Alice Miller, child abuse and mistreatment

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The husband`s role
Wednesday September 02, 2009



Dear Alice,

I am a 34 year-old woman who "awoke" to the truth of my childhood 2 years
ago, when I had hit rock bottom with my eating disorder and constant bouts
of severe depression and my isolating from others, including my husband of
(then) 8 years. I realized that I had been "eating" my pain from having
been severely mentally, emotionally, and physically abused by a tyrannical,
irrational, manipulative, alcoholic mother, and having been completely
ignored by an emotionally distant, workaholic father, who was more concerned
with maintaining the "faηade" of a happy family than the hurt and suffering
being doled out by his monstrous wife upon his 2 innocent children.

The big result of my "awakening" to this truth was that I realized it had
been a HUGE mistake, allowing my parents access to my adult life and family
(including their 4 children). Every time they visited me, I felt sick
inside, I felt desperate to please them; and I hated myself deeply. I never
connected the depression and self-hatred and resentment I felt towards my
husband with the fact that I was allowing my parents to be a part of my
adult life as if they had never perpetrated all those horrible sins upon me
as a child. I realized that I resented my husband because he had welcomed
his new in-laws with open arms all the years we'd been married. I realized
I hated him for accepting them. And then I realized that it was my own
fault, because I had never told my husband the truth about my past. I'd
never told him what conditional love and abuse they'd bestowed upon me as my
"parents." I'd never told him how unbelievably terrifying my childhood
household had been under the despotic rule of my insane mother. I never
told him how angry my father would get whenever I spoke up and expressed my
suffering; how my father had made clear to me that the only way he would
love me was if I shut my mouth about the hell going on inside our house. He
would only love me if I pretended to be happy; if I denied that Mom's
sickening, torturous insults and manipulations and beatings happened.

When I "awoke" to all of this, the memories poured out. I told my husband
everything. We'd been together 13 years at that point, and he'd never known
the truth. He was grateful for knowing, however, because our marriage had
always been missing something. I was always isolating myself from him;
closing doors and wanting to be alone; eating and eating and eating in
darkness and silence; telling him how much I hated myself. And he felt
alone. Now he understood WHY his wife had been this way. And we began the
process of healing. Step one was to call my parents and say, "NO! What you
did was WRONG when I was a child! I owe you nothing! And I certainly don't
owe you access to my life!" I felt empowered. I felt free for the first
time in my life! This step was all because I read your books. I realized
that the 4th commandment was what had been keeping me imprisoned all those
years I'd let them into my life, never telling my husband how much I hated
them for what they'd done to me, because I thought I was obligated to love
them; I thought I was obligated to give my husband in-laws.

Now it is 2 years later...my parents continue to try to bully their way into
my life. Despite my requests for them to leave me alone; to let me be free;
they still write letters and postcards constantly; they still come to my
city and "stalk" me. They act in the same way they acted towards me when I
was little--as if my feelings and desires deserve NO RESPECT. They only
want what they want, and that is to have what they want of me. To OWN ME.
And they certainly don't want to hear the truth: they hate my feelings.
They love only the idea of my being "THEIR" daughter. I hate them.

So now I come to my question for you...my husband has been a wonderful
enlightened witness to me these last 2 years. He knows everything. I have
told him most of the ugliest details of my upbringing; the atrocities of my
mother's treatment of me. He has served as a voice of protection when my
parents descend upon my life here in Oregon. He calls them and tells them
that I do not want them to come; that I need to be free from them to heal.
My parents write in their letters that they are "sorry" and they want me to
forgive them. But I listen to my body and I know they are only saying that
because they want me to sweep my feelings under a rug, accept them back into
my life, and continue on as if none of the hurt I felt as a child happened.
I know this to be true! I know it as deeply as anyone knows anything,
because I KNOW THEM.

My husband, who came from a functional, rational, unconditionally loving
family, and who also happens to have been raised in the same strict Roman
Catholic upbringing I was, seems to be unsure of how he feels about my
adamant position that I DO NOT WANT THEM BACK IN MY LIFE. I DO NOT LOVE
THEM. He implies to me that he is confused. When he talks to them on the
phone to tell them to stop sending things, to stop saying they are coming
into our life despite our requests, he gets off the phone and speaks as if
he feels sorry for them, and makes me feel as if he thinks I am being too
harsh in my decision to not have them in my life. How can I get him to
understand that I really, truly DO NOT LOVE them?? He makes me second-guess
myself. He even says to my parents, "She just needs some space right now;
but that's not to say that she won't feel differently somewhere down the
line..." This makes ME ANGRY!!! I am clear about how I feel. I DO NOT LOVE
THEM. I DO NOT WISH THEM HARM, but I DO NOT WANT THEM IN MY LIFE AND FEEL
NO--absolutely NO--obligation to them. Why can't my husband understand this
and feel this with the same adamant resoluteness that I do?? He makes me
feel unloved when he is not as crystal-clear about this as I am. He makes
the little girl within me feel unloved and alone. But is this not his
fault? Am I not supposed to expect that he will understand and stand by me
with 100% certainty? He says things like, "Well, your father just wants a
picture of his grandchildren. Why wouldn't you be okay with sending him
that?" And I feel hurt. I feel like he doesn't get it or care so much what
my father allowed to happen to me as a child. Why would I send a picture of
my children to a man who did nothing but hurt me; who never showed me love?
I want to stay strong in this conviction, but I feel alone. Should I seek
out another enlightened witness besides my husband? I'd always thought he
was the one....

Thank you! This question has been raw and painful for me lately.

G.R.



AM: You are asking: " Should I seek out another enlightened witness besides my husband?" My answer is: Yes, absolutely.

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