In my 30s, I can finally admit my family is toxic
Updated: Feb 13, 2020
I can't say I had a troubled childhood. My parents are still together to this day, and they are in their 60s. My sister and I grew up in a middle-class family with workaholic parents; they paid most of our education and extra-curricular activities until we both graduated and started working full-time jobs. I was never physically punished or left to my own devices. I was raised believing I should be grateful for what I had and would never dare say I suffered.
I'm sure some other kids my age had a tougher time coping with life. Raised by a single parent, with less opportunities for growth and probably lots of other shit to deal with. And here I am, in my mid-30s coming to terms with the possibility that my own family was a source of toxicity that heavily influenced how I handle other significant relationships in my life as well as the way I looked at myself. Even as I write this, my throat tightens with emotions that rise from a deep buried place I thought I had abandoned.
I can now say that I'm better off living as farther away, and with the least contact from my family of origin, as possible. I no longer want to feel guilty for feeling this way. I'm tired of trying to change how we relate as a family. I will not allow them to make me feel guilty for choosing my friends and significant others as my family of choice over them.
This revelation of sorts, came about as my husband and I started going to couples therapy, after months of drifting apart. We both wanted to work things out, but felt stuck in a rut. Luckily, we had the emotional capacity to accept the fact that we needed a professional to look at our situation and help us reconnect. Through therapy, we could see how our relationship is formed not just by our own personalities, but by the baggage of the past that was loaded with the way we interacted with our respective families. We are both very different in that regard. One of the issue I kept putting forward during therapy was the anger I felt for his overbearing mother. In reality, I might have been jealous in the way she checks on him multiple times a day whereas I, never get a call unless I make the first move.
Recently, I decided not to make the first move and after 3 weeks, I got a call from my mother whilst shopping in a rush at the supermarket before it closes. "Are you still alive?" she said. "I've been busy ma but yes I'm well" I said. "I wouldn't know if to call since you're always abroad" she continued. In reality, I only travel for a few days, perhaps 3 to 4 times a year, so it was a lame excuse. For a split second, I felt guilty for not calling but then I realised the downward pull with which I was being dragged. "No!" I said to myself, "I won't allow this". Out of nowhere, this new strength came out of me where I politely told her to fuck off.
I thought I was being raised to be independent, and although I am very much capable to live and adapt in any scenario, I realised that my emotional needs as a child from my parents were pretty much left to shit.
Work always took priority, secondly came the physical home, then my sister, who, throughout her childhood was pretty much the underdog amongst her peers and needed a lot of support, whereas I was spared with whatever emotional strength the had left. I'm sure they tried their best as parents and in their limited capacity as human beings, but I keep seeing this pattern repeating to this very day. Although they should be both retired, they still work like a mad dog and never have any time to deal with anything that is relational.
I'm not sure they even realise all this. I have come to accept this is their reality but I will not longer accept it as part of mine. My mental health and my family of choice is more important.