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Family History of Abuse

Broken FamilyWell, many things have transpired recently with my father.  It turns out my father was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder many years ago.   In previous posts, Abusive Email Traps, I had listed some of the bizarre interactions I had with my father and how much they reminded me of my abusive ex-husband’s behavior.   When I was married, my ex-husband’s behavior was so unpredictable irrational and he would exhibit extreme mood swings.   There were times I truly questioned if he was possibly Bi-Polar and using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.

Since October 15th my father has become increasingly harder to have a relationship with.  One moment he is extremely pleasant and then an instant later he is yelling at me about something.  Then he follows by sending some email that contains distortion of the facts an twists the entire conversation around to where it is my fault.   This is the same types of twisted emotional encounters I had with my ex-husband during many conversations or emails I received.

Over the weekend they were able to obtain a court order to force my father to get a medical evaluation which is was so against.   Apparently he spent a great deal of time shouting at my Aunt about the entire situation.  Although, as she listened to his words she realized he was really angry at the doctor, not really at her.   He was just taking his emotions out on her.  I guess my father would not want to display this behavior in front of the doctors.  The doctor called me late Friday night to ask my thoughts about his behavior.  She asked if I was afraid of him, and I had to tell her that I did not want him to come and visit me because I was fearful of my family’s safety.  Especially after all his ‘God will Judge You’ emails that seemed so much like a religious zealot.

My Aunt and I talked on the phone for over 5 hours yesterday about all sorts of things.  One of her comments really gave me a change of mind about my grandmother and her relationship with my grandfather.  See, I had always believed my grandmother had lost herself or was broken to continue to live with my grandfather and tolerate his abuse.  Although, to hear my Aunt describe it sounds quite different than what I had pictured.

Apparently when my Aunt was in her mid-thirties she asked my grandmother why she stayed all those years.  I think my Aunt wanted to know why my grandmother didn’t leave to protect her children.

My grandmother said, ” Things were very different in those days.  There were no women’s shelters at that time.  Besides, where would I go and how would I have been able to support my children.”

“Why would you continue to allow dad to call you ‘stupid’ or all the names he called you?  He was so horrible to you, how could you tolerate that?”  my Aunt replied.

“Look, I graduated in the top 10% of my class.  I knew I wasn’t stupid even if he said I was.  I would just ignore his outbursts and let them roll off my back.” my grandma stated.

Apparently, my great-grandmother had told my grandma that she was welcomed to come visit her, but if she was fighting with her husband not to bother.  During this time the divorce rate was pretty low at only 10-15%.   During these years a women would have to have proof of the cruelty to even have grounds for divorce.   Then if she had proof, she would have to figure out where to go and how to support her children if she had any.

During the late 70’s when my mother wanted a divorce from my father.  She was not working and as a Catholic a divorce was really frowned upon.  However, when things got so bad between my father and mother she finally made the decision to divorce.  She wanted to get as far away from his as possible and moved several states away to live with her mother.

When I was making the decision to get divorced in the early 2000s, I never made the decision lightly.  I took was a stay-at-home mother and was very worried about where I could go and how I would support my daughter.  When things continued to get worse and my ex-husbands behavior became increasingly erratic I finally made the decision to go forward with it.

At that time, he was so difficult to live with I didn’t care if I had to live in my car I was not going to stay with him.  Of course, my attorney filed a ‘no fault’ divorce.  The bad part about this is he could continue to mentally abuse our daughter… although if we are entirely honest about it none of this has to do with our daughter as it has to do with his desire to punish me.  She was always just a pawn in his games.

To be honest, I really wanted to avoid divorce because I had been a child of divorce.  However, living with an abusive man began to take such a toll on my health I am not sure how good of a mother I could have been.  I still worry that my daughter may one day pick an abusive man.

It does seem we have a family history of picking abusive men.  I have told my daughter she really has a choice to make.  I told her about my Aunt and how she purposely picked a man that was completely unlike her father.  My Aunt said my Uncle is very calm and rarely loses his temper.  One thing I realized is my mother never met a man that didn’t treat her badly so I guess she probably couldn’t tell me other types of men even existed.

Awareness… people cannot make another choice without awareness.  How can you know abuse if you are not aware of what is abusive? How can you choose a non-abusive man to marry if you are not aware of what that picture looks like?  How can you choose a different life than what you have always know unless you are aware of what behavior is acceptable or unacceptable?

I remember questioning to myself… What if all men were just like my ex-husband?  What if I left him, met someone else and they were just the same?  Odds are I would have picked the same because I was very familiar with abusive men.  I had always known  men who were abusive and that would have felt ‘normal’ to me.  I was also very aware how many women leave one relationship only to pick someone who is the same, slightly better or even worse.  I really had to work hard on myself because I really did not want to make that same mistake again.

After all… People tend to repeat what they know.

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