Last night, we were talking about old boyfriends of mine and the pranks my brothers used to play on them and my dad insisted that the guy who stalked me and tried to rape me and who threatened to kill me and who broke into our house and left “presents” to replace the “inferior” things I liked–like, I liked Grape Crush and he thought I should be drinking some other brand of grape pop and, well, problem solved, I still can’t quite bring myself to drink any kind of grape pop.–and who kidnapped the Butcher and and and and
My dad insisted that he was my boyfriend.
My dad insisted this.
I couldn’t even be mad or upset. I’m not mad or upset now, though it’s possible that it’s still worming its way through a lot of callouses.
I was, in fact, kind of…relieved is not the right word. But it was a feeling akin to relief. The feeling that almost everything about my life made sense all of a sudden.
My dad saw this jackass hurting me and me suffering and assumed it was some kind of love. After all, look at his family. That’s what love looks like. My mom once told me that one of the things my aunt can’t forgive her mother for (my grandmother, who is long dead) is that when my uncle–my aunt’s and my father’s brother–was beating his wife at my grandmother’s house, my grandmother refused to call the police and told my aunt to butt out (my aunt was a teenager at the time, which, I assume is why she didn’t call the police. Say what you want about my aunt, she has transformed herself into the kind of woman who is not going to be told what to do ever again.).
The thing that is hard to explain about life, about traumatic life is that things happen to us that make us a certain shape and then we tend to search out other situations that will support that shape. If the shape of you is happy and fulfilled and respected, searching out situations that feel familiar and will keep you in that shape is not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all.
But other times, those shapes hurt you, it hurts to be kept in them. But that’s what you know, so that’s what looks right to you. Even as you might recoil from pain, you subconsciously search out situations that maintain your shape, because that’s what you know.
It’s not all just a victim’s dynamic, though. Abusers groom their victims into the shapes that satisfy the abuser’s shape.
But the thing about these patterns is that they get passed down, maybe in slightly different shapes, but still there. I have, for years, been so pissed and disappointed that my dad could not stand up for me to this huge, fucked up asshole who directly ruined four years of my life and who still, even now, even when I feel like I’ve moved far beyond it, skulks at the edges, a much less frightening phantom, but still there.
But, y’all, he could not recognize what was happening to me as something negative. He saw it as love.
I don’t know if I can even be mad about that. It’s so fucked up. It’s impossible to understand as anything other than just a complete failure to engage the world as anything other than a fairytale that tells him his own life was normal, okay, and survivable without lasting damage.
I hate it for me, but, I have to tell you, I kind of can’t begrudge him needing that fairytale.
I guess the thing I find most befuddling about this is that, if I have any good idea about what love is, I learned it from him and Mom, through their best actions towards each other. But maybe, even with it sitting next to him all these years, him even able to sometimes be it, he can’t recognize it and instead only sees this ugly impostor as the thing itself.
If this happened in my family, I would see it as denying I was being hurt because my Dad hadn’t ‘protected’ me – in a physically threatening violence probably involving a gun sort of way. The saying “Every unhappy family is unhappy in their own way” certainly plays true.
(And my Dad has got his wish in the ‘use guns to show you’re right’ way when my almost 60 year old brother would have shot his 30 year old stepson last 4th of July. My mom said he couldn’t get a clean shot and then blamed his wife for the whole thing. Sigh.)
It’s depressing to think that this kind of bullshit just continues to echo on.
I have an acquaintance who is a psychologist and she introduced the concept of “negative affection” to me. Some people have suffered so much abuse and confused it as love – i.e. someone being overprotective to the point of smothering/stalking. The person writes it off as being treated badly is better than being ignored. Yes, screwed up, but it happens a lot.