Ask E. Jean - Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by confusion?

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I am 29 years old. Child of immigrants. My father and mother have done everything for us and sacrificed their lives, left their family so we could have a better life. Ive always thought my parents marriage lacked romance and it didnt feel like what a marriage should be. I always thought my mom felt inferior to my dad, and he certainly made her feel so throughout their marriage. My mom is a bit demanding of my dad. (these are just some quick facts that are coming off the top of my head as I cannot recount my entire childhood here). As for me, I have always had vulnerability issues and have never been in a relationship with a man. I have trust issues and feel unworthy of romantic love. Why would anyone love me? Today, I discovered that my father has been sending flirtatious texts to another woman and this has absolutely devestated me. I do not think my mother knows and my siblings do not; I do not plan on telling anyone. Whether or not there is anything going on is irrelevant to me. What I am worried about (and this is selfish) is the further negative effect this is going to have on my ability to trust men. From observing my parents, I have always been worried that I will lose my value as a partner in my marriage once I lose my appearance. I am an attractive girl but have constantly been afraid that the only reason men give me attention or want to be with me is because of how I look and that once I stop looking like this, the love will disappear too. I feel like it is my job to stay looking beautiful and charismatic and feminine, otherwise, my husband WILL turn to other women. I do not have an example of a successful and loving relationship that I could look to and say, "It is possible" and even if I did, I would probably assume someone is doing something behind the other's back. This turn of events has solidified this fear in me. Why wouldn't this happen to me? What makes me special? Every where I look, men are cheating on their girlfriends and wives, some even trying to cheat on them with me. Why wouldnt my husband do the same to me?

I know I need counselling, but cannot afford it right now as I just finished grad school and cannot find a job. This is why I have come here, to hear any words of advice from you all. I am desperate and heartbroken and anxious and terrified of what this will do to me when I try to have a relationship with a man, as well as what this will do my relationship with my father.

Im sorry if this is all a bit incoherent, my mind is very scattered right now.

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    Your world has just been knocked off-kilter in a big way by what you've discovered about your dad. So what I'd recommend is stepping back for a bit emotionally so you can get your equilibrium back.

    The thing is, everyone's different. Some folks react to a situation one way, some another. Some relationships last decades, some are over very quickly. Some men are cads, some are lovely but most are simply flawed human beings who do their best. Just because your dad is mis-behaving does not mean that every man you meet will eventually behave like him.

    But the fact of the matter is that every relationship has the element of the unknown and it takes a leap of faith and some personal emotional risk. You've got to decide whether or not a relationship is worth that. For a lot of us, it is. If it wasn't, our species would have died out long ago.

    So... about your assumption that if you fade with age that a partner would leave you. First, men age too. It's not like they stay young while their partner ages. They have the same worries about losing their vitality. And if he was a true partner, the two of you would have more in common than physical attraction. Shared interests and values, good communication and actually liking each other are what make a relationship last.

    But I suspect that we here on this site telling you these things is not going to create a major shift in your mind and lead you to suddenly become more trustful of men and feel more sure about your own value. So what I'd like to suggest is finding someone to talk to about this. This isn't something that you picked up over night; it's going to take some work to get yourself out of that mindset. It's one thing to be a trusting fool - it's another to trust no one. Finding a happy medium will make your life a lot easier.

    reply to Jill
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    There is more here than can be unpacked in a single reply ... but I think first and foremost you need to know that cycles *can* be broken. You are not predestined to follow the patterns of your parents; while it will take some work, you absolutely can live a life very different from theirs. In some ways, you can even recognize their patterns of behaviour and figure out the ones that you don't want to repeat ... sometimes, in determining your own path, it can be helpful to know the type of person you *don't* want to be, or to be with.

    There are, of course, successful relationships all around you that you can look to as well -- but confirmation bias means that they're sometimes easy to dismiss as "relationships that just haven't failed yet". Still, try to keep an eye out for the successful relationships you might come across. You'll find they're not "perfect", and require a lot of work ... but it's work that the participants are happy to do. Don't look to these relationships out of jealousy or envy...just as examples of what *can* be done with a combination of love, respect, and work -- and yes, luck.

    Also, know that this is tough to do on your own -- for *anyone*, not just for you! Please check with your university to see if they have counseling services available. Some will have services that are accessible to grads or recent grads for free, or at a discounted rate.

    Finally, I don't know if keeping what you found out about your dad to yourself is entirely healthy. I can certainly understand -- and respect -- that you feel revealing it to the family might cause more sorrow to some people than it's worth. But talking it out with someone is important to *you* and your mental well-being. Is there anyone in your life, whether a friend or a mentor, with whom you can talk about this? Please don't feel that you have to shoulder the burden entirely on your own ... you'd be surprised at the number of people in your life who will be happy to help you, if you give them the opportunity.

