I never learned how to have functional relations with men, nor did I get to experience what unconditional love and support from a man would feel like. In our home, my grandmother ruled the roost and my mother was a divorced, self-supporting woman. From watching these two important female figures, who were different, yet were both gutsy women in their time, I learned how to be a strong woman.
The men in my life were: my dad, an alcoholic who was physically and emotionally gone, my grandfather, the family patriarch, who did not pay much attention to me except when I misbehaved, and my mother’s only brother, who instead of embracing me, was aloof and even harsh at times.
I knew my grandfather and uncle were loving, because I watched them praise and embrace my brother and my cousins. However, I never felt I was one of the accepted and approved children in the family. I remember how excluded I felt on many occasions, especially when it came to choosing godparents for my uncles’ children. I was the only one not chosen, so I believed I was not good enough or special enough to be a godparent. That wound felt like barbed wire wrapped around my heart.
Because I lacked positive attention from these significant men in my early life, I never learned how to relate to the opposite sex. My concept of men became one of thinking they were judgmental, unkind, and closed to intimacy, especially with me. I longed for nurturing and acceptance, but I did not receive that from the three major male figures in my formative years.
As a child, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, or what I needed to do to be approved. On an unconsious level, I think I saw myself as a pariah. I longed to fit in, but I didn’t know how. So I did the only thing I knew to do. I internalized my sense of being a misfit. I buried the pain and kept the lid on it. Occasionally, I’d taste the gall that was festering-but I had no name or expression for what I tasted.
I was in my late fifties before I could identify my basic belief about men, whichwas that they were unavailable and could not be trusted with my heart. That was the gall that was eating away at my core.
As I’ve walked my path, I’ve learned a lot about my true self and my desires in life. I’ve begun to see clearly what drove me to make the choices I did in forming relationships with men. I unconsciously picked men who were not available, who were the opposite of what I longed for, and who represented the men from my childhood.
In 2000, I left my second husband and lived alone for the next six years. I chose a life of celibacy and consciously decided it was time to learn to be independent and self-sufficient, and to see if I could make inroads into healing my men issues. I needed to find out who I was, so I could figure out how to have healthy relationships.
During that time I learned that I not only had unhealthy relationships with men, but I didn’t know how to relate to women either. Over those years, I was able to uncover a huge part of the root of my lifelong dysfunction, and begin a deep process of healing.
In 2006, before I met Paul, I had a brief fling with a European man. After knowing him for about one month, I saw how much he was like the men in my childhood. He was emotionally unavailable, harsh, and judgmental of me.
About six weeks after I met him, we were sitting on my front deck having a glass of wine.
We started our daily round of arguing and in the middle of the fight, I took a step back and looked at him. In that moment the light went on.
I saw myself mirrored in his behavior and attitudes. He did not like nor trust women, and he had a need to put them, and me, down most of the time.
It was clear to me that I approached relationships and treated men the same way. In my hidden rage towards them, I had to find a way to put them down and make them feel less than me. I was usually on guard and on the offense, so I could get them before they got me.
Seeing myself in that man, was the impetus I needed to pull away from the insanity of the dance I was doing.
I was cracked open and able to see the wounds inflicted by men, from my childhood to the present. I stayed with the pain and sorrow for a couple of months, and kept nurturing myself…and writing. I wrote page after page as the cobwebs parted and I found a way to make sense of my journey with men.
Then I met my beloved Paul. Our relationship is not perfect, but it is awesome, and due to my lifetime of healing that is yet to be done, there are occasional hiccups in the road. However, the difference in my relationship today is a clear vision of how I relate to my husband.
I’ve learned to step back and look at what I’m doing. When I get out of control and feel the need to create drama in the relationship, I can usually see whether what is festering within me is about the present or about my childhood wounds. Ninety-nine percent of the time it has nothing to do with the present.
Paul is very knowing, quiet, and oh so wise. He sees me, and he is able to listen carefully when I talk. He nurtures me and holds me when I’m sad, and lets me know how special and loved I am. Through him, I am seeing men in a different light, and I am redefining my thoughts about them.
As I continue to live this relationship with my incredible husband, I get to heal my childhood wounds in the middle of a partnership. I trust I will stay open to seeing those dark shadows that lurk in my core, and that I will continue to look at them and give them a name. I’m coming home to the self I left, and it feels sane.
I need to say that I hold no malice or blame towards my dad, grandpa, or uncle. They just were who they were, as was I. We all came to walk our specific path, and though they are all dead, when I think of them, I bless them and send them thanks for helping to create and support my path in life.
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