Family dynamics

My husband, kids and I have been home for Christmas vacation. Husband and kids are having a grand old-time but I am busy cleaning, organizing, doing laundry and keeping the kitchen up. To my kids credit they helped clean their closet yesterday (because I forced them to). There is some pride in getting that nasty job done; but last night I was pissed off that I was not enjoying the same vacation as my husband. I expressed my displeasure a few times and each time my kids and husband say, “Don’t do it.” That’s easy for them to say. If I don’t do it everything will pile up for me to do later. I have ignored the kitchen for 24 hours and the counters are piled with dirty dishes because the dishwasher is full and someone needs to empty it. The roaster pan from Christmas still sits on the stove top, waiting to be cleaned. It’s been there for 4 days. (During this writing I hear the sounds of my husband cleaning the kitchen and making the kids pancakes).

Last night I was angry enough that I wanted to run away. This coping mechanism is totally a mental escape that allows me to not feel trapped. I learned it as a young girl who suffered in silence with the shame of incest. Maybe getting older is not such a good thing because I realize I can’t simply “run away.” I have a house, husband and kids.

So I did the second best thing I know to cope with a shitty situation. I opened a bottle of beer and then had a couple of glasses of wine. I went to bed at 8:30 pm just to get away from everyone. The alcohol worked by easing my anxiety/anger but I wondered why I’m afraid to demand my needs get met. What would happen if I told my husband to help me instead of what he does, which, when he is not working, is hobbies or sitting in the recliner and watching TV.

Earlier in the day I tried to express myself in a non-confrontational way. I asked my husband, “Will you do me a favor?” His answer was an immediate “No.” I responded, “Why would you answer that way?” He laughed and said, “Because it’s the way you ask it.”

I’m not even going to go into the conversation because it triggers a sense of helplessness. I really should address this issue in therapy. Well, I have and Lynn tells me to make lists but I can’t get my husband to do anything on my lists. That would be a topic for therapy.

I am writing on a new laptop I received for Christmas. My husband surprised me with the gift even though we had agreed not to spend money on each other. I know that was sweet of him and I shouldn’t be so angry. He knows a lot more about computers so he spent hours on Christmas day installing Microsoft Office 10, updates and virus protection. When he transferred all of my files from the old laptop, I became nervous that he would open one of my blog posts that are kept in a folder called “Weblog.” He passed right over the specifics and I worried for nothing.

I had to enter a password for access to my new computer and so I typed it in without showing my husband. It asked for a hint in the event I forget so I wrote “flower.” Husband needed to get into my computer so he asked for the password. I said, “It’s a flower.” The children guessed sunflower and Mayflower (that’s my younger one who was thinking of the pilgrim’s voyage to America). Husband guessed daylily, typed it in and got immediate access. “How did you know that?” I asked. His answer, “You told me you had a handle by that name on some website.”

I felt a wall of self-protection go up. Oh crap, what if he has been to my blog? Quick, think, do I say bad things about him? I wondered, Is he the one who visited the day I had one visitor read almost all my posts. I quickly decided he hasn’t been to my blog because he really doesn’t have an interest in what I write. He’s never liked my ramblings on paper and the times he has suffered through listening to me express things similar to what I write about he looks bored. He spent all day on my computer and I know he didn’t read my documents. Emotional stuff is boring. I know this about him.  (I changed my password anyway).

Tomorrow we are traveling to visit my mother and step-dad. They are both 78 years old and live a few hours away by car. We have a reservation at a hotel and will hang out with them most of the time. I look forward to the break from all the things I do around my house. My mom lives in a retirement home and wants to show us off to all her friends in the dining room. She also said her place needs a snowman out front. This is how my mother is. She likes to show others she has the perfect family and so I will play along. I do love her and I like to make her happy. So, I’m bringing along a scarf, hat, carrot nose and my kids snow gear (We haven’t thought of what the eyes and mouth will be yet). My boys will be instructed to build a snowman and just as I was the dutiful daughter so shall my children be the dutiful grandsons. I know I sound sarcastic but all kidding aside; I want my boys to make Grandma happy. I am bringing my Sony Handycam to get some video. Life is short and she is getting older. I want to have video to look back on as a way of remembering my mom.

We’ll see my oldest brother, who was the perpetrator of sexual abuse upon my prepubescent body. Ironically, he has always been my mother’s favorite. I feel slightly sickened by the reality of such facts but otherwise I’ve forgiven and moved on with my life. My brother has admitted his mistakes (been counseled by his pastor) and we have made amends. It took years of therapy but I no longer think of what he did to me when I was a young girl. My boys like to see their uncle and all of this will make my mom happy.

