True Nature of An Adult Relationship
By Diane Harvey White
How do we begin having an adult relationship with our parents? And why is it such a difficult transition to make? The teenage years are so focused on cutting the ties and being considered an adult, but I don’t remember feeling particularly adult and I know my parents wouldn’t have thought of me that way. Yet I wasn’t a child either and they at least did me the service of not treating me as one. So what defines this realignment with the people who brought us into the world? A mutual sharing of ideas? Respect for each others opinions? Or coming to terms with the decisions they made on our behalf with the knowledge they had at the time?
It’s popular to think that our parents are wholly responsible for any emotional hurt that we may suffer, but as parenthood doesn’t come with a handbook can they always be found guilty for simply approaching life in the only way they thought possible? Or for repeating the upbringing they had themselves?
As a child I was pretty scared of my father. He was always angry, seemingly with me. I never seemed to be good enough. He yelled a lot and if any phrase summed up how I thought he viewed me, it was “put a smile on your face”. He never attended any of my ballet shows, parents evenings, or art exhibitions and his actions showed me he had no interest in the things I loved. He made no effort to know me at all and to be honest, I did wonder what it would be like having no father, because he was never there for me and certainly not emotionally. As I grew older, I resented him terribly, hated the way his lack of involvement had made me feel inadequate. And as I entered my adult years, I realised I had no constructive way of dealing with anger. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself and express my annoyance without completely breaking down. I found myself dating men I didn’t much like, but couldn’t say no, because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings and thus provoke their anger.
For a time I was hugely angry with my father. It really consumed me and the slightest mention of family relationships would be like a fire starter beneath me. I was totally unable to consider that there might have been reasons for the way my father was and then one day, when I was staying with them for a weekend, my father let slip that he didn’t actually like his job.
He’d been running the family business since I was five, was responsible for the livelihoods of seven to ten staff and supporting our family and his mother. He felt he was powerless to do the things he really wanted, that the choices he had were dictated by circumstance and not by desire. His life was playing out for the needs of others and not for himself. In essence, he felt trapped and resentful. It didn’t make how he had behaved toward me as a child any easier, but it did make it understandable. As children we can never really know why adults behave the way they do. We’re learning about the world and it is their wisdom – or the lack of it – that dictates what we know. But I now had an understanding of what had driven his actions and this allowed me to accept them. And suddenly, I felt I was having an adult relationship with my parents.
My mothers family were more volatile, she and her siblings still, to this day fight for supremacy. They compete for attention among themselves and frequently have periods where one or the other of them isn’t talking. Over the years it has felt like she needed me to parent her, that her family life left her feeling so vulnerable that I, somehow, protected her against their pettiness. And this was a pattern that we fell into with my father as well.
It was a role that seemingly evolved as I entered my late teens; it was just assumed that I would ‘be on her side’ against her siblings, or my father. And it felt so much easier standing up for my mother than it did for myself. How was it that I was able to talk on her behalf – but not on my own? It was an interesting contrast, ignored by one parent and used as a buffer by the other. At the time I suppose I felt flattered and valued to be so important to my mother, but it did place a weight on my shoulders that I didn’t fully understand.
What I did want though, was to understand the dynamics between the three of us. The relationships always felt so intense and that didn’t make sense either because I lived 300 miles away at that stage (I was to move further.) so again I turned to past life regression to give me insight. I was already curious about why our relationships had developed the way they had but as I seemed to need to question the way we were, I suppose the underlying desire was to make sure I didn’t repeat the same mistakes when I became a parent.
Again I used techniques given to me by Tara Sutphen and my other wonderful teacher Tabaash, channeled by Blair Styra and went within to learn about the present. The wonderful thing about seeing events unfold in a regression meditation is that there is no sense of anxiety, the detachment allows you to view the events rather as you would a television drama, except that you are one of the stars. For this topic though, I didn’t ask specific questions, I wanted more of an overview and because I put the desire out there, I still get flashes of insight, years after that first session. I imagine this is because my understanding continues to grow.
And I saw many lifetimes together as part of a family group, many occasions when one or the other parent and I had been romantically linked and a couple where the lifetime had ended with accidental death caused by one or the other of us. Curiously, there were fewer lifetimes with my mother, but many with my father. Obviously more issues to work through between us, then!
After the meditation sessions I wondered quite how to use this information, because the experiences were one sided – I knew things about my parents that they wouldn’t understand and that my father, certainly, would ridicule. So I needed to trust that my knowledge would inspire the changes I hoped for and that if I changed my approach to our relationships, that my parents in turn would change their attitudes. And let me say with my father change happens slowly…
The first thing I did was to start calling them by their christian names, to put us all on a level playing field. It was a little odd, but neither of them seemed to mind. And it helped! Then I had a conversation with my mother about how I needed to choose when to be in her corner and to have a relationship with my father that was more inclusive. She found that more difficult, but I’ve made the effort to stay detached from her competitive side and have come to love speaking to my father on the phone. Our conversations are so rich in content and over the years, I feel I’ve gotten to know him – because I live so far away.
As time has gone by I’ve been able to see that both my parents have qualities I value enormously and I have for them now, in my forties, a respect that I couldn’t have imagined when I was younger.
We don’t always see eye to eye, there’s nothing like going through a divorce to divide family loyalties, but I know that with time, they’ll adapt to the situation and now more than ever, I know they love me. That was what I wanted to know when I started exploring our relationship and maybe that is the true nature of an adult relationship, accepting that we all express emotions differently and making allowances for that.
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Diane Harvey White is the founder of Sew-Easy Costumes http://www.sew-easycostumes.co.uk/
contact Diane – firstname.lastname@example.org