It wasn’t on purpose; mostly my Mom was just unaware—and Dad, too.
When we reflect upon childhood, we remember the happy and the not so happy through our adult eyes.
There may have been an overall theme playing background music; in my case, I remember my Mom being angry with my Dad as the theme.
If you ask her, she would never agree with my perspective—yet all I remember is her agitation toward my workaholic father. My Mom isn’t a bad person, she just didn’t realize the affect she had on me.
She’d constantly complain about the lack of time he gave to the family, because of work; she’d be upset with how he handled things, like her birthday and holidays.
She switched gears between yelling, saying cutting remarks and the silent treatment; she also used these techniques on my brother and I.
This would often lead the three of us to scratch our heads, wondering, which one of us had completely fucked up (insert any holiday or date here), once again.
My Dad’s childhood was one of anger and instability; his anger percolated, beneath the surface as he allowed my Mom to treat him as she did, until he’d explode.
Until, I started having romantic relationships. What a shocker when I realized many years ago, that I was repeating one of my Mom’s favorite patterns of punishment: the silent treatment.
I was lying in bed one night with my then angry boyfriend, engaged in a somewhat heated exchange; a conversation, in which I wasn’t getting my way. I remember rolling away from him and the familiar childhood feelings coming over me; I wanted to block all emotion, feel sorry for myself and think what an asshole he was…yet, I wanted him to rescue me from my pity prison.
As I started wallowing, it hit me: “What the fuck am I doing?”
I was punishing him with the silent treatment; the one where I made him ask what’s wrong a million times, until satisfied that he gave a “shit” and then I’d answer him, as though I was Moses.
I stopped; I asked myself, “Is this what I want to do?”
An image of my Mother stared back at me, I knew it wasn’t how I wanted my relationship to be. For the first time, I spoke what I felt, what I wanted and even though it was shaky and ineloquent, it was a start.
Fast forward years later to a longer term relationship, one with a lot more connection, love and acceptance—though it was clearly not working.
I’d contemplate everything about him; in my head, I’d hear the repeating mantra, “I don’t want to be angry.”
I kept looking at him as the source of my anger, never understanding that I’d purposely looked for someone to be my partner in the dance of anger.
I kept attracting men who would piss me off, disappoint me, who refused to give enough or at all. Relationships, where I struggled like my Mother did, for their attention, affection, time, commitment and consistency.
I used to attract outwardly angry men—instead, this one had a long fuse, yet was angry underneath—until I had enough emotional awareness, to realize that I was re-creating my childhood.
I thought about him making beautiful promises and then hiding; he needed to disappoint me, so I’d think he was unworthy, useless, etc. I focused on what pissed me off . I remembered his childhood environment of instability in one home and anger in the other, of his feeling unworthy.
He had a track record of angry women.
He was used to it; it’s what he knew and he looked for women, subconsciously, to fill the bill. If they weren’t the “angry, crazy type,” he’d make sure he acted in a way to provoke them. Even with us, where the basic elements of our relationship and communication were simpatico, deeply connected and fun.
Then I took the mirror and turned it inward: Where was I matching him?
Right there. I knew it: I’d been subconsciously attracting someone to make me angry; someone to provide the familiar anger I knew.
I had a choice—I didn’t want to live in anger and disappointment anymore. I stopped expecting that he’d come through with action; I also stopped taking him personally, realizing he, like me had continued making choices, which kept us in our childish, angry place.
I’ve become discerning when it comes to what I attract and when I meet men who are angry or provokers, I happily make the choice to not engage.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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