Friday, December 5, 2008


So in my prior post here, my good friend NN had confused one of my *stellar* ex- boyfriends for another one of my stellar ex-boyfriends.

I know, I know, it's difficult to comprehend how that would be possible!

Anyway, this reminded me of one of the things I figured out (and continue to realize) about this short relationship (the one NN had thought I was talking about). Which I had a hard time getting over. My cousin chanson wrote about unrequited love here - I wouldn't call what was going on with me at that time love, although it was definitely unrequited.

It should be no surprise to readers that I grew up in a family with mental illness. I won't dwell on that.

What's interesting, to me, is the research that shows that often children in dysfunctional homes recreate those relationships later in life. I don't have links for this, but I think it's the general consensus in the psychological community that this is the case. The hope is that through therapy and other tools, adult children of dysfunction will be able to recognize some of the patterns and move towards healthly, functional relationships.

So, for example, I look back on this relationship in college. When this person and I started dating, I remember thinking of how familiar everything seemed. Dating him seemed so normal. Yet I can't explain why it seemed normal when other relationships did not seem normal.

Yet other people in my life (in fact most everyone in my life) could recognize that he had some issues. He used to talk about the "cd-rom in his head" (yeah, this was before the internet was widely adapted, etc.) Even I recognized that he has some issues - but was deluded I thought I could fix or change him. What's also frightening is that at the time I liked who I was when I was dating him (which makes little to no sense at this point). In the end, it was obvious that he was much less interested in me than I would have liked.

For some time afterwards, I kept thinking that he would wake up and realize that we had been in a good relationship (how good we were for each other). This is despite all evidence to the contrary - and despite gentle feedback from the many friends and people who care(d) about me.

I put a lot of weight on my intuition and my feelings. Sometimes I'm a "don't let the facts get in the way" type of person, to a fault. Sometimes my gut instinct is right. But I learned (at least with both of these relationships) that my gut does not always lead me in the right direction, and in fact can lead me in the wrong direction. That's not to say that I didn't learn a great deal. Just that I may have learned more about what I didn't want (what wasn't good for me) than what was.

I think I had realized at the time that my family (of origin) had been dysfunctional and full of mental illness. I just didn't realize how much that would impact my decisions and perspective as an adult. And that I would have to remain as vigilant and conscious as possible to make sure I didn't fall back into old unhealthy patterns.


laura said...

Actually, I'm not sure that realizing that stuff saves you from making bad decisions. I knew perfectly well what some of the problems in my family were, and I went out and made exactly the same dumb decisions I swore I wouldn't.

Shortly after I moved out here, I read a novel by Pam Houston and wrote down this line, which still cracks me up: "It's my feeling that when somebody says, 'It feels like I've known you all my life,' what they really mean is, 'This dynamic we are creating here is similar to one in my unhappy childhood.'"

Freckle Face Girl said...

I am so glad that I didn't get married at a young age. I had a 4 year TOUGH relationship with someone that helped fight out my old family issues. My husband was completely opposite in every way, which most likely also stems from reacting to my childhood. Everyone has issues & his are completely foreign to me. :)

I definitely know what this is like: "I put a lot of weight on my intuition and my feelings. Sometimes I'm a "don't let the facts get in the way" type of person, to a fault." It is part of the Mormon culture. In a way I am glad, but I also have to remind myself to be more logical at times.

Aerin said...

thanks Laura - yeah, that's a great quote.

FFG - thanks for responding. I have to say, I have learned a ton from each relationship that I've been in. Maybe that's how I start paying more attention to the facts.