This was my first appointment after telling my parents about my girlfriend being pregnant. It was not a good ten days. There is a level of passive aggression in my family that is unrivalled.
When I first told my mother she seemed happy, at least after the first few moments of indecision. After her first hersitation she seemed happy, even excited. For the next week, however, she let her anxieties show in questions like “are you sure you want to be a father”, “are you happy she’s pregnant” and “is this something you want”.
Do I want to be a father, and am I happy my girlfriend is pregnant. How could I possibly be expected to answer those questions? To me she might as well be asking if I’m going to raise my child or abandon it like my father did me. How can that even be a choice?
More recently she decided the lack of positive response from her and my step-father was my fault because I wasn’t “taking the lead” and I haven’t been “happy enough”. But I was happy when I told her, and also when I told my step-father, and the response from him was as though I had pissed in his cereal. He barely even shook my hand.
One of the things about my mother’s brand of passive aggression is how she’ll create the problem, then offer her own solution as though you were too stupid to even realize the problem could be fixed.
This was the email she sent just before Father’s Day, which was when I planned on telling my extended family about the pregnancy:
I do – kindly – ask you to think ahead of the overall impression that you want your family to have – such as:
– this is good news
– we care for each other (when you say ‘we’re just girlfriend and boyfriend’ it leaves me feeling empty. Especially, as the two of you are now linked for a lifetime. You are more to each other…)
– we look forward to the child’s arrival
There is so much in so few lines. Among many others things, it’s like I couldn’t be trusted to explain the situation to adults. So I sent an email response to her crap:
[My girlfriend] and I are dating, we are girlfriend and boyfriend. I can’t help how the labels makes you feel. We are happy together, and are completely aware that we are tied in some form for life.
I’m not sure where this “you must lead us with joy” thing comes from. So far my friends have all reacted positively. When I told you about the pregnancy I was smiling and I told you it was good news. You reacted with caution, but then became excited after I convinced you I was happy about it, then you went looking for [my step-father]. When I told [him] he reacted badly despite my smiling and moving to shake his hand. Was I supposed to jump around and smack his shoulder? I smiled, he didn’t.
Most of this happened between appointments, and will be something I actually discuss at my next appointment, but the beginnings of my mother’s anxiety attacks on me began within a few days of my telling her about the pregnancy.
Father’s Day went well. Barely. Everyone responded like I thought they would. Which was basically not the kind of happy-joy-joy crap normal families might exhibit. But I’ll get into that in another post.
In my previous appointment I had complained about some sleeping irregularities. So my doctor asked me about my sleeping patterns. They’re much better now that I’ve set some boundaries with my girlfriend. I’ve established “me time” days and “we time” days, so I can better prepare for our time together.
Because of the complications with the pregnancy I had been pretty much living at hospitals between midnight and 4am, then out with my girlfriend and her son, then dealing with my own life and taking care of my grandfather. So sleep, for over a month, was a non issue because I wasn’t getting any.
My doctor made sure I knew my seroquel was now the generic kind, and some people have been complaining about sleep being harder to come by… I’m not sure, but I think I have noticed. But if there’s a difference it hasn’t been difficult to overcome.
I’ve never been capable of setting schedules, or living up to them. I stopped showing up regularly for high school in grade ten, I dropped out in grade twelve and again in grade thirteen. I was fired from my first radio job because I slept through two 5pm drive-time shows in a row, then I slept in again and missed the appointment with my boss where I’m pretty sure he was going to fire me anyway.
I was kicked out of College in my second semester for not showing up for days on end, they had signed the paperwork to kick me out four months earlier, but allowed me to stay on the strength of a feature article.
I grew up as the ward of a pack of communist revolutionaries, with a mother and father who were, respectively, largely and completely absent. After my mother escaped she had to work, which meant my brother and I were latchkey kids and alone until the early or late evening.
For the five years after I left high school I was unmedicated, untreated and unemployable, so my guidelines were set by the welfare office.
So trying to set some boundaries in my life is something new. So is keeping a schedule. I haven’t been very successful with either yet, but they are something I’m starting to understand. My doctor thinks this will be a nearly impossible process, and I agree.
And then things got weird. Somehow we got onto the topic of betrayal, and how I’m never sure if my reactions to even the slightest betrayal are normal.
Nine years ago someone who called me brother, who used to call me the best friend he had, took a photo of my sister and put it in his back pocket, telling the other three or four friends we were with, that he was keeping her for later.
Our other friends were nervous, but still in on the joke. In my head, at the time, I picked him up by his neck and slammed him onto the pool table. But in reality I had to ask him three times for the photo back. Our relationship was never the same after that, at least not for me. But I allowed it to continue without confronting him, so the resentment kept growing.
After about a year I moved away. And when we found each other again he was still going with the “brother” rhetoric, but I really couldn’t be bothered. But what was the right reaction in the moment?
My life is made up of several instances where I feel a friend has betrayed the trust inherent with friendship, and I’ve never reacted properly in the moment. So the resentment builds up, until finally I just cut them loose. I stop calling, returning calls, whatever, and they have no idea why because I either can’t recognize the moment, or if I can recognize it the moment is long since past.
A lot of times I’ll pin my response on something small, like receiving a suspicious glance, and that’ll be what I base my decision to stop seeing the person on, but really it’s something else from much further back.
It takes place in the blogging world as well. If I have a decent relationship with someone online, but they allow someone else to attack me in the comment section, I’ll take them out of my blogroll and never comment there again. And it doesn’t have to be an overt attack… it can just be a respect thing, like if I feel disrespected I’ll just shut the relationship down completely.
Sometimes I’ll go back and review, just to make sure I’m not overreacting… but the thing is, I may not be overreacting according to my own criteria for betrayal, but my criteria could be overly sensitive.
I really don’t know if my reactions are normal.
My doctor suggested it might be some kind of alpha male thing, where the power was taken away from me and I couldn’t respond in an overtly “alpha” manner. He thinks I need to practise my relationship techniques.
I don’t see it as being completely “alpha” directed. I think the relationship I have / had with my mother plays an enormous role in my “fight or flight” response.
I don’t like blaming my mother for much, but when you’re a thirteen-year old kid and you’re in an argument with your only parental figure, who happens to be a genius, an incredibly strong-minded woman, and insanely stubborn, you’re going to end up just sitting there and taking it until she’s done.
And I did take a lot from her.
My mother spent ten years as the second-in-charge to a rabid pack of overly-educated revolutionaries. Some of whom liked to include the five-year old me in their “debates” / criticism sessions. My brother and I never stood a chance.
I think it’s primarily the betrayal, but there might be some aspects of confrontation avoidance at play here as well. Like, how dare someone put me in a situation of confrontation. Maybe that’s the betrayal, not necessarily only the photo in the pants stuff.
But still, how to respond to the betrayal / confrontation properly, and in the moment, is the problem…