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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Breaking the Dysfunctional Family Cycle

As many who have read my past posts know, I am a divorced parent. A woman who lived in a relatively loveless marriage brought on by circumstances. Though we did have our moments when life seemed to be ok and even a little enjoyable, we had many more down times and as the years went on the bitterness and resentment  grew along with the level of dysfunction and emotional damage. As I have been dealing with the fallout of this "failed" marriage, I often think that I should have left years before because staying together for the kids or because you feel trapped or because the alternative seems to be worse doesn't work, and guess what? I think that children are extremely intuitive that they will sense a false marriage and be affected by that far more so than a "failed" marriage. They will not only grow up with a false reality that may make them question many things as adults, but they will also base their idea of relationships on a faulty and dysfunctional model, which will in turn make it more difficult to maintain healthy adult relationships in the future. As parents we think that our children will grow up in the false security of staying together for the kids type of marriage, and will be thankful and grateful when they are adults for sacrificing themselves for the children. Actually, that too is exactly the opposite type of role model we want for our children, someone who is false and untrue to themselves. In fact, I think that most children from such fake households will grow up and feel resentful at being lied to. 

           

                              

In this excerpt from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/30/divorce-children-parenting-conscious-uncoupling-gwyneth-paltrow-chris-martin   the author is correct in saying that "unhappy parents make for unhappy offspring" :  Dr Penelope Leach has been a passionate defender of babies and children since the 1970s. But she is no upholder of the idea that adults should stay together regardless of the measure of misery; unhappy parents make for unhappy offspring. "Divorce and separation is a safety valve for marriage and cohabitation," she tells me. "And society cannot do without one." So when the break occurs she advocates what she calls "mutual parenting". It doesn't have the slightly sexual, semi-spiritual, yogic-infused ring of "conscious decoupling" but it amounts to something similar, albeit with the celebrity varnish scraped away.

Another article in The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/24/divorce-bad-for-children-lets-not-fetishise-marriage-parents-children also states that parents who stayed together for the kids until they were a little older, actually did more harm to the children:  "Some of the most messed-up kids I have seen are precisely those of couples who waited until they went off to university to divorce. It meant that their entire childhood and adolescence had been a kind of lies."





I think I should have left my husband years before I did instead of remaining in the co dependant relationship and feeling as if I needed to be a martyr. If I had done so, I believe that our son would have been far less damaged and may not have had as much emotional pain that was one of the driving factors for his need to escape through drug use. My sister often says to me that if I did, I would not have had my other two children, who I could not imagine life without. However, I believe that I may have had more children with someone else after leaving and my children would not have been the same as the ones I have now, but I still would have had them. Not only is my son a drug addict but he is also very angry at me that I stayed with his father for so long. My son and my middle child both have very cynical views about relationships and neither say they ever want to have children (I know they are very young and their ideas may change as they grow). I also wonder how all the subtle messages that our children surely picked up on while my ex husband and I were together will affect their future relationships. My son has very skewed ideas of relationships i.e. you need a man of the house, children need strict discipline, men are aggressive, men make the decisions etc.. Though this was not what he necessarily saw while growing up, these are the unspoken ideas of his father and our son picked up on his father's true feelings.

My husband and I were very unhappy, but it was not a physically violent relationship and though he was very controlling and somewhat emotionally abusive to me, it was done in a very indirect way and his control was there without having to be "in your face". We did not yell and scream very often at each other, but the tension was always there and could be felt by others. My ex husband's actions and emotional numbness were also very powerful tools in his establishing power over us. He was very emotionally abusive to our son and those were the times when there was lots of shouting. When it came to our second child he wanted to destroy her wild spirit and lust for life by constantly telling her not to do the things she was doing and threatening her with punishments. My ex husband did not know how to communicate and would not be chatty with us, he reserved this for nights out with his male friends when his friendliness would come alive after a few drinks.

                                              

Our two older children have been very affected by the way they were raised in an unhappy marriage and most of the influences were due to subtle behaviours, unspoken words, decisions that were made, the lack of love and affection between their parents, tensions, frustrations, avoidance etc. It was not the stereotypically portrayed bad marriage, but it did consists of lies and guilt and feelings of obligations and sacrifices. All those unspoken feelings and emotions were picked up on fully by our little sponges, for that's what children are, sponges and intuitive sponges they are!

Some of these ideas I have that a FALSE marriage is much more detrimental to children are penned in the following article in a nice and concise manner:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/01/divorce-kids-_n_4862357.html

I can understand though how if the marriage is unhappy and false, with the idea of "staying together for the kids" but ALSO burdened with one partner having any mental, emotional or substance misuse issues, the guilt and the feelings of obligation to stay becomes so much stronger. My ex-husband was physically and emotionally abused as a child, My husband also had alcohol issues, I still believe him to be a "functioning" alcoholic. These elements create a profoundly strong co dependent relationship which makes it even more difficult to leave and clouds our judgement as to what is ultimately the best decision for the children.

                        

This link explains the "signs" of a co dependant marriage, and as co dependency is indeed a learnt behaviour, staying in a co dependant marriage has all the negative implication I have already discussed, but has the added ingredient of teaching your children to be in co dependant relationship! Who wants their kids to learn that? I don't and another reason why I wish I would have left earlier.

http://www.wikihow.com/Tell-if-You-Are-Codependent

We can not fix our partners, and I made the mistake of thinking I could fix my ex because I felt sorry for all he had been through and felt responsible to help him. Wake up, no one can do that!

