Spending any length of time with my parents really stresses me out. My relationship with each of them individually is fine, but when the three of us are together any chance of a good time gets overshadowed by their issues. I’ve witnessed it for years and I haven’t noticed any improvement.
I remember it getting really bad when I was in my preteens. I would be hanging out in our basement and I could hear them yelling. Sometimes I would sit on the stairs and listen. They never got violent. But I could tell that they weren’t listening to each other. It was like they were speaking different languages. I would listen and understand where they were each coming from, what problems they were having, and what possible solutions could be put in place. But instead of trying to find a solution they would just keep repeating the problem, expecting the other to back down. My mom would usually win those battles. She’s feisty and stubborn, and while my dad would put up a fight, he’d eventually succumb to her.
Sometimes I wish they were violent. That sounds horrible, but sometimes I wish it would have gotten so extreme that they would have been forced to take action. Instead there’s this subtle agonizing pain I feel from them. My mom speaks to my dad in such an uncaring way, and it’s like she doesn’t notice that what she’s doing is hurtful. All the while he just sits there and takes it. I guess he’s had to deal with it for so long that he’s just used to it.
I remember my dad would try something small, maybe just a hug, and my mom would squirm away saying “yuck,” playing it off like it was a joke. I couldn’t help thinking how hurtful that must have been for my dad. This is his wife and she wouldn’t even give him a hug.
They’re not intimate at all. They’ve slept in separate bedrooms for as long as I can remember. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard them say “I love you.”
For years they were my go-to model for marriage and what they showed me was not ideal. I knew they cared for each other at one point–I remember reading through the letters they used to write–but since I’ve been old enough to understand relationships I haven’t felt any sense of love between them. Or, I guess I should say that I’ve seen my dad try to show affection and I’ve watched my mom deflect all his efforts. Why on earth would I want that? Why would I want to spend my life with someone I didn’t care about, or who didn’t care about me?
I hope I don’t end up like them. Obviously I realize that there are several ways for marriages to work, but I don’t feel like theirs is working. It just is, and the way it is makes me sad and angry. It’s not my problem though; I don’t know if I should say anything. I don’t know what help it would provide or if it would change anything. I’m sure they realize what’s going on, maybe just knowing that their relationship has affected me would be enough. Maybe.
What I’ve gained from all this is how important communication is to me. It’s one thing to speak to your partner calmly and rationally, but it’s another thing to want to understand them and to show that you care by proving that you’ve listened. I can sense good communication between myself and others almost instantly…it’s probably my number one sense of attraction. My gut instinct of whether I should spend time with someone really rides on my ability to foresee us having deep conversations. I don’t want to waste my time with someone who won’t ever be on the same wavelength as me, and I certainly wouldn’t want to dedicate my life to someone who would constantly cause dissonance.