Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Childhood Realizations

This is an incredibly difficult post for me to write and but I feel like it's important because if just one person can benefit from what I struggle with, it will be worth it.  I'm a child of divorce.  So what, right?  There might be more kids of divorce than there are kids from a happy, healthy, long lasting marriage.  The reason for that divorce was infidelity.  Again, another less than rousing surprise.  To dissect it even further, weight was brought up as a reason for the divorce.  Ah HA...said the chubby girl who grew into a super morbidly obese adult clawing her way back to "normalcy!"  I was a young girl when this happened, 4th grade.  I was never really a daddy's girl but when it was clear my family was breaking up, it was still upsetting even if I didn't have a close relationship with him.

My mom did her best to shield me from most of it but I am my mother's daughter and like to talk out my feelings so we did discuss it a lot.  I went through counseling when my grades dropped, had crying fits in the middle of class and would have what I would now classify as kiddie panic attacks at school, petrified my mom was going to leave me too.  Sometimes she could calm me down over the phone, sometimes she had to come get me from school or at least visit to show "see, I'm still here."  I was a skilled eavesdropper especially when asked to leave the room.  I overheard my mom talking on the phone to my aunt about weight being an issue and that he didn't really even talk to her about it.  By the time I was 11, I realized that 3 pivotal men in my life that I loved and respected had all cheated and two of the three had heavier wives.  This obviously stuck in my head.

Poor Mr barely stood a chance.  When I met him, we were both in the middle of diets and when we found someone who loved the other without having to be at "goal weight" the diets were done.  Of course you all know how that turned out...eventual out of control weight gain.  I was about 100 lbs heavier the day we married (4 years after we met) but he was about the same.  We gained it together.  I'll say that first year of marriage was a hard one.  My demons reared their ugly heads and almost cost me my marriage.  When he started a new job just after our honeymoon, I grilled him about the women at work.  How many were there?  Were they pretty?  If a woman's name came up in conversation, my ears perked up.  "Where does she work?    Does she sit close to you?"  He would have to nicely reassure me that women in his line of work weren't known for being the beauty queen type and I had nothing to worry about.  He switched jobs quite a bit the first half of our marriage and you can imagine this became habit.  The weird thing?  I didn't even get WHY I was asking him those things.  It never occurred to me that my first stepmother was a woman my father met at work.  I thought it was just something women asked their husbands especially when they no longer worked together.  (We worked several jobs together and another job his building was in the building behind mine and we carpooled)  It never dawned on me that the sins of the father were being projected onto my husband with no basis for doing so.  He was very aware of how much I despised men who  cheated especially without ever letting their wives in on knowing how unhappy they were.  How can you fix something when you don't even know something was so broken in the other persons eyes that they were thinking of leaving?  Doesn't the love you once shared (the love one thinks still exists) and the mutual respect you once had count toward having a hard conversation or two or ten before throwing in the towel or turning to someone else?

One day I put two and two together after he told me he couldn't live that way anymore.  It wasn't just the women at work thing, I was just downright mean because in my experience with people in my family on either side and even boys/men I loved before I met the Mr...men leave.  In my head I apparently thought "push him away before he leaves you and then you can say "SEE!  I told you so!""  Yeah, THAT makes sense.  But often times it's not until later in life that those things from our childhood pop up and you can finally see them for what they are.  Things you didn't even realize affected your relationships, how you function in them and how they affect your own self worth.  For those most part I have dealt with those demons but there is one particular thing that likes to whisper in my ear...something that terrifies me but I know is in my head.

Come back tomorrow to see what is is...

Do you have something from your childhood that affected how you relate to your significant other?  How did you deal with it?

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22 comments:

  1. I had a few things from my childhood that affect my relationship with my husband. The worst one being that I'm the one that runs the house. It's my way or the highway. My dad was very dominant in our house and ruled with an iron fist. My mother just ket him do and say whatever and never stood up for herself. I was NOT going to be THAT woman. Now, it's like I have no bend in me, and that lead to a VERY harsh reality check VERY recently. We're still trying to deal with it. Unfortunately, you never see these things coming until they're at your door. Thanks for sharing Mrs.

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  2. I know this post was tough to write and even tougher to put out there but I think you'll find that it will not only help others but it will help us both as well, just by seeing that others deal with similiar things.

