In progress... will take a while!
When I have tried to calmly discuss with you things that hurt me to feel understood, you have become defensive, played a victim, and said hurtful things. It is difficult to have a relationship with you as I feel unheard, unloved and unhealed from the past. I would like to leave the past in the past, however there are remnants of the past that persist today and keep me from feeling safe in a relationship with you.
This letter is my attempt to change that as I do love you and I want a relationship we can both enjoy while feeling loved, accepted and safe. That being said, I am open to hearing from you what residual pain I have caused may still be present for you or what present behaviors I exhibit and make it difficult for you to feel fully accepted, loved and safe with me.
I have expressed to you that I am in pain when I think of our family’s brokenness. I long for belonging, safety and stability within our family. Safety and stability have never been a part of our family, both physically and emotionally. This fact has been brushed off as ‘every family has their problems.’
When I was younger, I accepted ‘every family has its problems’ as an excuse for the toxic dynamics of our family. Since leaving home, I have made families of my own with my friends. I have been a confidant to them as they express their own family struggles as they have become for me. Through romantic relationships, I have become part of other families and been part of their family unit behind the curtain.
What is true - every family experiences conflict. What is not true - every family responds to conflict in the way ours does. It is not acceptable, it never has been and never will be.
I am aware that both yours and dad’s family background has many examples of violence, emotional neglect, infidelity and financial dishonesty and struggles. I have only heard bits and pieces and just thinking about some of the things you both went through make me hurt deeply. I want to go back in time to your childhoods, give you a hug, protect you, provide stability and tell you everything will be okay. I want to do the same for Grandma Gail, Papa George, Nana and Grandpa and any family member prior who was ever improperly loved or cared for without knowing it and now has behaviors ingrained that hurt their children.
The thought that often comes to mind is envisioning you or dad as a child going through what you both did. I’m sorry you went through the things you did - they were wrong, you deserve better and I desperately wish I could change it. I picture you as a child knowing your mother is having affairs with your peers parents at school and feeling shame. I see you witnessing your father and his kind soul struggle with alcoholism, severe depression, multiple suicide attempts and unstable employment. I can see you as the caretaker keeping things together for your sister and brother as your mom does her best to provide financially for her children in addition to finding love for herself.
I have been trying to mature, heal and unwind from any childhood pain as much as possible for as long as I can remember so that the family I create one day will have less pain. I am certain that you, dad, grandma, papa, nana, grandpa have wanted nothing but the same. I feel grateful for the opportunities you and dad provided for me so that I have had time and resources as an adult to do this healing as much as possible.
Thank you for everything you have given me - each swim practice you took me to, each dance recital you did my hair for and brought me a bouquet afterwards, each time you told me how proud of me you were and all of the ways you taught me to be kind and generous to others. My passion for caring for those less fortunate was born when you took Kevin and I to serve the homeless at St. Vincent De Pauls in Marietta and has been a source of inspiration to me since. You bringing Andi to visit Great Grandma and others in the nursing home was an example of sharing love with the lonely.
Kevins unexplained and harsh separation hurts. I am sad to have lost my brother. However, the physical and emotional family violence he and I both witnessed as both children and adults, I understand why he chose to separate himself. His separation is an acknowledgment to the fact that our family’s communication and conflict resolution style is not healthy.
While I have not chosen the path Kevin has, I struggle to have healthy involvement in our family with behavior that persists today. In attempts to resolve this and speak calmly about it with you, your response on multiple occasions has been ‘well why do you even bother?’ or 'well maybe you should' (about cutting off family like Kevin did). In answering your question of why I bother, I told you family is important to me, that I love you, want to spend time with you and that any of the history events that caused me pain I know were unintenitional. You responded in an aggressive tone 'oh yes it was intentional.' Granted I could sense your sarcasm admits the defensiveness, a vulnerable and open conversation about past pain is no place for aggression and sarcasm. This makes me feel even more unsafe. I felt unwanted, uncared for and as if you would be okay, and seemingly happy, if I decided to no longer try to have any semblance of a relationship with our family. Given this comes from a parent and the person first introduced to me as my protector and nurturer, I cannot express to you how much this hurts me.
Conflict exists in every relationship. It is the response and resolution that makes for healthy or unhealthy relationships.
I have witnessed that when you feel hurt or are faced with relationship conflict, you resort to threatening to leave and end the relationship entirely. I witnessed this as a child many times being picked up from school early and unexpectedly to drive Kevin and I away for a few days. The threat of ending your marriage with dad or taking away the kids happened many times. I hated when we were driving away with you crying and us shuffled into the car. I was scared. I was sad for you. I hated dad. But that was my childish perspective and to this day I am not sure what arguments took place to drive that behavior and if I should have even felt angry at dad in the first place or frustrated with you for your response to conflict and the pain that caused me and likely Kevin and dad.
When you and dad visited me in London during my last year there, I was so excited to see you both. I was particularly moved that dad was coming as he has a history for not showing up or cancelling last minute when he puts work first. This happened on his first planned trip to visit and his fulfillment of this trip meant the world to me and my relationship with him.
We planned to meet for lunch with my friend and somehow the communication broke down and you and dad were hours behind schedule. Poor time management and communication of delays is always something that has frustrated me within our relationship. However, what upsets me the most is that when I called you to see where you were you were crying, angry and revealed that you had an argument with dad and had told him to leave. I called dad who was walking around the streets of London with his luggage to find a hotel or flight to get back to the US because you told him to leave. I asked him to please stay and that we would spend good time together. I then called you back and tried to comfort you, expressed that if you truly wanted to leave dad that I would support you but asked if that was want you wanted to do to which you said no. We had a conversation which was tough for me as the child to explain to my mother that threatening to divorce or leave her husband when she did not want that was not okay. Divorce and leaving a relationship is totally up to you and sometimes the right situation. However, threatening the safety of a relationship when you are hurt, are not getting what you want, feel unheard is not okay and creates more pain, insecurity and people left to operate in a mindset that is fearful for their emotional security.
As an adult who has approached conflict with you maturely and been met with your threats for me to not be part of the family make me think that is perhaps your conflict resolution style with dad over during my childhood.
Should I have ever hated dad as a child in the first place?