If you’re in a good relationship you won’t be asking that question. I wouldn’t say I’m in a bad relationship, but then I’m not in a good one either. I don’t actually have a vision of what a good relationship is, there weren’t any in my family. I can’t look to anyone to say to myself, “that’s good and that’s how it should be”
So I’m going to start this with the premise that I have nothing to compare to, nothing that says to me this is how it should be. I do have a yardstick of what I consider to be bad, my mother and stepfather and me.
I’m writing this because 72 weeks ago my family imploded, it’s been an uphill struggle to get something better back but half the time I don’t know what better is. The only thing I do know is that we take a couple of step forward and two steps back, never seaming to get anywhere.
Has our relationship ever been good? Well it is when we’ve been on holiday, we started as a “holiday romance” and when we go somewhere sunny, without an agenda it’s really good. I’m relaxed she’s relaxed and even with super young children it was good. Especially when you have to consider we had a really challenging time on one holiday.
Now that the children are older, but not old enough to be independent and we have a bit of a haul to school everyday. Things have become more contentious. Winter is coming and the horrible cold sleety rain that we get in London makes it harder doing the school run.
So let me try to construct what I think is a good family life. It’s basically a daily routine, we all wake after a good rested nights sleep (my wife and I suffer from different variations of insomnia), everyone gets themselves ready in a timely manner for the day and then we go off merrily to various places having a pleasant respectful day until we all reconvene together for family time before going off to bed and getting a rested nights sleep. Except, it doesn’t happen that way at all. Bluebirds don’t flutter around my head, there isn’t cheerful whistling in the background and no one doffs their hat with a cheery hello.
It’s more like the 1984 Apple advert, everyone drudges along, shackled to everyone else. I sometimes think (and I think this is true) that as I’m miserable I find misery, I make my family miserable and that in turn completes the misery circle.
What has happened is that I in particular and my family have become abusive to one another. I do believe that abuse perpetuates in family histories. My parents were abusive, my wife’s parents were abusive and in turn we are abusive, less so than what we had but the cycle isn’t breaking, more the circle is increasing. May be my daughters will be able to break the circle in their own families.
Yet in hindsight, I think I’m more abusive than my parents, as I get older I forget more and more what it was like for me and focus more on the damage I do. I do shout at and hit my wife and children, I would be furious if that happened to them by the hands of another, but I grew up with it. I experienced it and saw it as a child. I vowed I wouldn’t be like that yet I am.
So the first step is to stop the abusive behaviour. I’ve been circling around DVIP for a while and looking at the respect.org.uk stuff. I have been contacting helplines and talking things through, but each time I come away with the notion that I haven’t learnt anything because no one is actually giving tangible advice that you can work with and put into practice.
The common theme that I see is “we will teach you how…” and “you will learn…” yet with a couple of programs I’ve done it always seems to be next time “jam tomorrow”. I want a set syllabus that clearly lays out a path to learn better behaviour, with tangible outcomes.
So perhaps what I need is self education, I am quite bright but that means nothing in an abuser, I’m self aware after the fact and often I can get myself away before the fact and prevent myself, but there are occasions when I fester and loose control.
One of the things that I have noticed is that I get this way when I can’t get family members to do things the way I think is fit. A classic controlling behaviour, it’s my way or you’ll all suffer. There are some things that have to be controlled I’ll be using this word a lot from now on), making my children cross the road safely, getting them home on time, protecting them from other adults. Those things do need to be controlled but not with a rod of iron, and the carrot has become a fail as I’ve bribed them too much.
On the other had, with my wife, we say dumb stupid things to each other that wind us too tight. Yesterdays issue started with discovering that my wife hadn’t dealt with a particular text. It annoyed me, why didn’t she do it when I asked? Yet, I’d passed the responsibility of dealing with it because I was scared to do something about it for fear of doing the wrong thing. So my fault, my responsibility.
That then lead to a later situation, where I felt my wife was sneering at me. Of late I’ve been feeling like a huge failure, I’m failing to control and manage the families money, I failing to sort out housing for us, both those things hang over us like the sword of Damocles, we have tenuous finances and a tenuous tenancy. They are very finely balanced and I get irate that I make poor financial choices, I then end up blaming my wife as she went along with my decision and didn’t make the right decision for me. That again stems from my childhood and early adulthood, when my grandmother made all my financial decisions for me and coerced me into complying with her.
Frankly, I realise that I would prefer to be controlled, the way my parents did with their violence and then with my grandmother who knew better.
On a separate note, one of the things I’ve realised as an abuser is the difficulty in going past admission to remission, the absence of the behaviours. Going back to what I said about getting help and that it often feels like, “we’ll give you the cure tomorrow” one of the difficulties is that if you expose yourself this way, then there is more negativity than constructive criticism flung in your direction. Hang him rather than rehabilitate him.
I never chose to be like this, in fact when I was younger and before children and marriage I vowed never to be like this. I sometimes wonder if it was the series of bad concussions I got five years ago as this abusive behaviour has only happened since then. If that is the case then that’s quite depressing as there would have to be a physiological repair as well as a psychological repair.
Anyway, we don’t like mitigation and rehabilitation do we, murders occur and people can’t see past a death penalty as a punishment. I’ve made mistakes and I’m willing to atone and make good on them it’s just that it is quite a struggle to do it for yourself.