Dear Ann Landers: My father and I have never had a good relationship. He was abusive to me as a child but I forgave him. I thought he had changed and we were finally on our way to trusting each other. I was even beginning to like him.
I adopted a son last year, and my parents offered to baby-sit while I work. My son was fond of his grandparents, and it was a lot cheaper than day-care, so I agreed. This worked well for several months, but last week there was a problem. Dad and I had a disagreement, he grabbed me by the throat and pushed me into the wall. I was shocked and surprised by his behavior.
I have no intention of giving my father another chance. Unfortunately my parents are a package deal. If I cut off contact with my father, my mother will also be out of my life, which would hurt me beyond measure. Also, I do not want to deprive Mom of the pleasure of her only grandchild.
What can I do? NO MORE FORGIVENESS IN OHIO
Dear Ohio: There is no reason why you have to cut off both parents to keep your father from harming you or your son. Tell your mother she is welcome to visit in your home anytime, without Dad, but you no longer feel comfortable going to her house. She may not like it, but maybe she will understand. Your father has some serious anger management problems and could benefit from some counseling. If he values his relationship with you, he will follow through. Encourage it. —Ann
Hi Ohio: Although you say you have forgiven your father it's clear that the first and subsequent incidents of childhood abuse are not complete. There's a whole bunch of conversations that need to take place.
Notice that you're telling the baby-sitting incident from blame. Related responsibly it would go something like, [I started an argument with my father and goaded him into a physical fight so that I could make him wrong for life.]
Your story is covert abusive badmouthing. Who taught you to blame others for the fights you now get yourself into as an adult? I'd be extremely concerned if I were your spouse.
What needs to be addressed is the far more subtle abuse taking place in your family. Whenever you see two people fighting always look for the third party pretending to be an ally who benefits from the friction. Part of what's incomplete with your childhood abuse is that you have yet to realize that your mother is the enabler. Abuse could not have taken place, or persisted, except that she attracted, married, and rewarded an abuser. Notice how she comes out smelling like a rose yet she is the one who still refuses to insist that he get therapy. It's not only that she's made her survival more important than your safety she has somehow or other very cleverly caused you to like/love her more than him. This is manipulation at its worst. Once she gets therapy she will discover that she has been as abusive as your father and that she has been conning you all these years into thinking he was the more abusive. She'll acknowledge to you that she co-conspired in his abuse of you, pretending all the while to be the understanding consoling parent, the "good-German."
Now, here's the kicker. You have picked up the addiction to abuse from your parents and you will pass it on to your son unless you get therapy, alone, by yourself. That you were not in communication with your father and could not sense his mounting collection of resentments and upsets which grew and manifested into physical anger suggests that you will do the same with your son. You need to learn how to detect and acknowledge (get) another's non-verbal communications before you are the space for more angry outbursts. For example: "Dad I get you're having an upset, would you like to talk about it?" I say, "mounting" because what you believe the argument was about is not at all what it was about. With coaching you could locate the very first incomplete communication, the remnants of which you've both been dragging into each and every interaction with everyone since then.
Without your father in your life to feed your addiction to abuse, giving you anger (adrenalin) fixes from time to time, you'll be needing another source to blame for your upsets. Without a doubt you will soon be lashing out at your wife. It begins with condescending verbal abuse, which will increase in frequency to the point where you will eventually stop feeling badly and for which you will "forget" to acknowledge (clean up) through to lovey-dovey before going to sleep. You'll find yourself blaming her for your upsets.
I would not trust my child with either of your parents until both have completed six-months of weekly therapy/counseling sessions. To submit your child to your mother's machinations (the one whose leadership communication skills empowers abuse) is not a gift of love. Within a few conversations (yes, a few is all it takes to imprint a child) she will train your child to blame and communicate abusively, that's how powerful she is in this matrix.
Your wife needs counseling because she also unconsciously attracted, married, and now rewards someone dragging around unresolved childhood anger. She is as unconscious as you and your mother and, cannot see that she also is addicted to abusing and to being abused, that she enabled the abuse between you and your father—extremely powerful. It could be said that she unconsciously set you up to be given a humility lesson by your father for the arrogant condescension (abuse) you inflict upon her (remember, she's also addicted to blame).
It's a never-ending story, passed on from generation to generation. You alone have the power to stop this legend.
Abuse is an addiction as debilitating as any drug. —Gabby
PS: Please show these replies to your wife.
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