Thanksgiving, Christmas and Dysfunctional FamiliesBy
Today I am thankful that I came out of the fog of victim mentality. I am grateful that I don’t live in the dysfunction that was my entire life for so many years. In honor of the American Thanksgiving, I am posting a story of a not so great family holiday incident which took place during the process of “emerging from broken;”
Several years ago now, when my husband Jimmy and I were going through the process of repairing the damage done in our marriage (which was after I had gone through my process of emerging from broken), we started to see the dysfunction in our relationships with our parents and extended family.
When we embrace ourselves as valid and worthy people, there are bound to be changes that take place within the family dynamic. Our families were no exception. Busting through the fog is not something that happens overnight, but as we started to stand up for our individual rights, over time we began to notice that Jim’s father was fighting back quite a bit.
The problems started to become more obvious to us when “grandpa” (Jimmy’s father) wanted our daughter to help him put a new roof on a shop, but he made it clear that he would pay her at the end of the job, and he would pay her what he thought that she was worth. As I said, Jim and I were coming out of the “fog” but we knew what his father’s idea of “what she was worth” was. It would end up being pretty much nothing. He kept bringing it up, this business of not paying her until later until finally I asked him for clarification. He got mad. Eventually he asked what minimum wage was, and when we told him he got upset and said that he had more time than money. Our daughter didn’t get asked to help with the roof again. The thing is that she would have done it just because but HE kept bringing up this whole money thing as though he would DECIDE her worth, and it was really De-Valuing to our daughter. Jim was having memories and realizations of his own about the lack of value his father had constantly put on him.
Then came the day when his parents demanded Jimmy help them with something when he was in the middle of some important farm work of his own. He finally said that he couldn’t do it because he had to get back to his own work, and his father was stunned… How dare he put his OWN work first? The truth is that Jimmy had never put his own work first before. AND he was constantly reminded by his father of how inefficient that he was as a worker, and that was a spin he lived in all his life ~ finally Jim said no to something his father wanted and things started to get tense.
It was because of the whole one sidedness of the relationship that we really began to realize that Jim’s father never once regarded anything that Jim (or I ) did as important. That he was only interested in his own agenda. We were in our forties with three children of our own but we were being controlled by his parents.
Then came the Christmas Eve that his parents came over to tell us off and attempt to put us back in our places. They tried to make us submit to them, to bow down to them as we had always done in the past. In front of our children, they reprimanded us, told Jim that his business was a disaster, that he had made a mess of things and that it was my fault because I was a bully who had dictated how the farm should be run and had been allowed to make all the financial and business decisions even though in reality, nothing was a mess at all, and the reason we were in marriage counseling was because I was not ever included in any of the decisions about the business OR about how we spent money.
We were really stunned and at some point during this lecture from Jim’s father, we fell back under the spell of his control and abuse. We got told off. I was stunned realizing that something really bad just happened although I wasn’t really sure what the heck it was. Even though we tried to put up a fight and stand up for ourselves, the fog surrounded us again.
And then his father was happy again. He got his authority back because we submitted to him. His order was restored. He was in charge again, he was on the throne. And we all went into the living room and opened Christmas presents. I felt like I was dreaming. It all seemed so horribly wrong and yet it was so familiar. I watched my husband relax as though the whole world was restored back to order. And in so many ways, it was. Familiar, safe, comfortable; according to the way that we live under the reign of an abuser Jim was safe, as long as his father was not upset with him. It was as though Jimmy believed that his father could still decide whether or not Jimmy lived or died.
After all the present opening and gift giving was done, and everyone was” oh so happy” we revisited the plans for the Christmas family get together (which had been planned but had never been confirmed because Jim and I were not being compliant) and we were told “No” they were going home. They informed us that they were going to let us “think” about what they said to us and then they left. It took us a few hours to realize that we had just been punished, but it didn’t take us long to realize that this is the way that it had always been. We started to remember all the other punishments. We had to do exactly what Jim’s Dad wanted, we had to submit to his authority, we had to be who he wanted us to be and do things the way he said we should or we would pay the consequences.
No equality or equal value, no respect. His definition of love (obedience and compliance) did not apply to him. It was all about power and control. His control.
And we were great victims; we were always compliant and even PERFECT victims
but when we said no more……
They said goodbye.
But that was their loss. You may think that this story doesn’t have a happy ending, but think about it. What did we lose? What did we gain? We don’t have to live in that nightmare anymore.
Today I am grateful and extremely thankful for the fact that no one dictates what I do and don’t do. No one tells me who I am or who I should be. I am grateful for my freedom and wholeness, emotional recocery and for the fact that I no longer struggle with depression or dissociative identity disorder. I am grateful that we live in the truth. I am grateful that my husband wants to live in the truth with me, and that in our marriage I have equal value, respect and our children know the real definition of love. I am grateful that I got my life and my voice back. I am grateful that I got my identity back and that the fog is gone. I am grateful for each one of you.
Happy Thanksgiving! Please feel free to share.
With love and gratitude ~
Darlene Ouimet with thanks to my husband Jimmy B for contribution to this post.
Related post; The beginning of Emotional Recovery