Standing Up to Dysfunctional RelationshipBy
When I began to stand up for myself, the people around me were in shock and they didn’t like it. When I think back on it, why would they like it? In the past I tried to bend over backwards to do whatever they wanted. I agreed with whatever they wanted me to agree with, and if I didn’t agree I kept my mouth shut about it. I cooked what they wanted and I cooked when they wanted. I complied, just like I had learned to do as a child. I believed that my compliancy made me likeable. I believed that it kept me safe. I tried to be all things to all people, but I denied even to myself that I was doing it. I thought that I took care of me too. I assured myself that I liked living that way, that I was a servant of God, that I was selfless and generous with my time. That is my definition of dysfunctional relationship today.
Everyone was used to that Darlene. Everyone liked that Darlene just the way she was. Why would they want me to change? Most people, from the minute they met me they wanted me to be someone else. They wanted me to adapt to who they wanted me to be. And then it wasn’t good enough anyway. They wanted me to be what they wanted but they didn’t even know what they wanted. More definition of dysfunctional relationship.
For several years I thought about going to therapy, but I didn’t want to spend the money; I viewed it as “taking money away from my family”. I also had a belief that I couldn’t spend the time on myself, that I was raising three kids and that to invest time on working on me and my issues was selfish. But things got bad enough that I felt I had no choice. It was either do some work on myself, (and feel selfish) or lose everything I had anyway.
First person that I stood up for myself with was my husband. It was freaking scary! I told him that I wanted to stay in therapy and he didn’t want me to. He said that we couldn’t afford it but I think it was because he didn’t like that I was changing. He liked things the way they were ~ his way. I told him that I was going to finish the whole process. Period.
Another big thing in the beginning was when he made a reference to something I wanted to do and he said that it had nothing to do with “us”. When asked to clarify he said that it had nothing to do with our goals and dreams. I told him that he had never once asked me what any of my dreams and goals were. He was well into his dream/goal and plan for his business as a beef cattle and hay producer when he met me and he just assumed that I should be part of it with him, so I was, because that is what a good wife does I thought. I thought I should become his support, you know, stand behind him. This was fine for a while, but I gave up everything that I liked in favour for what he liked. I no longer thought about myself as an individual. But I felt like I was suffocating under his life. There was nothing of ME left unless it was what he wanted me to be. So raising the kids and being involved in church groups or teaching Sunday school or activities with our kids met with his approval, but spending time on the computer or visiting a friend out of town was not acceptable.
As I started to grow stronger in therapy I realized that I was really held back by everyone my whole life, including my husband. So in order to live in the change I was trying to achieve, I told him. I remember how the truth of this statement (that he never asked about my dreams) shocked him. I still remember his face when I said it while we were in a joint therapy session. He looked angry, he genuinely did not understand why I would want to do or even be anything separate from him. He expected marriage and a marriage partnership to be just like the one that was modeled for him, the one between his mother and father. That was his belief system. And because I was used to being what others wanted me to be for most of my whole life, it was easy to find myself in this situation in my marriage too. That was my belief system.
Because we were in a joint therapy session, and because we had the help of the therapist to guide the conversation, my husband was willing to listen to me about my feelings and he realized that it was true; he had not considered my dreams, just as his father had not considered his mothers dreams, goals or wishes. He just expected me to join his dream, to be part of his goal, to work towards it with him ~ for him ~ but not to have a separate dream for myself. He thought love was ownership. He treated me like he owned me and he even thought it was his right as a husband. I thought I was happy to live that way, because I thought it was the definition of love and relationship, but I was dying and our marriage was dysfunctional. There was no equality, there was no partnership.
The truth is that I had never even asked myself what my dreams and goals were, because as I described in my last post, I was trying so hard to guess what everyone else wanted me to say, who they wanted me to be, what they wanted me to do. But somehow I realized that I had to start to find out who I was if I was going to break free of the oppression of depression. It I was going to finally wake up and live. And I was going to have to learn to stand up for myself in the true definition of love and relationship.
Eventually my husband and I realized that we had become part of a cycle of psychological abuse and dysfunctional relationship passed down through the generations and that we had to stop it in order to prevent it from being passed on to our own three children. We realized that we had modeled our belief systems to our kids, just as our parents did for us and it was time for us to grow up and learn the real definition of love and model that for them before it was too late.
Real love does that.
Not everyone is willing to change like my husband was though; stay tuned for more reactions.
As always, please share your comments and stories of your own.
Exposing Truth; one snapshot at a time.