We all learn from what we see, especially as children. Even before we are old enough to realize how our parents relate to each other we are learning relationship skills from them. The question you have to ask yourself is how good a role model were they.
My father was the oldest of six, always friendly, sometimes a little shy, very loyal and always open for a good conversation. My mother was the exact opposite. She was hard to get close to, very controlling and what most people would probably label as a user. She evaluated every situation, every person to see what was in it for her. Their relationship was turbulent to say the least.
I’m a lot like my father. I let Mom steamroll right over me the same way Dad did. We both stifled our creativity and our dreams in hopes of keeping her happy. The old saying is true: when Momma isn’t happy, nobody is happy. Mom wasn’t happy unless she felt like she had achieved something nobody else had, or knew something no one else knew.
I realize now I married to get away from Momma. But the relationship I ran to was no more functional than the relationship I was running from. My ex-husband grew up with role models just as screwed up as I did. His father was a Marine until he became ill. I don’t think his mother was ever quite right mentally. She certainly wasn’t when I knew her.
Frank was a lot like Momma in some respects. He was always looking at angles to see how something would benefit him. Whatever he said was law, he always had final say on any decisions for ‘Us’. He tried to live up to the ideals of his father, loyal to God, country, Corp and lastly family. But he had too much of his mother in him. She was the type of conniving woman my mother aspired to be.
Neither of us knew how to have a relationship that was functional because we had never seen one. It’s surprising that we stayed together as long as we did. There were good times, probably as many good as there were bad. But Frank never thought there was anything wrong with the way he did things. He was unwilling to consider the possibility that he had no clue who he was. He didn’t know himself.
Real life is nothing like Leave It To Beaver. My childhood was closer to Roseanne. Relationships take work. We have to study more than one relationship to learn how they work. All the self-help articles in the world won’t teach you anything if you don’t study them all. You have to study, communicate honestly with yourself and your significant other, be willing to admit mistakes and learn to recognize signs that you’re repeating them.
It’s not easy, but nothing worth having is ever easy. Know yourself to free yourself. That’s the true path to happiness….