Over the past couple of posts I’ve been explaining how and why we can end up dating reflections of our fathers (also part two). We can essentially end up carrying around an image of the type of father we wanted and look for men to meet those needs which in itself creates unrealistic expectations especially when they’re directed at people who reflect our negative beliefs and who are by their own natures unlikely to deliver a healthy relationship – Mr Unavailables and assclowns.
Naturally if we can find ourselves learning unhealthy ideas about relationships, love, and ourselves from our fathers, we can certainly learn them from our mothers too and this is what I want to talk about in part three.
Not only can we end up dating reflections of our mothers but we can end up dating reflections of their own love habits and ideas that they’ve passed on to us or that we’ve ‘absorbed’.
I have a confession – I haven’t spoken to my mum (or mom as you say in America) for over three months. Long time readers will know that last summer and many times throughout my life, I have experienced various clashes (that’s putting it mildly) with her. There is no war, it’s not like I’m thinking we’ll never speak again, or that she’s just discardable, but I won’t be keeping up any relationship insanity with my mother.
Enough is enough. Everything is my fault including things that she does that I have nothing to do with, like her coming to my youngest daughters first birthday, having a showdown with the boyf’s mum and then saying that if I was a better daughter, it wouldn’t have happened. At almost 33 (jaysus I’m only 32 for a few more days), I accept that I’m never going to be or do whatever it is that I’m supposed to be or do.
Much like when I’ve dated assclowns and Mr Unavailables, I can tell you right now, that there is no magic word or magic act that will somehow cause my mum to be happy with me and accept me. And I’m OK with this.
My mother had her own fraught childhood and really, it’s been like continuing a pattern with her, but for the sake of myself, my own daughters and the boyf, I can’t continue to engage in a dynamic that sucks the fricking life out of me. I don’t feel bad about it – Hell, I’ve had 33 years to come to terms with it and I fought it for a long time because I wanted things to be ‘different’.
I accept my mother for who she is and what she is or isn’t capable of. I’m also being my authentic self. I recognise that there is no compromise available in this situation because it wouldn’t be two of us compromising – it would be me compromising myself. That’s just not going to happen. Anymore.
I have another confession: Until my early 20s I felt very ashamed of my relationship with her.
I was convinced that I was the only person to have a mother who seemed so angry with her all of her life, who called her names, made outrageous accusations, doomed her and said she’d end up as nothing in jail with five kids by thirty, grabbed her up, repeatedly said she didn’t have to be born and was just like her worthless father, and much more. There was a rare day throughout my teens when I wasn’t criticised and I felt ashamed of being such an awful daughter.
Surely, if I was a good, decent, loveable human being, my own mother wouldn’t curse me out or even accuse me of being at the root of all of her problems?
Surely if I was someone worthy of being loved, my own mother would love me?
What was so wrong with me that made her so angry?
Why couldn’t she love me and treat me like she loved me? I’m not saying we had to be happy clappers in The Brady Bunch every day, but why did I feel such a hatred directed at me?
Why couldn’t I get ‘it’ right?
For a long time I carried the shame and the secret of my relationship with her, but something changed and aside from friends noticing or being witness to things taking place (I got thrown out of the house for every birthday from 12th through to my 18th), I stopped pretending and took the risk of telling things how it really was. Friends were still there and aside from being empathetic, sympathetic, and supportive, they too had their own experiences to share.
In recent years, I have corresponded and talked with a lot of women through this blog who have very fraught and abusive relationships with their mother.
Even if it’s not being at the crazy end of things, many women today have mothers who carried their own baggage, beliefs, behaviours, and attitudes, and parented, and communicated either through actions or words, messages to their daughters that affected how they see themselves, relationships, love, and men. Only yesterday, I sat with a lovely reader of this blog and we got to talking about mothers and she blinked in shock when I spoke about my own – I could have been describing hers. Suddenly she didn’t feel so ashamed or alone.
It’s hard to talk about these things, but it’s necessary because much like when I have written about why men blow hot and cold, being the other woman, everything to do with assclowns and Mr Unavailables and the complicated dynamic and more, as women we tend to feel our situation is unique or something that we’ve caused. I don’t want you to feel alone.
In Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, I explain how our mother’s ‘words of wisdom’ and dodgy actions can teach us some strange ideas about relationships and ourselves:
They communicated that if you don’t have a man, you’re incomplete.
They tell you that you need to have a man for security.
They emphasise that you must not be reliant on men because they let you down and break your heart.
They lament their ‘missed opportunities’ that resulted from parenthood/marriage so you become apathetic.
They ride your ass like Zorro about getting an education and a career and once you have these, their only concern is about why you don’t have a man/wedding/children.
They tell you crap like if you don’t find a man and settle down, you’ll become a spinster.
When you call or you visit, they burn up energy making comments about the lack of a man in your life.
They tell you any man is better than no man.
They tell you crap like The Cheater is a ‘good man’.
You look at your mother and see how wholly dependent she is on a man and it scares you.
Your mother behaves in very negative ways such as moody, manipulative, controlling, depressed, emotionally high strung, or may even be a narcissist, and over an extended period of time, you not only fear being just like her, but you attribute her lifestyle choices to her actions.
She tells you that you’re no good, not good enough, a disappointment to her.
She knowingly allowed you to be treated poorly by a man (or men) she was involved with.
She didn’t stand up for you when her latest guy was being abusive.
She says that if you can’t hold down a relationship it must be your fault.
If you tell her something bad that has happened to you, she says its your fault.
If you tell her how you feel about something, she denies that feeling so you get used to your feelings being invalidated.
As well as having your feelings invalidated, she decides that because she feels she’s had it worse than you or that materially you are provided for, that you have no right to express how you feel.
You decide that there is no point in expressing how you feel about anything or stating your needs because she takes centre stage. Your needs do not matter when your mother is around.
She regularly ridiculed things that you said or did, plans you made, aspirations you had.
She told you that you wouldn’t amount to anything.
She accused you of sleeping around even though you weren’t.
She accused you of wanting her man or being too attractive.
When your father was verbally or physically abusive, she stood by, encouraged it, or told you that it was because he loved you or that you deserved it.
In this type of environment, it’s pretty difficult to wake up as an adult equipped with healthy love habits as it’s not like you’d have a positive example to draw upon! This isn’t about not loving or caring about your mother (or father) but it is about getting real and getting some perspective and not carrying blame and shame as weighty baggage throughout your life and relationships.