I grew up in a house with plenty of yelling. Was it more than average? I have no way to know. I do know that when I spent time at the houses of friends I watched their families. There were a few like mine, a couple that were worse, but most of them were nothing like mine.
Sure, the kids fought. The parents got frustrated and snapped sometimes. But overall they seemed to like each other. They seemed to be a unit. A family.
I didn't really understand. I saw and heard my parents fight a great deal. I got yelled at a lot. It kind of seemed like I was either punished or ignored.
Now let me be honest here. This is very difficult to write. I have a pretty good relationship with my parents now and I do believe that they did the best they could. I believe they both had abuse in their pasts as well. I believe they both had their own demons that they were dealing with at the time. It's very hard to know how to raise your children differently than you were raised. I know because I've spent the last twenty years trying and I still slip up way too often. Also, I have a lot of holes in my memory. I'll talk more about that on a future topic. It's also very scary to write this. I feel like I am breaking the famly code. Maybe you have one, maybe you don't. Often it's unspoken. I actually remember having it openly stated to me. We don't air our dirty laundry in public. It's tough to rebel against the family code. It's frightening to say that you want to develop your own code. But that code just doesn't work for me anymore.
Please try not to judge my family too harshly. This is my perspective, and I'm the first to admit I'm a little screwed up. This is my adult brain trying to make sense of things that happened to me as a child.
But in my mind, the way I remember it, my home was not a place of love and value. It was not a place where I felt wanted. I felt like I was in the way. I felt like I was too much trouble. Like I caused problems. I wasn't good enough. I know this is not an uncommon occurance. I know that many children grow up having this experience. But no matter how many others experienced it, that does not take away from what it did to me. How it changed me. The programming that went into my mind at a young age.
I think it's fair to say that my dad was a domineering parent. He had very high standards and expected them followed. He has a very strong personality. Always in charge everywhere he goes. Not very tolerant of childish mistakes, stupid mistakes. Not good at dealing with emotion. Not good at talking about how he feels unless he's angry.
My mom was more passive. She wanted things done but felt he was too heavy handed. I honestly don't know how my brothers saw it -- we don't talk about things like this in my family. The way I saw it my dad was mean to me. And my mom tried to intervene.
So dad would come home and get angry with me for a chore I hadn't done. He'd yell; I'd cry. I'd get the chore done as fast as I could and then go hide in my room until he left. I don't remember ever having to be sent to my room. I hid in there often. Then after he left my mom would find me crying and ask what was wrong. I would tell her that he'd yelled at me. And when he came home I'd hear her lay into him, yelling at him for the way he'd treated me. She'd yell and cry. He'd yell. Eventually she would leave. Not too much time would pass before he was slamming my door open and yelling at me for upsetting my mom. For getting him in trouble (it didn't take me too long to learn that it's better to keep my mouth shut about it, to not tell her anything, because then it would only get worse -- I'd get punished for telling). And then he'd tell me that if I was going to cry he'd give me a reason to cry (I learned to hide my tears, to cry silently or into a pillow in my room, so I wouldn't be punished for crying and she wouldn't know it had happened again).
And this is where one of the holes comes in. I don't remember how he punished me. I remember getting the belt once, although my brothers got it a fair amount. And I remember him pounding his finger in my chest. But that's it. Something tells me his punishment of choice was spanking, but I have almost no memory of it.
What I do remember is the fear. I was afraid of my dad for as long as I can remember. I didn't tell my dad no until I was an adult, until after I was married. I learned to do what I was told whether I wanted to or not.
He's not like this now. He has mellowed a lot. I can't remember the last time I saw him angry. He still shows disdain and disappointment. He still has that way of looking at me that says, "You can't possibly be that stupid." That was a phrase I heard several times growing up.
He seems to like me now, to want to be my friend. And I am trying. But it's hard. I have chosen to be an emotional person again, to feel and to express those feelings. I still can't do that with him. I'm still afraid of being rejected. He's just not emotionally safe for me.
Why do I tell you all this? What does it have to do with my relationship with my husband? So very, very much.