I was raised in a family that had pretty much shut down emotionally for a generation or two. Feelings were messy things you swept out with the dust bunnies. My parents never fought; they just gave each other the silent treatment. I was okay with that since no one was screaming, throwing ashtrays, or crockery, or whatever. Of course, that meant that conflict or problems in relationships were handled routinely by avoidance and stuffing of resentment.
Hugging and kissing ended pretty much with the successful conclusion of potty training, and I can rarely remember the words, “I love you” being spoken in our house. Otherwise, I identified love with stability and security, of which my parents were excellent providers.
Anyway, with this background, I went into marriage about as well equipped as a carpenter whose tools were a rock and an obsidian knife. The marriage, surprisingly, lasted 24 years, during which my wife and I both struggled with issues of anxiety and depression, codependency, and low self esteem arising from familly dsyfunction–none of which was ever identified or treated. I would say that I still love my first wife–as the mother of our children and as a friend. But she was–or rather, our marriage was–the ‘learning experience’ we were talking about on another thread.
I joke with my kids that “I let you live long enough to reach adulthood and we’re still on speaking terms, so we must’ve done something right.” Yet, I worry how much of the family dysfunction lives on to harm another generation, even as I’ve talked to them about their family history and how things led to the breakup of their parents’ marriage, and tried to give them some insights into the nature of enmeshed relationships and family dysfunction.
I owe a lot to the time between marriages when I resolved that, as I’ve said before, “Lord, don’t let me wade through this crap without giving me a chance with your support and insight to turn it into fertilizer.” I also owe a lot to a second wife who has also done her homework to deal with unhealthy relationships and family history, and who led me to recognize the nature of depression and push me to a doctor to get me on meds.
To read more Beyond Blue, go to www.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.