Okay, so I have been in counseling as y’all know. I started going back because I was sick of feeling dependent on other people for so much. I have felt that way a lot in my life, but I finally decided, with the encouragement (and, pleading) of J, that I needed a regular therapist to work on these issues with.
And she got all Freudian on me.
And then I realized: it really does make a lot of sense that the way my mom raised me has had significant impacts on how I behave in my most intimate relationships. And I have a lot from my childhood that, though I have talked about a lot with friends and with J, I have not actually processed to the point where I can let it go and separate from those experiences. And from my mom. And begin making healthier behavior patterns for myself.
I was raised to be a dependent person. It’s true. My mom never, ever intended this, because she always told me things like “you’re beautiful and smart, you can do anything you want,” etc, etc. But the way she treated me, and thus taught me how to act and relate to others, was that I could not be trusted to make a batch of cookies when I was 10, could not learn how to drive when I was 15, could not learn to make safe sexual decisions when I was 15, could not learn how to work at a job and make my own money and manage my own money when I was 16, could not learn how to manage insurances and paying for school when I was 18, etc, etc. I was taught to be dependent on my caregivers. My dad enabled this behavior. My mom ruled the show, and she has always, always gotten her way. So I learned to do what mom wanted, and if mom wasn’t happy, it was my fault and I needed to fix it. My mom was also an engulfing parent- she over-comforted and was over-attentive to the point that I remember feeling totally smothered. I never felt in control of my own life. What I wanted, how I dressed, what I did was all a reflection on her, and not on me.
I tried rebelling against this during high school. I desperately wanted to be in charge of my relationships and my sexual decisions, but I was emotionally and mentally beaten down. So I failed at rebelling and focused my energy on getting physically away as soon as I could.
And since I moved away for college six years ago, I have several times gone through periods of trying to psychologically distance myself from my mom and her behavior. Each time I get a little further separated, and I have a feeling I am getting a lot of emotional work done right now.
The way I see all of this relating to how I am now seems pretty clear: I am accustomed to making someone else (meaning my primary partner, as he is the most intimate person in my life) happy at my own expense, even against my intuition. I slip easily into letting someone else make important decisions for me, because I don’t want to make them upset or risk getting blamed for any negative outcomes. I let myself take blame for not only my actions, but for theirs as well. Also, because my mom was the smothering type, I became extremely comfortable with the fact that there was she would let me dump any and all emotional problem onto her, and I was emotionally dependent on her my whole life until I left home. And once J and I met, literally three weeks later, I transferred this responsibility to him. I also have an overwhelming tendency to never feel good enough as a person or a partner, which has been a crushing burden at times in our relationship.
Where I am lucky, and extremely grateful, in all of this, is that I know that I was at least emotionally healthy and put together enough when J and I met that I saw him as emotionally healthy and stable, too. I did not pick a co-dependent partner. He doesn’t just take care of everything for me, and he is not comfortable trying to meet all of my needs. I am also grateful for the fact that while my mom imparted this mess to me, I know it was completely unintentional. She herself had to do a shit ton of work to process her relationship with her own mom, and the effects I have felt from my grandma’s bad decisions and mistakes are at least diffused through my mom and her hard work throughout the past 40 years.
Recognizing all of this makes me feel a raw mix of emotions: sad, depressed, angry, frustrated, hurt. I feel resentment toward my dad, frustration and anger toward my mom. But mostly I feel sad. Sad that I have inherited the crap that I know my mom wanted to break off from getting passed on, and sad that the past six years J and I have been dealing with this stuff and I didn’t even know where exactly it came from or why. I also feel grateful that I have a strong mom, that I have an amazing partner, and that I have supportive friends. And excited and hopeful about the future for myself and the relationships that I can make stronger and healthier.