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Monday, June 4, 2012

It Matters When He's Mean

Something important happened at my last therapy session, other than me confronting my therapist.

We had about fifteen minutes left and my therapist asked what I wanted to work on.  After thinking for a minute I suggested we talk about my dad.  I told my therapist that we are coming up on a time when things get difficult.  Father's Day is coming up.  Shortly after that is my dad's birthday.  And family will probably come to town during the summer and invite us up to my parents' to spend time with them.  I'm just not sure how to handle those things.

He talked about forgiveness.  In fact, he called it doing the forgiveness dance.  He suggested I go to their house on Father's Day, stay as long as I'm comfortable, but if my dad is mean I have to leave.  It's my job to protect myself and get out of there.

He's usually fine lately.  He's not warm and fuzzy -- he never has been -- but he isn't usually demeaning or controlling.  But sometimes.

I told my therapist that I don't always notice when he's mean until later.  It's just been such a part of my life that I don't see it.  He asked if I could recruit my husband to help me see it and be my backup to get me out of there.  I cried and said no.  He's not reliable enough.  Sometimes he would see it, but more often than not he will just join in.  He and my dad will bond by picking on me together.  He asked if there is anyone who would be there that would be able to help stop it in the moment.  There isn't.  I won't put my kids in that position and my mom isn't stable. 

As we talked I realized that while I don't always see it when he's mean, I know how I feel.  I know when I start to feel unsafe.  I can usually sense the tide turning before it gets ugly.  I have just ignored it in the past.  I told my therapist.  He asked how often I'm right when I sense that my dad is going to be mean.  I told him I am always right.  100%.  So we decided that I can go as long as I have an immediate escape plan that I will use as soon as I sense it's getting dangerous.  He made me promise that I would leave if that happened.  I did.

I semi-jokingly asked if I couldn't just take a Xanax before I go.  He said that if I needed one to calm down enough to go it was okay.  But if taking one would incapacitate me enough that I wouldn't be able to leave when I needed to it wasn't okay.  I said I never take that much.  Just a little.  Just enough so that it doesn't matter when he's mean.

And my therapist said, "It matters when he's mean."

That one simple sentence brought instant tears.  That moment was so powerful.  I had difficulty processing it.

He could tell it was important and he said it again.  It matters when he's mean.  All that encompassed came rushing in.  I deserve to be treated better.  It's not okay for him to treat me that way.  It's not okay for anyone to treat me that way.  I have every right to be hurt and scarred from the way he's treated me.  When he's mean he doesn't deserve to be with me.  When he's mean I don't have to stay.  I don't have to take it anymore.  He has to earn my presence.  Just being my dad doesn't give him the right to be mean.  It's not okay.

Those words changed my life.  I now offer them to you.  Whatever brought you to my blog, whoever is unkind to you, you deserve to be treated better.  You have the right to protect yourself.  You have the right to walk away.  It matters when he's mean. 


Stephi said...

You bloody right it MATTERS when he's mean! How awful to get so worked up about going to visit a parent that you have to take a sedative just to get through it! In case you need more validation: It is not normal to feel the way you do and that means what your Dad is doing, has been doing is abnormal i.e not the way a parent should act and you have EVERY RIGHT to protect yourself from getting hurt over and over again. There is no excuse for anyone whether it is a parent, friend or stranger to hurt someone and think they can get away with it because it is their birthday, Christmas, Fathers Day whatever. Keep your therapist's promise and the minute you feel your heart start to ache leave...whether it's kosher or not.

Sorry if I sound like a cow...

Running Circles said...

Robin you are a better person than I am. If I felt this strongly about someone in my family, I'd walk away and try not to look back. I'm not saying it's a good way to deal with anything, but it is my track record. Hopefully, you'll develop a wall to protect yourself with by going around him. Then one day the words he speaks will lose their sting and power. I'm glad your therapist validated you, because it does matter. You'll make it through fathers day.

Carol said...

You now have the power. It's YOUR decision whether to stay or to leave. It's YOUR decision to not be used as a punching bag any more. You make the ground rule for what is appropriate behavior. Don't be afraid to confront him either. He may be your dad, but you are an adult, equal ground. You might consider having someone you trust call you during your visit to give you support or a way out.

YOU can do it. I know you can. If you need a ride home, call me.

Rubye Jack said...

