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Deprograming Dysfunction: A Concerned Lover’s Guide

A great friend of mine posted a very interesting blog post to her Facebook page. Take a look, if you’d like. It’s called “Don’t Judge Me Because I’m Not Close With My Family.

The author kind of alludes to the popularity of people saying things like, “watch how he treats his momma” or “she’s got daddy issues” and how people tend to judge other folks who may not come from a close-knit family.

In the author’s case, he was turned off by the strict religious beliefs of his family, and growing up in a religious household and seeing how other families in my church administered what they thought was “tough love” or “good, Christian values,” drove their kids away immediately upon adulthood. In those situations, it often leaves me bewildered as to how people can extend so-called love in a pew to complete strangers or fellow parishioners, but have the most difficult time understanding the difference between spreading God’s love at home with a message of free will with a do-as-I-say, live-as-I-live mentality.

Anyway, the post and the subsequent responses of friends of my friend had me thinking about how tumultuous or not my relationships may have been based on the upbringing of my partners.

The men I’ve seemed to have the most harmonious relationships with were the ones who had strong familial foundations. That didn’t always mean there were two parents in the home. Sometimes if these men were reared by single moms, they had uncles or grandfathers or stepdads who were prominent male figures in their lives who gave emotional and sometimes financial support to their family unit.

As a person who grew up in a very supportive, two-parent, middle class home, I have dated men who made me feel a sense of guilt for having such a great childhood, while they may have gone through some pretty traumatic things that children should never endure.

I’ve tended to be drawn to these men, because of their ability to rise up from their circumstances and defeat the odds or the stereotypes. Struggle makes people stronger, and I’m always respectful of people’s personal stories and triumphs.

However, these men have had significant scars. And because I tend to date black men, due to the stigma of getting mental health assistance, and them having to put on a brave face, or man up or just ignore their problems, when you do break through the wall as a lover, girlfriend or wife, you WILL inherit their unclaimed baggage.

I naturally want to help people. I’ve seen the potential in my exes and I’ve also seen their hurt. I’ve felt it and I understood and rationalized some of their actions (including inability to face their past) because of the hurt they’ve endured. And then the happy childhood, two-parent, economically stable guilt kicks in.

I don’t believe in judging people for their family backgrounds. I do think you should consider their backgrounds and how that plays into who they are, how they love and how they love you.

I’ve seen people who have been in loving, supportive, two-parent homes be selfish, self-centered and inconsiderate. Meanwhile, I’ve also met people who have been abused and abandoned who are selfless, giving and kind.

Some people I know who have had rocky relationships growing up, are the most appreciative of the friends they’ve chosen and who have chosen them. They are active participants in the relationship, they are dutiful, they will drop what they are doing to check on you or even drive or fly for miles to look you in the face to confirm you are ok and satisfy their own mind. This leads me to believe this appreciation for the real thing, and the self-awareness that they posses to understand they deserve loving, healthy relationships and successfully seeking them out and maintaining them, is what makes these folks winners. These folks separate themselves from the folks who dwell on the past and seem to be stuck in the same place, hoping one person can pull them out. These folks separate themselves from the people who blame their rough start on why they can’t seem to overcome their obstacles or love people properly now.

Yes, those memories and experiences do shape who you are, but it takes a desire to break out of the mold.

When I was in a relationship with that kind of person, I believed it was my JOB to lead this person to their most happy self, and that’s where I went completely wrong. I even wanted him to develop a relationship with my dad and blend with my family so he could recapture some of what he missed in childhood as an adult. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be in my family???

And we’re not perfect either. I have wounds and issues that I deal with everyday. I wonder about choices my parents made. I get angry about somethings. And by some people’s standards, because I don’t talk to my parents everyday on the phone, I’m not close to them!

But it’s not about other people’s standards. It’s about holding close to the people you connect best with, who you support and who support you. Sometimes they have the same blood line, and sometimes they don’t.

However, that person was never going to be satisfied, regardless of how much I loved him, because he was avoiding the self rehabilitation he had to do to get over the disappointments of the past handed to him by the very people he called family. It was a problem I didn’t create, so me alone couldn’t fix it. He had to.

Self-love and building self-love does require some outside help to build your self-esteem and confirm to you that yes, you are loveable. See these people rallying around you?  But outside love alone won’t complete the job and you can’t have someone else do all the work and think you’ll magically love you too.

So can you deprogram the family dysfunction out of your lover? You could by simply loving them. Sometimes, that may be all it takes. Your steadfastness, your daily examples of love and patience and providing a safe and honest emotional space for your love to be themselves.

But if you love yourself, you’ll be wise enough to not make it your job alone to fix years worth of someone else’s scar tissue. Just like the oxygen masks in an airplane. You better put yours on first, before assisting others.

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