    I am so proud of you for facing the demons and I will do the same. We can change and grow and become better by recognizing these things about us and understanding ourselves, and eachother, more in the process.

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  3. Oh honey, preach! First on the childhood pasts (ok pasts in general) affecting current relationships and you not even being conscious of why you are acting the way you are. And two on the cheating.

    Interestingly enough yesterday’s topic in class was divorce and co-parenting in my parenting class. You know my favorite topic. They talked about how divorce affects kids at different stages and how cheating really does a number on the kids. How with girls it often affects them just as it did to you and often waits until girls are in early adulthood and looking to form intimate relationships. How they have a hard time believing that marriage can work, that it can be long lasting, and the doubt of it all. My teacher (who is absolutely awesome and may be my favorite, at the very least the one I have learned the most from) said that relationships can work and that people can make it last for a long time. I guess I needed to hear that because I have that doubt myself after everything, and my parents are still married.

    “He was very aware of how much I despised men who cheated especially without ever letting their wives in on knowing how unhappy they were. How can you fix something when you don't even know something was so broken in the other persons eyes that they were thinking of leaving? Doesn't the love you once shared (the love one thinks still exists) and the mutual respect you once had count toward having a hard conversation or two or ten before throwing in the towel or turning to someone else?”
    This part really struck me, as you probably can imagine. I can’t speak to your mom’s situation, but from my own experience I can imagine her pain. For me I knew we weren’t exactly happy, BUT I also didn’t realize just how unhappy he was. I thought if he just grew up, just decided to start trying as hard as I was, one of these days things will turn around and he will want to make it work. I didn’t realize we were as broken as we were and I thought I at least deserved him being honest with me. But some people are cowards and take the easiest way out of a difficult situation. Maybe it was because he never had to deal with anything hard his whole life. He was sheltered by his parents who did everything for him. He was always given the easy way out of everything, excuses made, misdeeds forgiven away, he never struggled. So when a difficult situation presented itself he didn’t know how to cope. I guess that is where a hard past helps, you figure out how to cope and deal with things. And for me I can’t imagine doing so and hurting another person. He never thought of anyone else and what his actions would do to them. I was just collateral damage. To people like that it doesn’t matter what the other person deserves, the amount of effort they put into the relationship, what they had invested. People like that only care about themselves and making themselves happy. Doesn’t matter if the right thing to do is hard, they don’t think in terms of the right thing to do. And it sucks.

    But the best part of all this, you are emotionally aware of how this is affecting you now and you have the power to change how you react to it. It sucks to have that kind of past but you get to make those lessons a part of you for the better. You can now empathize with people going through hard, life changing times because you have gone through life changing stuff too. Your dad didn’t just cheat on your mom, he did it to you too. He broke up your family and that affects you too. That is what makes me so crazy about people with kids. Be a grown up and think about what is best for your kids, not your penis.

    Thank you for sharing this. It was brave and I’m glad the realizations have now come. You are a tough cookie and I’m glad the MR loved you so much through all that. You two give me hope.

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  4. Oh yeah. My mom affected my self confidence, and I think she did it without meaning to. She was always a skinny little thing (my dad was the one with a weight problem), and I know my obesity bothered her, although she rarely mentioned it. However, one time not long after I had gotten married, she made some comment about my hubby being "so young" and maybe having a "wandering eye." Now we did get married awfully young, I was 19, he had just turned 18, but that thought had never occurred to me, even though I had gained at least 100 pounds in the first couple of years we were married. He gained about 40 lbs. and has stayed there ever since. But I have gained more, lost some, gained again, lost some more, you know the cycle, in the 41 years we have been married. I have definitely been obese much more than I was ever at a normal weight however, like close to 40 years of morbid obesity compared to maybe 1 or 2 years of normalcy or near normalcy.
    Never once did he give me any reason to suspect that he might be unfaithful and I would swear today that he never even entertained any thoughts like that. However, once my mother raised that suspicion in my mind, I couldn't quit thinking about it. It gave me a lot of stress and pain that probably was completely unnecessary.
    As a mother, sometimes I think my boys simply ignore anything I have told them over the years, but maybe I had more influence than I realized. I know the things my mother said to me (and she has been gone for 22 years now) still stick with me, both good and bad.

