“I keep wondering what I could have done to cause it. Jamie was always the perfect child. I can’t imagine why it is happening. I did think my husband should have paid more attention to him. We’ve been good parents! What went wrong?!”
“‘It’ is no one’s fault. Each is affected by ‘It.’ Each has taken a part in ‘It.’ Each can help with ‘It.’
Families and Blame
“But HONEY, you said you would take him to the ball game tonight!”
“Yes, DEAR, I said that before this new deal came up. I can’t let this opportunity pass! YOU can go with him and let your girlfriends find another fourth for bridge! Oh, yes, here’s a ten. Tell him the treats are from me!”
How would this scene be played in your family? Would there be name calling? Cursing? Shouting? Loud noises? Crying? Physical blows? Would you stone each other or use the situation as a stepping-stone to improve your lives together?
Even in families trapped in the vicious cycle of violence there is some caring. If your family has “serious scenes,” which may lead to either physical violence or emotional violence, get professional help now.
Even though family members care about one another, we may not be able to show our caring in a way that is understood by other members of the family. We may blame one another for things that are not going the way we think they should.
Learning not to blame others for things I can change is a big stepping-stone.
“All they care about me is my money!”
Many men believe that, because they work hard to provide financial security for their families, that they are obviously showing their love for the family. They are disturbed if the family doesn’t express appreciation for their efforts. Family members blame each other for financial problems. Either or both parents may try to “buy affection” with gifts for others to make up for their lack of personal attention. Family members may demand more and more while having no idea of the sacrifices involved in earning the money.i
Each family member has different ideas of what is caring, financially adequate, and necessary. They may see the wage earner/s as trying to avoid family responsibilities by working all the time. They may blame the earner/s for not caring. He is not there for important occasions. She isn’t available to listen to their worries and problems, or their triumphs and joys.
“And just who is going to break the news to Jamie that Father is too busy again!
“I…(he turns away, puts on his coat and leaves).”
Family members,individually, have expectations of each other. Husband and wife have expectations built upon their own “family of origin” experiences and their idealized and romanticized societal experiences from television, movies, books, school, church, extended family, and neighbors.
Reality seldom matches our expectations or ideals. Ideals are taught as ways to measure reality. Ideals are standards for us to endeavor to reach.
Current society places great value on expressing feelings. Some people, however, are not able to put their deeper, kinder feelings into words or actions. Consequently, they are often misinterpreted by others.
Many men have been socialized to not cry, to be “manly” with a “stiff upper lip.” Therefore, when something is meaningful and dear to them, which brings tears to their eyes and lumps to their throats, they are unable to speak. They may turn their backs to hide their emotions.
Unperceptive family members feel shut out, cold, and hurt. They may “displace” their feelings. They blame him for being cold and unfeeling, when actually, he is overwhelmed by his feelings.
Unaware of his real feelings, family members may become angry because he “ought to care more.” Again, displacing their own feelings, they may believe that he is angry, as well as uncaring.
“He’s angry! I’ve done it again! I’ve made him angry. If I just don’t say anymore about it! After all, I have to adjust to what he wants.”
Women have not escaped training from society. Women, often those who grew up in “spiritual” households, may have the view that they have to be loving in all things. A wonderful attitude. They usually place the husband at the top the household hierarchy. Lacking a spouse, the children often are placed at the top. Spouse or no spouse, the wife often takes, and is expected to take, the bottom rung of the family ladder as servant of all, with few or no desires or demands for herself. She “mothers” and supports the whole family.
Putting the other person’s desires and interests ahead of one’s own can be a very desirable trait. However, these attitudes also can be very destructive. If the woman’s husband or children are not similarly inclined, she may be setting herself up for abuse. The wife may not know how to lovingly confront her husband’s behavior when she feels hurt or disagrees with him, and instead, withdraws, deferring to him. She may not know how to be firm when the children need her to be.
The husband can become emotionally abusive without even realizing the impact of his behavior. He may also assume the wife is spiteful when she withdraws, rather than loving and kind. He may resent the “mothering.”
In real life, these stereotypes may be reversed.
“Why is she always putting me in a bind?! She never understands me. Why can’t she accept my feelings?!”
“He never understands me. Why can’t he accept me and my feelings?! We never seem to connect.”
In either case, the hurt experienced by both the husband and wife, the parent and child, can be devastating. Further complicating matters, either one, or all, may be angry with the others.
From the above examples you can understand that even though family members care for each other, sometimes we are ambivalent. We have mixed emotions and mixed motives.
But there are lilies among the briars of loving confrontations.
Next post “How to Lovingly Confront”