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    Kal wrote: There is more here than can be unpacked in a single reply ... but I think first and foremost you need to know that cycles *can* be broken. You are not predestined to follow the patterns of your parents; while it will take some work, you absolutely can live a life very different from theirs. In some ways, you can even recognize their patterns of behaviour and figure out the ones that you don't want to repeat ... sometimes, in determining your own path, it can be helpful to know the type of person you *don't* want to be, or to be with. There are, of course, successful relationships all around you that you can look to as well -- but confirmation bias means that they're sometimes easy to dismiss as "relationships that just haven't failed yet". Still, try to keep an eye out for the successful relationships you might come across. You'll find they're not "perfect", and require a lot of work ... but it's work that the participants are happy to do. Don't look to these relationships out of jealousy or envy...just as examples of what *can* be done with a combination of love, respect, and work -- and yes, luck. Also, know that this is tough to do on your own -- for *anyone*, not just for you! Please check with your university to see if they have counseling services available. Some will have services that are accessible to grads or recent grads for free, or at a discounted rate. Finally, I don't know if keeping what you found out about your dad to yourself is entirely healthy. I can certainly understand -- and respect -- that you feel revealing it to the family might cause more sorrow to some people than it's worth. But talking it out with someone is important to *you* and your mental well-being. Is there anyone in your life, whether a friend or a mentor, with whom you can talk about this? Please don't feel that you have to shoulder the burden entirely on your own ... you'd be surprised at the number of people in your life who will be happy to help you, if you give them the opportunity.

    I think my main fear is that I am more like my mom than I realize and that I will eventually end up with someone like my dad. He is a wonderful father, for the most part, but I would not want to marry him (this is not to say that my mom is a completely innocent victim). Regardless, my fear is that the saying that we marry our father/mother is true. I have already noticed myself accepting less than anyone would deserve in my (limited) romantic encounters with men. Though, I just have to remind myself that I have more control over this than I think and that I mustn't allow myself to believe otherwise. Its just that I see patterns of behaviour not only in myself, but also in my siblings that I've see in my uncles and other family members, and I am afraid the behavioural and personality faults of my family members is more ingrained in me than I think.

    With respect to speaking to someone, I have very close friends who I confided in last night upon my discovery, so I am thankful for that.

    Thank you for your reply.

    Edit*: Now I am finding myself treating my father coldly. I already feel like he feels isolated because of how cold my mom is toward him, so I feel extremely guilty about this. Despite my anger toward him, I dont want him to feel like he is coming home to a hostile home, where nobody loves him.

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    >>I think my main fear is that I am more like my mom than I realize and that I will eventually end up with someone like my dad .... my fear is that the saying that we marry our father/mother is true.

    This is only true if you're not a reflective person, who has no gumption and is content to be buffeted about by fate like a paper plate in a hurricane.

    That's not you ---*you* get to control who you marry. Which means you can make a decision to say "no" to someone who exhibits qualities you don't like, and who doesn't show the genuine desire and ability to improve.

    Of course, I don't know if maybe there are family pressures on you to marry -- either by a certain date, or perhaps to a certain type of partner (defined by job status, ethnic background, and/or other factors)? If so, I can understand that might complicate things somewhat. All I can say is that your happiness matters, and that you get to take the time to get to know a person who is a potential long-term partner. That way you can say "yes" OR "no" with some degree of confidence.

    Listen....*some* people marry their parents. Some people don't. You don't have to be one of those people if you don't want to be.



    >>With respect to speaking to someone, I have very close friends who I confided in last night upon my discovery, so I am thankful for that.

    Excellent! Keep in with those friends ... it's always nice to be able to get that "knows you personally" perspective and advice.




    >>Now I am finding myself treating my father coldly. I already feel like he feels isolated because of how cold my mom is toward him, so I feel extremely guilty about this. Despite my anger toward him, I dont want him to feel like he is coming home to a hostile home, where nobody loves him.

    It's okay....you get to feel how you feel. And I'd place money on the proposition that your father hasn't even noticed the change in your treatment of him. We all tend to place much more emphasis on what others "must" be thinking of us than they actually do.

    One more thing: I realize it may be difficult right now if you're unemployed (and in grad school debt!), but if you're still at home with Mum and Dad? Your number one priority is taking the plunge and getting out on your own, or with roommates. This will help you greatly with some of the issues you're dealing with...

    I wish you the very best of luck!


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