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The Real Work of Homework

January 25, 2010

During my current educational experience, I have the opportunity to learn about domestic abuse, abusers, and family dynamics in abusive households.
 
I preface these observations with that statement to avoid the “JESUSCHRISTSTOPBEATINGADEADHORSEANDSHUTTHEFUCKUP” crowd. One is not beating a dead horse when one can wrap their journey of self observation in the guise of HOMEWORK.
 
Actually, it’s kinda weird.
 
I liken it to reading the signs and symptoms of my mysterious disease, laid out with a diagnosable name.
 
Here are 50 signs and symptoms…gee, I can relate to 37. There is something that victims do in these situations known as minimization. Like when you allow your spouse to treat you like shit for years and you fall for his statement of “at least I don’t beat you”.
 
As I was reading the psychological profile of an abuser, I kept muttering “holy shit….” All the tumblers fell into place and I was left shaking my head.
 
I then read about the family dynamics of an abusive household.
 
Non-offending parents are supposedly grouped into one of two categories: submissive or dominant. Submissive parents are helpless and spineless and basically offer up their child to the abuser because they don’t think they have a choice and their children pity them. Dominant parents are cold and dismissive and offer up their child to the abuser because they don’t give a shit and their children hate them.
 
Hmmmm. I think I’ll take what’s behind Door Number Three.
 
Of course, that is one school of thought. There is another school of thought that says that what should be considered is the non-offending parent’s reaction after disclosure. Did they stand up for the child or stand up for the abuser?
 
As I was reading the dominant/submissive schtick, I kept asking my son “Does this sound like me? Cuz I want honesty…don’t spare my feelings. I need to figure this shit out.” (I believe that is a direct quote from the notes of Sigmund Freud.)
 
From the time that the kids were babies, I ran interference between them and their father. For years, I tried to soften the blows of his verbal shit toward them and I tried to create this false illusion that he wasn’t a fucking asshole. I wanted to leave but didn’t think I could. I had been worn down by him enough to have absolutely no confidence in my ability to get the hell out of Dodge. Since I didn’t want to imagine that I was staying behind for an asshole, it was important to maintain the illusion to the kids that he wasn’t one.
 
Funny thing is, they figured it out all on their own.
 
After years of believing that I was indeed worthless, there came a day that it all clicked. The day that I realized that I did not even have a semblance of a marriage was the day that I realized that all he wanted was a mommy. The very statement that he said to me before we were married that “I love you because you’re not my mother”, should have been a HUGE RED FLAG but of course, it wasn’t. On the day that I had this epiphany, I realized that he had the emotional development of approximately an eight year old. He would throw tantrums, he would sulk, and his expectations were that all he ever had to do was to go to work and get some sort of a paycheck. Anything aside from that was time for him and him alone. We would sit together at the dinner table and the kids and I would carry on conversations and suddenly he would break in and say something totally off in left field. We’d end up looking at him like he just beamed down from Mars. If we asked him if he knew what we were saying before he interrupted, he would get defensive. It was obvious to us that there was nothing that we said that he found interesting. This was also the reason that in our 17 years of marriage, we only went out with another married couple twice. He would never engage with anyone else even in social situations.
 
When I read up on the profile of an abuser in a father/daughter abuse scenario, one of the things mentioned was that the father was both unable to connect emotionally with anyone, could never think about anyone but themselves, and they were desperately looking for a mother-figure. Oh! And that they had no social skills because they couldn’t see the world beyond themselves.
 
When I went through the submissive/dominant thing with my son and asked for his views from the trenches, I was told that I didn’t offer up my children to the den of the lion. My perception of myself as trying to protect them and run interference was accurate in his eyes.
 
I do know that once I realized what he was looking for was a mommy, I called bullshit. I used that phrase on more than one occasion when calling him on acting like a hateful child “You do realize, I’m not your mother…you’re a grown up.”
 
I guess that makes me dominant. I guess that makes me cold. I guess that means I failed him as his “mommy”.
 
For some reason, that is one thing that I will never feel guilty about.

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