t. I never had a deep conversation with my father about anything. I never went to him repeatedly for advice on anything. We were only together in stores a handful of times, and those times I had to run to catch up with him. I remember he once took my friend and I to a movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was monumental. But more often than not, my father would follow in my mother’s footsteps in order to make her happy, and would believe her when my mother claimed I was being spiteful. So more often than not, he was inexplicably angry with me.
One Thanksgiving I had invited a friend for dinner – her family was dispersed for the holidays, and with no living mom to be with, I had invited her to our house to be with my family for the day. My father heard me hang up the phone.
“Who was that?” he asked. I told him. He immediately flipped out, got physical with me and hissed, “If you ever invite anyone over our house ever again for the holidays, I’ll fucking kill you.”
That was my father. And quite frankly, now I know it was also my mother, whispering to him behind the scenes on how I must have done something wrong, and he was to be angry about it. And sadly, he always obliged her.
So depending on how your parents raised you, the negative effects can severely impact current relationships. Do you allow people to scream at you? Do you make excuses for bad behavior, hoping the person will still love you? Do you work tirelessly trying to make someone happy? Are you constantly trying to predict how they’ll react?
A friend visited a few days ago, during which we chatted about her broken marriage. She spent hours trying to make everything perfect – dinner on time, house sparkling clean, everyone neat and tidy. And yet she was exhausted, and he was still an alcoholic with emotional issues. My friend said she even went as far as seeing several doctors – she thought she was having a medical issue. But it wasn’t. She was trying to prevent her alcoholic husband from being depressed. “If everything is perfect, how can he be depressed, right?” Wrong. They’ll find a way.
Ask yourself: Do you feel inexplicably tired all the time? Do you have emotional outbursts and don’t know why? Do you question your health – physical or even mental?
With my own alcoholic ex-husband, I found my own choices to be very clear at the time: Go with the flow and become a battered housewife that could one day be immortalized in a pathetic, tearful cinematic movie, or leave the asshole and live a blissful life. I’ve witnessed a few friends attempting the “If you can’t live with it, join it,” attitude, and guess how that ended? Yes, they’re still getting divorced. I left him.
Thankfully, because of therapy, I knew that I should not tell my parents that I was leaving my husband at the time. I knew – from their past behavior – that they would not be supportive. So I organized everything, left him, then told my parents. And you know what? I was right. They were not supportive. To this day, they still entertain the alcoholic who’s been in jail, who didn’t properly send child support, who used his son as a tool for revenge. He’s lied to judges, lawyers, his parol officer… But it doesn’t matter. I’m free of the monster – and now completely free of my parents who support such behavior.
Wow! How did that happen, you ask? Did I really leave my parents? Yes, yes I did. If you take a look at the world around you, you’ll realize there are happy families, happy marriages, happy everything, all around. There really is no reason to be tied to a bunch of crazy people. Therapy has taught me that. And so I took a look at my relationships, took an honest tally of all the suppressed feelings from over the years, and I realized that my parents were a well of horrific negative poop. Yes, that’s it – total crap. They’d been feeding it to me and my siblings for years, and I eventually became the second child to leave their family.
So take a wide-eyed look at your world. Is it really just the immediate situation that’s a problem, or does it go deeper? For me, my parents had a firm grip on me, keeping me from a successful, happy, positive life. Had I not gone to therapy and been brave enough to analyze my world, it would never have changed. I challenge you to do the same.