L. The Major Issues (As I See Them)

1. Our Different Family Backgrounds.

Throughout the course of this relationship, I was very confused. Emotionally, I was soaring high one minute, and in the toilet the next. I couldnít understand why, even though we had good times together and loved each other, you were still always hurting me. However, looking back, itís all become a lot clearer. For one thing, I now realize that a lot of your abusive behavior probably had nothing to do with me. It is a good bet that you were simply treating me as you yourself had been treated--and I was responding in the only way I knew how. This can be traced to our different family backgrounds.

We grew up in very different environments. A lot of our basic incompatibilities stem from this simple fact. First, on the issues of money, frugality, and waste--I grew up where no one cared how many napkins or paper towels I used. Using a new Dixie cup every time you brushed your teeth was not frowned upon. Spending or losing some change here, a couple dollars there, was not a big deal. However, I realize this was not the case in your family. You had less money, and a lot more people that it had to cover. For example, the number of napkins put out took on more significance. In a way I completely understand your nagging over these things. However, when it becomes an excuse to snap and yell at someone, or to continually nag them 24 hours a day in an effort to control them; when it becomes so important that it is worth making your partner miserable, I must take exception to that.

But the major differences in our families, was the way we treated each other. First, the level of support, acceptance, and unconditional love seems to have been worlds apart. When I was young, my parents supported me in almost anything I did. I wanted to have a paper route for four years? Fine. I wanted to dress up like a little hockey player and run around with a hockey stick? Go ahead. My parents sat through years of our violin lessons, went to all our concerts, and in general let us do what we wanted and were always supportive of us. Furthermore, there was not that much sibling rivalry between my sister and me. I had the extremely good fortune to grow up in an environment in which I was not ridiculed, criticized, or made to feel small or stupid. My parents were pretty good role models as a couple--they treated each other, for the most part, with kindness and respect.

This seems to have been exactly the opposite of what you experienced. In your family, it sounds like people constantly made you feel bad, and certainly not supported. Furthermore, it sounds like there was a lot of conflict in your household. Criticizing, snapping, yelling, hitting (of you by your parents), and mixed messages seems to have been the norm. So this is just what you are used to. Constant bickering (such as what I saw between you and your mother), to you is probably just a normal way of life.

Conflict is familiar to someone from an unhappy home. Bickering, coldness, and sarcasm feels normal. After awhile, one sees no problem with fighting and emotional pain. Bickering becomes an acceptable pattern of relating and people living there carry this type of communication into all their relationships.

--From Learning To Love Yourself

A good example of something that I see to have been possibly rooted in family background issues, is the following. You seemed to have an obsession with doing the dishes. Earlier in our relationship you yelled at me for using too much water, using too little water, using too much soap, using too little soap, not washing the handles of utensils, pots or pans, not washing the bottoms of pots, not pre-rinsing, stacking the dirty dishes, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Perhaps this was because you yourself were yelled at for these things, and you were simply treating me the same way. Furthermore, several times you expounded on the fact that it was only polite to always do the dishes when you were a guest somewhere else. You were constantly nagging me to do (or for us to do) the dishes at my parentsí house. You made it seem like I was being "rude," or an "ungrateful daughter" if I didnít do them. Overall, you seemed to have this fixation on doing the dishes.

But in my family, doing the dishes was not an important matter. We did have a schedule, but as long as they got done, nobody made a big deal of it. The four of us each used different techniques to wash, and as long as they were reasonably clean, nobody cared. And we were flexible--if someone got "stuck with the dishes" it wasnít a huge insult or "dump." As I told you before, although my mom probably appreciated your doing the dishes, itís just wasnít a big deal.

However, what was a big deal in our family, was bickering, snapping, yelling, and treating each other badly. This was a very big deal and definitely NOT something Iím used to. Can you see how these family differences, profoundly affected our relationship? And when it comes to these things, on one level I will agree that it is not whether I am right or you are wrong, or that you are right and I am wrong. Itís just simply the way it is.

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