“At least I knew she loved us. And she always came through in the end,” I said to my therapist years ago when describing my mother.
“What do you mean?” asked Dr. Ron.
“When push came to shove...you know, she always came through?” I stammered.
“Why did it always have to get to that point for her to act?” replied Dr. Ron with a tinge of exasperation.
Those 14 words shone one hell of a bright light on a parenting pattern I hadn’t acknowledged for the underlying emotional abusiveness it contained. Up until that point, I believed my mother’s 11th-hour actions were a strength -- like that, even with raising of three children, holding a part-time job, and supporting her fledging artistic career, she actually had time to pick up my new gymnastics leotard just minutes before a meet got underway.
When Dr. Ron looked me dead in the eye and interpreted the origins of my anxiety, I adored him like a parent, like the attuned, responsive caretaker every child should have. Knowing why you’re anxious doesn’t make you less anxiety-sensitive, but the truth brings you one step closer to change.
This insight equipped me with the clinical incisiveness to zero in on the narcissistic tendencies of my clients’ parents, as well as their dependency issues.
If you weren’t blessed with caretakers who put your needs before their own:
* May you learn to self-parent in a way that teaches you not to settle.
* May you internalize the wisdom and the warning signs.
* May you feel anything but grateful when your partner brings flowers after five straight days of the silent treatment. May you read through the blurred lines when she texts, “I was thinking about calling last week but things got crazy.”
* May you recognize and register excuses like a CIA agent collects foreign intelligence.
Because you don’t deserve to be treated like a second-class citizen, and you’re not a child anymore.
Make the following scripts part of your vernacular:
“This isn’t working. Here’s a few recent examples of when you’ve reneged on your word.”
“Did I miss the call that you planned to stop by tonight? If you want to see me, ask before assuming I’m free. Right now I'm busy.”
Don’t lap up scraps because you’re emotionally starved. You may be hungry, but you’re not desperate.
Find that emotionally evolved person who “gets” you, a partner who recognizes your contributions, and resolves conflicts quickly.
In short, a person who knows that living "when push comes to shove" has no place in a healthy relationship.