Sometimes being true to our inner selves and recognising that bringing up children in a marriage devoid of love and passion and mutual respect will ultimately create more problems for them, is a very hard step to make. I think that it is because our society treats divorce in marriage, as divorce from the family. And though there are cases that once the couple is divorced, one parent becomes almost non existent in the children's lives, that is not what most parents want. This is because of the way we treat divorce and also because in trying to create stability in the child's life by keeping them with one parent while the other parent may have the children on the weekend or every other weekend. We should look at the option of shared custody more. The children would have regular contact and stability from BOTH parents and feel the love of both parents and be reassured that the marriage split was not because of the kids!

As this excerpt states:  "Research has determined that when children have experience of shared custody they have better relationships with both parents and are more satisfied with their lives. It’s also shown that even when there’s strong animosity between the parents, shared custody works well for the children."

Taken from:  http://www.separateddads.co.uk/sharedcustodyofyourchildren.html

And this article is interesting on how shared custody benefits society on a more political and financial level:  https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/michael-reed/why-does-no-one-talk-about-benefits-of-shared-custody

Joint custody seems to be the best option in which both parents still want to be involved with their children, of course when one parent is abusive or neglectful than that would not be in an option. It would also mean making changes and sacrifices in each parent's lives, but not at the negative cost as staying together, and rather would actually benefit the children most.

Well, all I know is that hindsight is always 20/20 and I can not do anything now except to be true to myself so that I influence my children in a way that will make them feel more able to be true to themselves in the future and hopefully stop the cycle of codependency and dysfunctional families!

                            

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Life....It's All Happening!

There are times in life when there is too much. Too much to think about, too much to deal with, too much to sort out, too much to figure out. There are also times when all of that needs to be ignored and we must pretend everything is ok, everything is manageable. Everything is "normal". I have been trying to pretend such a normal existence for the last 8 weeks while we hosted a 14 year old exchange student from Germany. I have dealt with many things, silently, I have become a bit lost in my thoughts and fell wayward from expressing myself through the written word. It now feels foreign and more challenging. Challenging to express all that has been locked inside of me, challenging to organise the events and thoughts and experiences of the past 2 months. Challenging to find the flow that I use to embrace as it helped heal and support me.


There has been hospitalizations and court dates for my son, as well as teenage sleepovers and children's ballet performances. There has been tears and laughter, love and loneliness, giggles and depression, drugs and alcohol, worry and comfort as well as hope and dread!

We have experienced my home slowly deteriorating with faulty showers, leaking roofs, draughty damp windows as well as a roof threatening to cave in and that particular room turning into a room decorated by a variety of mould! We have still managed to entertain and house a student while I fed her well and cared for her and befriended her. I had to deal with my son's deteriorating emotional health, threatened mental break down, the lack of support of the mental health team, resorting to more drugs and wanting to revert back to the near comatose drug induced state that he longs for, while still trying to maintain his probation requirements and keeping in line with his supported housing accommodation rules. On the latter two requirements, I have seen that too deteriorate and he is in breach of his parole and his accommodation is under threat of eviction.

I have tried to juggle money so that our student does not have to experience going without electricity or gas, and that she would eat and drink well and not live on rice for days on end as we have done, but at the same time I also tried to help my son so that he too would not go hungry, though many times I have to be strong and remind him he is an adult and he gets money that he needs to be able to manage.

As time went on though, my veil of pretence to be "normal", slowly started  to falter. As this happened and our student was trusted with more and more of our reality, the tears in her pretence also came out. She had self harmed a few times and was dealing with her own problems. She witnessed my daughter slipping back deeper and deeper into depression. Luckily, we all understood each other and we managed to listen and comfort each other and take solace in the fact that everyone has problems.





I have tried to be positive and embrace what is positive and for the most part I have done just that. I accept that what little time I have with the ones I love is important and I am grateful for that. I am grateful each time I speak to my son and that he is still alive and still lucid. I am grateful for the days that my middle daughter seems to be a little more cheerful and is not lethargic and anti social and depressed. I am grateful that my youngest daughter still embraces childhood and is in no hurry to grow up. I am grateful that a special man did remind me that I am desirable and also intellectually stimulating and that we have maintained our friendship of 2 years though we have become more complexly involved with each other over the last 6 months. I do not agree with his choices based on co dependency and guilt, but it is not my place to judge and instead I am happy for having known him at all. I am grateful that another man I care for has also resumed contact with me. I am grateful that at last all the negative damage my ex husband did to my psyche is starting to leave me. I hope that the more destructive emotional damage he caused our 2 older children will one day start to leave them as well and they too can start to believe in themselves as I have started to believe in myself. I am grateful that I have found enough confidence to become a member of The Children Society charity as a volunteer and I will put all the knowledge I have gained through the years of my son's drug use to some use.



I am trying to also put my story and my writing and my family's experience to some good use to others as well as helping my family with looking for ways to publish and earn money as well. I have been unsuccessful with the Huffington post, no response, but I will keep trying. The Fix would like to publish more posts from me, but not for monetary reward. However, if I write for The Fix, I can not publish the post on my blog for a month after their publication. Also if any of my readers would like to pass on my blog to anyone who might be interested or indeed even any publishers, please pass it on, and if you are so inclined to click ads on my blog, than I would be grateful. I need to provide a better lifestyle for my family and teach them that you should never give up and that you should never be ashamed to try!

I hope that my next post will be able to concentrate on one issue or go deeper into a topic, and that I will be able to return to a more regular and productive writing rhythm once again!