When you are raised having your words and feelings ignored, dismissed, challenged and twisted to be used against you, you may, as I did, dedicate much time to seeking the exact right words (once realizing volume and profanity do not work in your favor, ever) to express a thing so that you may be heard. Not realizing that the people to whom you are speaking have no intention of hearing you, and need, at a cellular level, to not hear you. Because knowing a thing, means (for most of us) having responsibility to take informed action.
There is a very consistent pattern and dynamic in households where generations of those affected by addiction are in control: A difficult or uncomfortable thing gets said but not acknowledged, and if you say it again, you are accused of nagging(not moving on) and then questioned: Why are you still saying that? If the thing is expressed with emotion, your tone gets policed while the content is discounted. That situation made me a lunatic, first with the people to whom I am related— and then in a marriage to a man who is wired identically to my relatives.
Relatives is the word I have now connected with, to identify those to whom I am linked genetically. It felt awkward calling them “my family” because of the clear lack of connection and regard I experienced with them. Saying “family” felt like a lie, a pretense. Also the word love felt similarly. “I love you” was routinely said before bed and for goodbye. But by my definition of love, which says that– love sees you, hears you and protects you, unconditionally- we did not love each other. That is not a type of love I experienced with my relatives and ex-husband. Ever. And it made perfect sense when I said “I love you” in my troubled relationships before recovery because I used the phrase according to how I had learned to love and be loved. I 100% loved my husband the same way I loved my relatives. And he loved me as they did—it was painful for all of the days in which I refused or was unable to pretend…most of the days. We all agreed if I could just be different, we could be fine and happy and together. Like a family.
I infrequently tell Sweet Greg that I love him (Because of my 40 years of shitty broken “love” with chemically dependent and emotionally stunted people(no resentment there. ha!)) What Greg and I have and do is different, deserving of a another word. Also, I refuse to call Greg my boyfriend. Not only because that word got ruined, but because I am old AF, not 12, and he is much more than a BF. I don’t say partner, because that feels awkward and to me, implies that we live together or that we are gay. He is just My Sweet Greg. And calling him my companion sounds as if he is paid or like we are in our 70s. There are no right words!
Even the word “boyfriend” was uncomfortable in referring to men whom, for years, I tethered myself. Because I noted other women enjoying thoughtful, kind love, joy, gifts and fun from dedicated boyfriends. I would label the man in my life my boyfriendy-type-person (BTP), which would at least make me laugh. I had come to believe that if I were verrrrrrry lucky, I miiiiight be able to find one man who would tolerate, ignore me, sleep, and share meals with me, forevvvver. I hoped to be so lucky.
I recall my last conversation with my mother, in which she demanded I get over the betrayal(which she insisted did not happen(ironically while it was still happening)) and just come to dinner like a member of the family. I responded to her by saying: “There was a time when I would share beds and meals with people who treat me as if I am unworthy and naughty. That time has passed. I have changed and that will not work. ” I got up to leave and she said; “I wish you well, Maggie”. I let myself out and she locked the door behind me and those were our final words, as I knew they would be. She and my sister continued to circumvent our issues at the expense of my children’s peace by meeting as a family(by their definition) with my ex and our children therefore knowingly dividing us as co-parents, probably forever. Hate is a very strong word…but in this case feels the closest I can get, to naming the feeling I have for what they do to my boys’ parents in order to meet their own needs. They are winning the war of their design and choosing, while my boys lose.
We are related, only by the co-incidence of my birth. Whatever is felt for me, is nothing that has ever been healthy for me. The behaviors and choices of my mother and her family are about them, reflective of their values, beliefs, and way of being in the world, AND not a reflection of my worth or lovability. They are her family, my relatives. And it is plain to see how they would appreciate an emotional similar-ness to my ex-husband and his divided scapegoated family.
Al-Anon has introduced me to new language and experiences of: myself, others, faith, wholesome love, kindness, family, belonging, boundaries, connection, self-esteem, service, detachment, and serenity. I have experienced each of these, for the first time, in this program of recovery, and never with my relatives. Repair or repeat. For nearly 10 of my 50 years, I have been working slowly to repair what I hope to not repeat.
Love is not easy or without pain and struggle but it, I believe, to be benevolent, a promise, and a commitment.Much Love,
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