Friday, March 1, 2013

Other families are weird

(ok, my family is weird too.)

You'd think I'd know that since I'm studying to be a marriage and family therapist, right? Eh, my supervisor says you can't do therapy with your own family, you're just too close to them.

Take for example, my in-laws-- who are great 99% of the time.  But they are a family of "brush problems under the rug and let's never speak about them" type of people.  Which is interesting, because Jedi is such a talker-- with me.  With me, he is open, and every subject is up for discussion, and we can talk and debate about anything... with his parents he just totally shuts down. (Well, I say his parents, but mostly his dad-- but often his mom too.)

They just all run, run, run, from confrontation-- or anything that looks like it might even potentially have any type of anything that could possibly have anything to do with confrontation-- But instead things just fester, and get weird and uncomfortable, and no one talks about stuff, until hopefully everyone forgets about it.  (In my family people just scream and shout and let it all out, which I know other people find equally uncomfortable, but hey! That's home to me... and at least you don't get that weird uncomfortable tension because of all the things that are left unsaid.)

I've learned to stay far out of it-- the last time I encouraged Jedi to talk to his parents, or my Mother in Law to stand up for herself, for example (way before we were married) it turned into a disaster, so I just keep my mouth shut these days and try to ignore it, even though it is super grating.

It's hard to know how to deal with it though-- Right now, for example, Jedi is pretty upset with his parents-- but he'll never say anything about it in a million years.

It started because we asked Jedi's parents to pick us up tickets to his sister's theater production (in which she is staring.)  He specifically said that we would pay for the tickets, we just needed his mom to pick them up.

Well, his mother said "Don't be silly, we'll cover the tickets." He said, "you don't have to do that." She said, "It's fine."

They have covered the tickets for previous theater productions in the past, but we do always offer (genuinely) to pay for them.

Well, the show is coming up, and she touched base with Jedi this week,and when she did she  said to him, "You know you're going to have to pay us back for the tickets, right?"  He told me he responded by saying, "We were always planning to."

He came back home livid-- "Can you believe it? How rude was that? Why did she say it like that? When she knew we were planning on paying, and then she just took back her offer in such a mean tone-- Like we were never planning to pay, like we're deadbeats, etc etc..."  He's still mad, a week later.

Now, what is that about? I have no freaking clue. Could it be solved with a simple conversation? Yes, yes it could. Will it? No, of course not-- because my husband and my inlaws prefer uncomfortable and tension filled silences to actually having a conversation that might go like this:

MIL: Jedi, I know we said we would pay for your tickets, but money is tight right now so we can't.  (Or, alternately and perhaps even more likely-- Jedi, I know we said we would pay for your tickets because we thought you have no money since you're poor students, but we noticed Hypatia bought herself a new Coach purse, and your dad got mad about how you choose to spend your money (and didn't realize that you had used some gift money for that purpose) and so instead of actually telling you that fact we will passive-aggresively punish you in this manner.)  {And that Alternative conversation could be had in a non-passive aggressive type way too if they were truly concerned about that-- as in, MIL: Hey Jedi, We're concerned about your spending habits-- we know it's none of our business, but we know students can sometimes have trouble with budgeting. We'd be happy to help with some resources if you think that could be useful.... (but we're actually fine with money in that realm)}

Jedi: No problem mom, we were planning on paying for our tickets anyway. But we appreciate the offer.

Simple conversation, solves stuff right?  But instead Jedi is going to be all worked up at his sister's play this weekend and isn't going to enjoy it and there will be weirdness between them all.

Don't worry, I'm staying far out of it-- but it is super frustrating to think I have another 50+ years of weird silences and tension filled events to deal with because these family members who love each other don't feel safe enough with each other to trust that they can have real, open, and honest conversations.

(And this small example is the tip of the ice berg, believe me. If my inlaws only knew how often Jedi comes home hurt by something that he will never talk to them about... *sigh*...)

My family is messed up in many ways, but I think that was one thing that was always reassuring about our BIG MASSIVE BLOWUPS-- we knew that no matter how much yelling, stomping, screaming occurred (note: I'm not saying that's better than a conversation either but at least it is honest and real feelings got shared) we knew that at the end of that argument we still loved each other.

One of the absolute saddest things I have experienced in my relationship with Jedi is that he thinks that after we have an argument my love for him is gone-- poof! Withdrawn! finito! The End!

I can't help but think that is the outcome of this "we never talk/so we never have to argue" dynamic. I think they all think that dynamic is better because it's peaceful, and more "polite" and genteel, and presentable to the outside world but... It's just not good to let things fester with years of untold resentment either.

For example, it doesn't matter how many times I reassure Jedi that I love him, I will always love him, I have never stopped loving him-- he is convinced each fight means the absolute end of my love. (And I have never given him cause to think that-- I am not one of those people who yells "I hate you" in the heat of an argument or anything.) I think that comes from this very dynamic-- I believe Jedi internalized the idea that if he argued or displayed unhappiness, his parents' love for him would be withdrawn.

 How sad and tragic is it to think that is what expressing non-happy emotions means to him! Those emotions need an outlet too, and he has to know that there has to be a safe place for them.  I hope, that over time, Jedi will at least learn that with me he will always be safe to express them.

No comments: