Janis was extremely distraught. Her husband had left their home to live in an extremely small apartment. It was another example of his attempt to portray himself as a victim. Her despair was overwhelming, but, in my opinion, it was time for her to reevaluate her marriage. Her thirty-two year relationship with Dale included constant conflict, unhappiness and disapproval. Was that what she was crying about, the possible end of this very dysfunctional relationship? One which, very likely contributed to the emotional problems experienced by almost all of their children. The truth is, callous as it may sound, that their toxic relationship had to come to an end. I’m not suggesting that she and Dale have to get a divorce, or that they shouldn’t be together. Instead, what I am adamantly stating is that their “crazy, hurtful, neurotic” relationship has to stop, no matter what it takes to achieve that end, for Janis’ and Dale’s sake, as well as for their children.
Let me add that their problem relationship was not one-sided. It never is. However, in most instances, both spouses vie to see themselves as the primary victim. Even more, they make their divorce a continuation of the same sick game they played throughout their marriage. For example, after moving out, Dale suggested that Janis accompany him on his upcoming vacation with the kids. Think about it. You’re getting a divorce and your soon-to-be-ex says, “ Just because we’re getting a divorce doesn’t mean we can’t do things together. We always enjoyed the Bahamas.” That was something she had never heard before. Then, out of the blue, this woman who was so depressed over losing him answered, “The hell with him. He doesn’t deserve to travel with me. He needs to be punished.”
It’s the perfect response if she wants to continue the same pattern of behavior that brought her to where she is right now. Note, however, that although I see their interaction as dysfunctional, it’s normal for them. Sad to say, it’s also the way many married couples behave. Whether they recognize it or not, what they do is live their lives playing out the roles they learned between birth and age four. Even more, they search for an accomplice who will help them in that endeavor. For example, throughout his life, Dale never felt that he was worthwhile, appreciated, or loved. It’s not surprising. He had a father who never acknowledged his success and a physically sick mother who couldn’t nurture him during a very crucial period of his childhood. Now, many years later, Dale feels the same way because Janis’ actions toward him are similar to what she received from her parents. They never gave her the involvement she required. Consequently, she never learned how to support someone else’s feelings. She probably uttered the perfunctory words, but they were likely accompanied by criticism and rejection that reinforced Dale’s notion that, ‘Nobody cares for me, not my parents, my wife, or even my children.’ Consistent with his upbringing, he played the part of a victim; the good guy who gave, produced and viewed himself as a martyr. Similar to Janis, he reproduced what he experienced in childhood.”
You may wonder, “how bad were Janis’ and Dale’s parents?” None of them were alcoholic, promiscuous, or physically abusive. All of them however, shared one problem, an inability to maintain a meaningful intimate relationship with another human being.
Janis’ father was an imitation playboy. He didn’t have the funds to be a real one. He was a child at heart, one who was incapable of making a healthy emotional commitment. Her mother was self-absorbed and narcissistically consumed with her own needs. Yet, she expected her children were to care for her. Needless to say, her expectations were totally unjustified, based on her performance as a mother.
Dale’s father was a highly successful egocentric individual, who had zero capacity for empathy or emotional involvement with people close to him. It’s very likely that he was so emotionally insecure that he even competed with his son, professionally and emotionally. Dale’s mother was a basically well-meaning individual whose own background and health problems severely interfered with her wherewithal to relate emotionally. It is no wonder she married his father, they fit.
None of those individuals and probably few of your parents, consciously intended to hurt their children. In fact, I suspect they all believed that their behaviors were loving and demonstrated a genuine concern for their you. Yet, two factors contributed to their children’s problems. One, similar to most individuals, Janis, Dale and their parents modeled their behavior after the role models they had as children. Two, Most people have an erroneous definition of love. To explain, let me ask a question. What is the opposite of love? Most of you are apt to say, “I think it’s a trick question, but hate. Love and hate are opposites.” That isn’t so. Love and hate are the same. You can’t love someone unless you have strong emotional and physical feelings for them. Similarly, you can’t really hate someone unless you have equally strong emotional feelings. So, love and hate both require emotional involvement.
Conversely, the opposite of love is indifference, a total lack of affection, emotion, care and involvement. Generally speaking, individuals who fit that description are people who, early in life, were so hurt that they closed down, emotionally. As a result, their energy and efforts are totally directed toward self survival. Thus, they become egocentrically involved in the world and often appear to be indifferent, self-consumed or defensive, but not loving.
In order to break the chain that undermines your intimate relationships, you must first fix yourself. You need to evolve to a point where you feel, at least 70% of the time, self-sufficient and worthy of love. The reason: the degree to which you genuinely feel loved is the degree to which you are capable of showing and sharing love with others.