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  5. Oh, come on, a cliffhanger, really???! lol! Very insightful, honest post that I know will help a lot of folks. I had a lot of things from my parent's relationship that affected me as well, and they were married for nearly 50 years before Dad passed away. I can remember arguments that were nasty and crying in my room just sure they were going to divorce--they didn't. But, many of my Dad's actions/words and my Mom's reactions stuck in my mind and shaped who I am today-some good, some bad. I can trace my cycle of weight gain/loss to it but also the blessing of my husband as I committed to myself that I would never marry someone like my father--even though I loved him. It certainly does help to scour one's childhood for those things which affect who you are and set out to change the negative ones. Kudos to you and the Mr. for working through and recognizing some of yours.

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  6. I think so. Parents divorced as well after numerous infidelity from my father. My mother was a stay at home mom of 3 in a foreign country. Father was verbally abusive. My weight was one of his favorite targets. Anyway, growing up seeing the dependence and verbal assaults I swore to myself I could never, ever depend on a men like unfortunately my mother had to for 18 yrs financially and otherwise. Which made me strong and independent but I am not trusting of anyone excerpt my mother and husband. I always have a back up plan. I still own my first home I purchased at 22 , it's soly in my name and I will never sell it because i am the worse "what if" person. My husband understands this and does not have a problem with my other house (we rent it on ) and my own bank account.

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and making me feel better about sharing mine. I am humbled by your trust to do that.

    Kim- Unless you wanted a book (and I'm already working on that-HA!) it had to be split up. Besides they're two separate issues yet related. Gotta get ya back here somehow! ;)

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  8. We both have a little bit of stuff on both sides we face in our marriage/relationship.

    My husbands father and mother split when he was 6, and a new man came in shortly after. As he got older, hes confessed to me that his mom really doesnt know how to "love" someone, and that she has relationships with people (including her kids) out of benefit or convience to her. It definately affects our relationship in more than one way. a) There are times he'll flat out ask me, "do you love me? are you going to be with me forever?" which i used to think was ridiculous, but now i just have learned to accept the fact that he needs that reassurance in words sometimes.
    b)It affects our relationship because obviously we still have to have a relationship with his family, and at times, it isnt fun. Its stressful and at times hurtful on him, and I usually unconsciously get the brunt end of it (you know, the bitterness, or a snappy mood, etc).

    On my end, I was sexually assualted when I was in college by someone. Its gotten better as time goes by, but I freak out when people block doorways and I feel like I cant get out, and I cant ever feel like i'm pinned down in any way.

    I love when young people talk about getting married and look forward to rainbows and butterflies and skittle farting unicorns.... Marriage is awesome but a lot of work!

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  9. Without having the time this morning to do some serious soul-searching to determine whether some of my less-attractive behavioral traits stemmed from my childhood, I still wanted to post a comment.

    First, Mrs., my respect for you grows every day, and today it took a huge upward bound. Examining one's self for fault, honestly seeing it and making the required changes takes more courage and discipline than most people seem to have these days. And then the courage to share it because you feel a responsibility to your readers...wow.

    Reading the stories of the commentators before me reminds me that I read recently that there are probably more sociopaths around us than we really realize. Many aren't physically violent, but instead are manipulative, verbally and emotionally abusive, unable to relate to others in a normal, healthy way. These stories make me believe that. I think the main thing to get out of the realization is that nothing some other person, even a parent, does to make one feel worthless is about the victim...it's about the mental and character insufficiency of the abuser. If only the victims could know that early on, we'd have fewer damaged children growing up to be damaged adults. It's so sad.

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  10. Oh my gosh, yes! I definitely know things from my relationship to my parents in childhood (if not their relationship to each other, since they divorced when I was young) have an affect on my life as an adult. I work on it every day though, to try to get clear on who I am, as opposed to who they are. In other words, I'm not them. I'm different, I can change, I can shine, etc. etc.

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  11. I had what many would deem a "perfect" childhood and every day I'm more and more grateful for it. My parents found the balance between providing for me and teaching me responsibility, and they set the example for me of what a good marriage can be.