I have been open about the sexual abuse within my family (with my siblings, not with my children) but my step dad has never been told. I sometimes have the desire to disclose this family secret because he has been part of the family for over 10 years. I love him for the wonderful grandfather he’s been to my kids. He is also so good to me and my husband. What would it serve for me to share this? I wonder why I want to. If my mother hasn’t told him would it be wrong for me?


6 responses to “Family dynamics

  1. You have a right to tell your step father anything you want. I for one can’t even imagine that you have made amends with your family about that entire situation, but its your life not mine. Take care of yourself. Oh, and delegate some chores to the family, not just now, but for always. Or just don’t do it, and your family will see how valuable you are to the home running smoothly. That’s what happened when I went away to college, even the youngest kid of the family was doing a lot to keep things together, but no one realized until I was gone. Take good care.

    • I can see how it would be hard to understand how I’ve made amends with my family. In simple terms, when I spoke out about what my brother did to me (around age 30) everyone believed me and there wasn’t any denial. Many times, the accused will deny it and show no remorse or the parent will deny that it happened because sexual abuse in a family makes everyone look bad. My mother tried her hardest to give me what I needed and for survivors who are heard and supported it is usually just time until the wound heals. My brother admitted what he did and offered to pay for therapy and to help in anyway. I refused his help but the offer was recognized as his attempt at reconciliation. That took a few years of me growing independent of my original family. I didn’t talk to my brother or vacation together for a couple years. Gradually, I let go of the anger I had for my brother and the last person I forgave was my mom. No matter what a child thinks their mother should know what’s going on and do something. My mom claims she didn’t know but it doesn’t matter, really. My family of 3 siblings and a mother are able to put our differences aside and come together as a functioning unit. We share some holidays and vacations together. That’s a good thing because there are cousins involved and to separate them would be harmful for their development. I don’t know if that explains where I’m coming from or you still think I’m nuts but in my life, it works better to let go of hate.

      I hope your week at home went okay.


  2. Daylily, We never know what we’d do in eachother’s shoes. Life is complicated and circumstances are complex. I know how I’ve felt about keeping quiet about things, and I know I did it to save other people from having a burden. It wasn’t until I had kids that I could see myself in reality. As an adult in recovery I realize that being quiet was kept me from the love and support I needed to heal, and I both needed it and deserved it. So do you.

    I’ve faced a lot of rejection and denial from various family members, but God provided the people I needed for support.

    It might be helpful to ask yourself why you would or wouldn’t share the truth about what happened. If you were my stepdaughter I know I’d want to know what happened so I could support you, but not everyone knows how to handle that kind of information. Is he in poor health? What would you hope to gain from sharing your experience? How would you feel if he didn’t repaid how you’d like him to?

    Love and hugs to you.

    • My step dad (SD) is generous to a fault. Right now he is giving financial assistance to my big brother (BB) who hurt me when I was little. SD has gone as far as buying a small house for BB and letting BB live rent-free while BB gets on his feet. But, BB is not grateful, he acts like he is entitled and it bothers me very much. I’ve told SD that he should realize that BB’s own siblings are not helping him out of his financial situation so SD shouldn’t either. BB’s behavior and personality has always been selfish and impulsive so this predicament he’s got himself in is from his own doing. I guess in a way I think if SD knew the truth about my BB’s errant ways he would stop helping him. But, on the flip side, I fear I could piss SD off so much that he wouldn’t even be able to look at BB let alone help him. My Mom (M) loves BB so much that causing more of a riff between M and SD because of BB would be bad for everyone. In a way, I may be protecting M by not letting SD know the truth. SD is in good health and I really think he would like to be in on the family secret. But, I don’t trust that M can have a rational conversation about the past and focus on protecting her needy son who SD is helping so much. The disclosure could make things very uncomfortable for M and SD and that’s why I question the idea. I don’t have anything to gain by sharing the information except to show SD that I love him and embrace him into the family like a real dad. I could not ask for a better grandpa for my boys. As you can see, I’ve thought about this a lot but never acted on it.

      I just don’t know what the right answer is. If I told M I wanted to tell SD she would not agree — this I know.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Wow, Daylily. I really admire your thoughtfulness and intention. You’re in a tough position. I pray you find peace with whatever choice you make, and I’m so glad SD is such a good person to you and your family. Without knowing the situation you already know what he’d feel about what happened to you. He’d feel the same way we all feel about it. Tears, more tears, and a wish there was something we could have done to stop it.

        Your depth and compassion is beautiful.

      • Thanks but I was hoping for an answer to this dilemma. : )

        Shutting down and off I go so we shall see what transpires.

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