succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, December 02, 2010


One of the things I'm watching play itself out in my current relationship is my Mom's lack of emotional availability. It's hardly Mom's fault - as the child of an abusive alcoholic, you would form a hard little shell around yourself too. She and I have always had a friendly relationship. I enjoy spending time with her, talking with her. But as I've said before, I don't have a lot of strong memories of getting a lot of comfort* from her. She's friendly, but not particularly warm. Even as her kid, you can tell she's got you at arm's length.

I think (I hope!) that I manage to avoid duplicating that behavior with my friends. I feel extremely close and affectionate in my platonic relationships. But I can feel myself slipping into an old, negative emotional habit with my boyfriend. He makes eye contact from across the table, in that close, we're together kind of way that people do when they care a lot about each other. And I glance down and get uncomfortable.

Partially it's my own history - ten years of self-preservation by nursing a wicked independent streak. Keeping men at arm's length means it hurts less when they don't want to be your boyfriend. Or at least, so I nearly convinced myself.

But my family history plays a part too. I know all these things, can recognize them happening. And in my head, when the boy and I are apart, I get all warm and fuzzy with my scary, vulnerable, affectionate feelings. Now I need to get better at playing them out when he's actually right there in front of me.

*I have to say that one upside to this was her calm, detached reaction to my several childhood injuries. Sure, it would have been nice to dissolve into tears in a warm Mom hug whenever I hurt myself. But I think I was spared quite a bit of potential trauma by the fact that Mom never seemed even the slightest bit freaked out when I turned up bloody, bruised, or swollen. I had some pretty visually arresting mishaps as a kid too - managed to get a little plastic soldier stuck in my foot, dislocated a couple of fingers. And she was always unphazed.


Blogger Katey said...

You will no doubt remember my years of refusing to acknowledge any emotional response to anything whatsoever, I think--apart from anger. That was a direct response to my own mother, actually, and exactly what she did when I was a kid (and she was young, too!). Anger is a "strong" emotion, and therefore okay. Everything "weak" gets converted into anger. Later, rinse, repeat.

I mean, I still did it, but getting the shit kicked out of me emotionally in Nepal/Tibet rearranged priorities--hence the discernible difference in honesty when I returned. I still fight with it, though. I don't know what the answer is, I don't think anyone does, but at least we know we're not alone!

3:32 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Indeed, thanks Kate! Knowing is half the battle, right?

7:54 PM  

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