My husband and I were having major marital problems because neither of us obeyed each other. We were trying to parent each other. We were going to teach each other a lesson. Nothing says, “I love you,” like parenting your spouse.
Fortunately, I had enough therapy under my belt to know seeing a professional, neutral third party might work. I was convinced a therapist would see things my way. After all, we weren’t getting it no matter how many times we corrected our abhorrent behavior. The finger pointing was relentless. We weren’t adults. We were kids who happened to be married.
Our marriage problems were merely a “presenting problem” or the excuse we needed to get to individual psychotherapy. Over time we discovered the root cause of our problems was directly related to our upbringing. We were two wounded birds unaware of a serious root problem.
Marriage Boricua style
My parents were a traditional, old school Puerto Rican couple where macho rules reigned supreme with child beatings aplenty. Dad reminded all of us he was king, Jesus, God, Hitler. He ruled with an iron fist that eventually made it across my mother’s face.
Mom, being a good Latina wife, refused to press charges because if he lost his job she lost child support. Halfway through the separation she was reminded, “You always give in to the man.” She couldn’t do it and I didn’t blame her. There was no way in hell I was about to surrender control to any man.
Marriage German style
My husband was raised in a sterile, German family. Germans are not known for being affectionate rather for being incredibly stern. They were extremely private people. One of their family friends said she always knew there was something wrong yet couldn’t finger it. As it turned out there was a history of incest among the siblings.
The mother, despite having a degree in education, sacrificed her teaching career to raise the kids while her husband pursued his dream career as a school teacher with credentials from Stanford.
The first time I met his parents, I saw father and son shook hands as if it were a wrestling contest, i.e., chests and arms out while shaking firmly. No hugs. I figured out their upbringing was like her cooking: edible but bland.
Most telling was when his mother said they no longer would watch our kids so we could go to counseling. My parents would have been happy to watch regardless but neither of our parents believed in psychotherapy. We forged ahead despite their objections.
Awarenesses breeds healing
We were much better about maintaining our cars than our marriage. Over time, we became more compassionate with each other because we began to understand how broken we were.
We learned if we were to stay together we had to work together. Inevitably, this would have a very positive effect on our kids psyche, a concept lost on our parents.
Parental opposition helped solidify our resolve to stay the course so we could parent differently.
Posts in this series
Parenting with posttraumatic stress disorder
Discipline requires training, love spelled t-i-m-e
Beatings/Spankings are abuse: plain and simple
Parenting, like marriage, requires work
Parenting is a lifelong-learning proposition
Stop, look, listen and ask yourself questions
The high art of juggling
Downtime: the golden goose of PTSD
Worldwide parenting with PTSD Awareness Day
Parenting is a high call no matter your lot
The drought before the drought
Being misunderstood is a symptom
You are being forged in fire
Awakenings podcast: Parenting with PTSD
For single parents
A tribute to single parents