    That's not to say everything is skittle farting rainbows for me either though. Despite the best examples and lessons available I kind of went off the rails in college. In addition to other poor choices, I was involved in a toxic relationship and that left definite scars behind. To this day there are triggers that my hubby will inadvertently tap into.
    That relationship taught me a lot though and I don't think my marriage would have lasted without the lessons I learned there. Lessons about compromise, and lessons about what really is bad and what just pisses me off. There is a difference and recognizing that has allowed me to be more tolerant that I used to be.

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  12. That had to be tough to both examine and to share here; thank you for doing both. How can we NOT be affected by our childhood experiences in our adult relationships? I put my Mr. through some rough times when we were first married because I did not (subconsciously) believe that he would really stay. Thankfully he stayed; we worked through that stuff and just celebrated 32 years of marriage last week.

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  13. Thanks for sharing with us. It is definitely hard to stop yourself from projecting past hurts in your present and future. It's something we all have to work on.

    My mom and dad are still together after 30 something years, but the issues I have are mainly with him. He verbally and physically abused her. He cheated on her, and she stayed. He had moved her far away from her family and made her totally dependent on him. To this day, I have so much resesntment for my dad. I can't and won't tell him because I don't think he could handle it coming from me. The way I watched my parents relationship (my dad controlling everything) makes me not want to relinquish any type of control in my marriage. If my husbands suggest something, I'm thinking he's trying to control me. I don't want to be controlled by anyone to the point where I don't have any voice. Growing up, we were all made to feel as though we had no voice, and I still struggle with that to this day, always negating my own thoughts and feelings. I can even remember my dad telling me that I would be a nice looking girl if I just lost some weight. Well, I only gained, so I guess that's why I feel so hideous all of the time. I know it seems like I'm just rambling on, but I just wanted to put some of my own feelings out there too.

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  14. Shoot...my "daddy issues" could span an entire book. For a little girl who wanted so much to be loved by the people who refused to show that love...it's created mass chaos in my relationship with my husband from time to time. Our only saving grace has been his understanding of my insecurities. We "grew up" together and he knows exactly what I've been through. The only thing I think he doesn't understand is how much I feel "ignored" and jump right to "unloved" because of good 'ole Dad.

    I agree that you're brave for putting this out there. It lets us all know that we can give a nod and a smile and know that each of us has had our own muck to trudge through, but that doesn't make our muck any less important or (sometimes) damaging to our selves and our feelings of self-worth. Keep being honest with yourself and with Mr...that's where the important stuff is...in the honesty.

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  15. You guys continue to amaze and inspire me by sharing your own struggles and letting others know that just like the saying says 'everyone you meet is battling something.' We need to remember we're working toward being better not just physically but those emotional demons are just as important to slay!

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  16. This all sounds so, so familiar. Unfortunately for me, my parents didn't divorce after my dad cheated. They stayed together and they're still together and they hate each other. I don't know why they stay together, but witnessing that throughout my childhood has messed me up so much. Like you, there have been times when I have pushed my husband away and been nasty to him because I never saw my parents hug, kiss, or even hold hands, but I did see them mock each other, yell at each other, and just treat each other like crap in general. Even when you recognize that the things you grew up with weren't right, you still subconsciously repeat it. I'm working on it and I catch myself slipping up sometimes. I'm sorry that you, and others here, have experienced it too. :(

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  17. My backstory could be almost exactly like yours! All except that I didn't gain weight until I had my first kid...but heck yeah it made a difference in how I treated my husband! I swear that for at least the first 10 years anytime we had even a minor argument my response was "I want a divorce"...because that's all I knew! I never saw two people actually have to work through their problems because my Mom never remarried and, as great as she is, was completely non-confrontational, so even with me and my sibs she just ignored the problems even though they were there and SCREAMING for attention and discipline. I can see that now looking back but it obviously didn't make sense to me until I was an adult.

    Anyways, it finally took my husband saying "look, if you're telling me all the time that you're done, then I'm not going to fight anymore to keep it. So if you're really, really done then just say it and we'll go our separate ways." It took him basically saying that for me to realize that I didn't WANT a divorce, it just seemed like that's what I was "supposed" to do.

    Thankfully 23 years later we are still going strong!