I admire you so much for working on this Robin, and I know it takes a lot of courage. I can't be around any of my family for any length of time without taking a pain pill. I think my brother and sister learned to be mean from my mother to the extent that they don't even realize they're being that way. I just always felt it was my own fault and they were justified in their meanness. Now I know better.
So, good for you for taking a stand for yourself and for sharing it with us.

Lyn said...

I think your dad and my mom should go bowling together. It most certainly does MATTER when he's mean. Just because you're a grown-up doesn't mean you're immune to the mean things your father says and does.

Since my mother had her stroke a few years ago, she's been less mean (mainly because of the aphasia), but it's still very difficult for me to be around her for very long. I usually go to my parent's house every Sunday for lunch with the family. It's really important to me to see my dad and my siblings and my older children (that's why I go). But my younger children and I can only stand to be there for about an hour before we start feeling the need to flee.

I get it. Before her stroke, I avoided being around her as much as possible, and really could have used a xanax or two... or ten.

You do have the right to cut your dad out of your life to protect yourself. I know it would create a lot of drama in the family to do that, but if it needs to be done for you to feel safe and heal this part of yourself, then do it.

You are a smart, sensitive, kind, caring, humorous woman, and if he can't treat you with the respect and kindness that you deserve, then he doesn't deserve to have you in his life.

Ann Harrison said...

Hey Robin :->

I've been reading all of your blogs today. Oh my goodness Honey, you are incredible in your honesty and I feel that my time reading your words is time well spent.

I feel as if I have a new "pen pal" that I look forward to checking in with - and sharing support when it's needed.

Thank you for offering your words to us in the blogosphere. And thank you for visiting my site today! I'm happy that you found me through SITS Saturday.

Hannah said...

Who's your therapist? I need him. LOL I just discovered your blog today and I can't wait to read more. I am a recovering co-dependent going through a divorce after 10 yrs of marriage, and I think I will gain many insights from your blog. Thank you.

Tara Denny said...

it must take so much courage to post about this stuff online. You have a lot of strength.

It's hard when you have to make a conscious decision to not let other people rule your life.

You deserve to be treated better, and here's one more thought.

You owe it to your kids to let them SEE you demanding to be treated better. Or else how will they learn to do it themselves?

Peace and Love

Christina Morley said...

I'm glad your therapist is on your side, but I don't understand your husband. I've written 2 posts on my parenting blog called Protecting Your Child Even from the Relatives. The first one in the series quickly became the top popular post and I was surprised at all the page views it received and glad too. I hope you get a chance to check it out and the 2nd one as well where I write about experiences from my own childhood. Hopefully these posts will strengthen your resolve.

Dez said...

I'm late to the party on this one...but it's pretty powerful stuff. That "line in the sand" is ever-shifting when you grow up "co-dependant" (I know lots of people hate that word, but it's the one I use to describe any kind of situation where your reactions are even partly controlled by the emotions/behavior of others, usually as a result of substance abuse.)

There are a lot of crap therapists out there.Sounds like you got a good one! Isn't it great when they break through the ice with one sharp, well aimed blow? Everything begins to flow with dizzying, disorienting speed, and sometimes it's a massive realization followed by a bunch of smaller ones, like psychological aftershocks.

Carry on! xo

Chris Carter said...

what a beautifully honest and insightful post! I love how open you are and I see how your words can be such a great source of encouragement for so many! Quite frankly, I don't think you should even RISK going and getting hurt at all. You are an adult who can make your own decisions based on past experience, and why gamble the odds or even expose your children to that anyway? I get honoring your dad on father's day... but he may never change and you can never make him. You deserve better company my friend! Your worthiness is golden...shining and treasured.

Yolanda Renee said...

Beautiful post. It does matter when he's mean. My Dad lost me and my sons when he began treating them the way he'd always treated me. I might have taken it, and did for way too long, but my boys will never have to take it. Walking away and never looking back was my only option, and I will never regret it!

nancy otten said...

My Christian husband is very different at home than out in the community. At home he can be verbally, physically abusive. Everyone outside the home thinks he is the greatest guy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I totally get the emotionally and verbally abusive Christian husband, oxymoronish as it is, and sick and tired of it. He has two prayer partners and a group of Christian men he meets with weekly. I doubt if it's for accountability. They all think he's mature and strong.