My biggest fault in every relationship I’ve been in life thus far has been in the area of communication. I struggle with it daily, although improving my skills is one of my goals. Sex, money, friends, kids, extra curriculars, plans, appointments, doing what you say and meaning it; all are areas of communication in which I have aimed to increase their effectiveness. I learned a long time ago that people pleasing only leads me to misery, yet I still find it hard to communicate my desires.
As a child I was taught to be respectful of others and treat all with the golden rule in mind. I was passive as it was and excruciatingly shy, and terrified to hurt anyone else. These are admirable traits for one to have but when they begin to errode away at the core person underneath it all, it can set the course for disaster. I’m not sure when my insatiable desire to be the peacemaker came into play, but I’m assuming it was sometime after my parents got divorced when I was five.
Of course I was too young to understand the situation but looking back now I can see how I lost an extreme sense of security in my life. I remember the pain in my parents eyes as they asked me and my brother who we wanted to live with and the intense terror that filled my body when forced to give an answer. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t still live with both. My dad had spent the majority of my childhood helping to care for me during my mom’s working hours and we were more than close.
The day they asked us I was watching the Care bears with my little brother at the house on Thompson Street in McGehee, the only house I had ever known. My mom and dad came in and turned off the tv to tell us we needed to talk. I don’t remember anything that was said other than my mom asking me if it would be OK if we lived in another house while daddy stayed in ours. Being little, I just wanted to avoid the conversation at all costs and quickly blurted out, “sure.”
The next thing I can remember is packing our belongings and moving into a big older home across town. The house was pretty and it had an enormous yard, but that is when I stopped sleeping at night. I would lay awake for hours starting at the shadows, the hedges, and rose bushes outside my window that were cast across the ceiling of my room. I always felt scared there and my brother had a cot in my mom’s room where they slept together. I always wanted to seek comfort from my parents like I had when I was little, but now it was just Mom in their bed in a room that wasn’t theirs.
I would remain in my own room until morning thinking I was a big girl now, life was changing rapidly and then the sun would rise and it was almost the same again, I got ready for school and made my way to Mimi and Paps for the day. My best friend lived next door, and a lot of kids were in the neighborhood to play with, but when night crept back in so did the insecurity.
I began to find it difficult to handle conflict of any type and would basically do anything to avoid it. This set a precedent that followed me throughout my life and lead me to make many eronos decisions simply because I found it too difficult to hurt anyone, for any reason. Now that I think back perhaps I was punishing myself for the hurt my parents felt during their divorce. We were told it wasn’t our fault, we had nothing to do with the dissolution of our parents marriage, that we were good kids, etc. But I wonder, deep down, if my codependent tendencies began to occur after the divorce served as it’s catalyst.
I know divorce is prevelant in our society, and as a young child in the eighties, it was more common, but I did a lot more growing up in the five year old body than I ever realized was taking place. In a matter of weeks I went from having what I perceived as a loving family, the only home I had ever known, to my parents at odds in a home across town in a strange bedroom. Within months, my mother transferred to another city for employment and we moved into my grandma, Beebo’s house, and by the end of the school year I was living in Crossett.
I liked our new house on Pecan street but I missed my dad and my old friends. I had a new day care to go to, which I honestly hated with a passion, but my room wasn’t as scary. I slowly began to make friends but would panic at the first threat or sign of discord. I would do anything to keep someone from being mad at me and I would put myself between friends to keep the peace without hesitation. I know now that this set me up for disaster later in my life, but the pieces only started making sense recently.
Through custody fights, seeing the police in my front yard and the terror I felt when I thought they were going to take him away, the journals of cruel deeds done to one another unknowingly read while cleaning the house, all of the things they did to one another because they were hurt. It made me vow to never get married to a man I didn’t think I could spend eternity with if kids were involved. I never wanted my kids to deal with the trauma of having to choose which parent to live with.
In the last year I have learned, as most adults do, the real reason my parents divorced. Surprisingly, I was never told by either of my parents, but by bits my brother and I pieced together or stories I was told from other relatives. I learned that many events, no longer important, lead to the dissolution of my parents marriage, but the largest part of their downfall was a lack of communication. Not being able to communicate effectively was the cause of their demise and subsequently the demise of many relationships in my life.
Yesterday my husband and I had a long conversation about communication. He was frustrated about our finances, which is understandable. I realized my fear of conflict, my unwillingness to handle rejection with grace, and my fear of doing and saying what I wanted was ultimately going to be the demise of my relationship if I didn’t stop hiding behind my fears. I vowed to stop living with my impulsive decisions that seem to offer temporary satisfaction. Instead I will own my thoughts and behavior and defend my actions as choices I made for the better good and most importantly for myself and my needs and even wants. I am worthy of that, and so are the people I love.