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  18. My parents broke up because of "almost" infidelity apparently. My mother often told me they were too young and the fact that my father is a workaholic and out of the house and admitted to being friends with a woman broke up their marriage. The trust was gone. Then my dad pretty much disappeared from my life. He is still here, but as long as he is in a happy relationship, I hear from him little. My mom's second marriage was to a verbally abusive, binge alcoholic. I was the oldest. The one most responsible. I had one brother and one sister. My brother was golden! And I am just beginning to realize just how golden. I am coming to terms with the fact that my parents were so young and I was born after they were married 10 months, that my mom never knew or wanted to deal with me for who I was. By the time my brother came along (2 years later) I don't know. But he was different. Then my sister was another 6 years later and my parents marriage broke up 3 years later. My sister was raised in a somewhat different environment. It is amazing how so many years later, we can suddenly have memories or events trigger something and change everything. Unfortunately for me, as I deal with this and my "changing" relationship with my mother, she has been gone for 19 years. I feel for you. But I can tell that you and the Mr. have something incredibly special. Life changes sometimes, but I hope that what you two have together can stay that way!

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  19. My parents got divorced when I was 15 or 16. My dad is now with the "lady" he cheated on my mom with for 13 years. My parents were married for 19 years. He still pressures to be in my life, I hate him. It's hard not to. I struggle to maintain a normal weight my whole life, but this rocked my world and I gained almost 80 pounds after the fact. Every single person that has been significant in my life has left me...so Marc has a lot he has to deal with, I constantly think he's going to leave me..it's a very scary feeling.

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  20. I, too, come from a divorce situation and spent many years of my young life living two weeks with my mom, two weeks with my dad (lived out of a suitcase and never bothered to unpack...what was the point?) My father abused me in every way you can think of and my mother didn't have the courage to face it. What came out of that was a young girl who was so brutally insecure in ALL my relationships, where I became this insane person who desperately needed any kind of attention--but it was never enough. I was the biggest negative attention seeker you'd find and I was jealous and insecure in my friendships and romantic relationships. I squeezed the joy and the life out of people by being so needy. It makes me cringe to look back and see that--and this was from a VERY young age. People left...so in my mind I had to hold on tighter. And that just snuffed out any chance of a healthy relationship. I couldn't just have "friends"; I had to have a "best friend"...and didn't like to share. Yech, so unhealthy.

    I also have fears about my husband finding another woman (especially given the recent issues) and that very insecure part of me worries that it will have something to do with my weight. But that's when I have to take a step back, remove the emotions, and look at the facts before me. If he were to do something like that, it says so much more about his character than mine. He would have to own that, not me. I did the whole grilling thing too for years and I still get those prickles of "what if?" But I know I can't live on that hamster wheel of worry because it will literally eat me alive. My hope is he wouldn't do something like that (his joking phrase is "I only have one woman in this world to disappoint and that's you), but I also know I can't control him or his choices. Loving someone so openly is such a vulnerable thing to do and it really does open up old wounds and fears. But if we can see that the old chit doesn't have to project onto the here and now, we can find a little bit of peace in that.

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  21. I can relate to a lot of what you said. My childhood issues (abusive mother and unstable living situations) definitely contributed to my weight issues. I have a friend who is from a divorced family and the Dad left and I feel it has affected her a lot in regards to her weight gain. My husband and I have had our share of problems and while I'd say our marriage has always been good, it hasn't been easy at times. He never acted like he didn't love or want me as much because of my weight. I have always been overweight since I've known him, and he isn't. Deep down I wondered if I got to a certain weight if he would cheat or leave me, and I think a part of me gained weight almost defiantly, if that makes sense. I read these blogs when you first posted them, I just didn't comment at the time because it also makes me think of my own situation and I get emotional. I think losing a lot of weight is a very emotional thing which causes you to re-evaluate your life on so many levels.

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  22. What an awesome soul-bearing post!! I totally understand how you feel. My parents split after I moved from home. I grew up thinking that my parents had the perfect marriage, the out of the blue they where split up. I felt so betrayed, and angry. My mom went years without telling dad that she was unhappy, she deluded us all. So when I married Daniel I had serious trust issues. How did I really REALLY know that he loved me? Since anyone can lie and say, "I love you." I thought there was no way he could love someone like me, I was super obese, and he was slim and fit. I thought for sure he would get tired of me and leave. Tonight (New Years Eve) is our 7 year anniversary and I've learned so much. Sometimes our parents are wretched role models.

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