I am romantically clumsy. My heart, though full and in the right place, trips over its huge metaphorical feet when confronted by love, especially of the male/female variety. I have no ability to form, and sustain, healthy adult Relationships. As a friend, I am better, not quite so cack-handed, but I cannot do romance and sex and love successfully.
There are reasons – and this post is, in part, a continuation of an earlier one written today. A damaged, emotionally abusive childhood will, eventually, catch up with the child or children. I have written this week about the triggers, if you like, about the various dysfunctional, and clumsy, ways I try and deal with the vast anxiety, the unhealed wounds.
This is so hard to write, but I need to do it because the effects of long-ago abuse are very real in my life today – and will continue unless I can get some kind of control over them.
Briefly: A sibling was my father’s favourite. If you are not the favourite, you never dare to say, ‘No!’ to the favouring parent (in my case, the father) because you are so afraid of losing the few crumbs of attention you do get; you spend all your time and energy clumsily trying so hard to please, to make up for whatever flaw it was that caused the parent to pass you over as Court Favourite in the first place.
This causes life-long problems relating to both sexes: I am easily threatened by other women (and clumsily haphazard in my ability to relate to them) – and I allow men to become Idols/Gods/Father Figures (and then, at some point, Fallen Angels) – and, of course, if you put another person on a pedestal, and make yourself that open and available emotionally, you will tend to get a fair few ‘visitors’ who abuse you, walk all over you and treat you with disrespect.
What I would like to say at this point is, in some ways, quite startling: Such a child may not be totally bereft of assertiveness. I certainly am not – and can more than hold my own in impersonal arguments with those who mean little or nothing to me. But this ability to assert oneself is crippled, weakened, when it comes to any kind of emotionally-charged relationship, be it friendship, kinship or partnership.
When a child lives with any kind of abuse, and it is never acknowledged, a painful split in the developing psyche occurs in order to cope with the devastating, often hypocritical and unfair standards set down by the parent figure or figures. Typically, you see cowed and inhibited (and often physically clumsy) behaviour in the child – and yet an almost total inability to recognise abusive behaviour in others until it is well-established and, thus, too late to rectify.
Daddy is God. Mummy is Goddess. At least in the early, formative years. Their words and actions have the sonorous power of the Ten Commandments. If abuse is happening, then it must be right; must be the way all mummies and daddies behave; it must be normal – and, therefore, the child’s innocent and instinctive unease must be wrong, making a fuss about nothing, abnormal.
Such children may have an excellent ability to pick out societal mores and acceptable modes of behaving; they may come across as very polite and well-behaved, moral little souls. But this intellectual clarity is not always matched by emotional ability to fend off the abusive behaviour of others. Often, the children can even see that the bullying (or whatever it is) to which they are being subjected is wrong – but somehow, their damaged childhood allows them to print out an invisible exception clause: A kind of all-purpose, ‘I know this is wrong – but, I obviously deserve it; so, in my case, it must be right…’
I was, as I say, just such a child – and these character traits remain with me. As I said at the start, I have no idea when it comes to male/female love, and am as painfully clumsy as an inexperienced twelve year old battling her first crush. I have a history of attracting dominant men (and men who have their own unresolved issues) – and, in my terror of not being favourite and eagerness to please, let them do whatever the hell they want to, and with, me – and, of course, because I am erecting few, if any, barriers, I am seen, for a while, as a wonderful, one-man sweet shop, open all hours – or a very long plush carpet which does not mind dirty shoes and rough treatment.
And then, eventually, I wake up – and see, all too clearly, the lack-of-respect segueing into contempt; the ‘requests’ which become ever-more outrageous and sinister; the assumption that I will be available 24/7 and yet will understand why he doesn’t have to be – and, kicking my clumsy romantic self, say, ‘God, I’ve done it AGAIN…’
This is not a dig at men. I have had exactly the same experience with women (other than the sexual component, that is). We all have a tendency to fall in love with those who resemble one, or both, of our parents, don’t we? I suppose it is an opportunity to rehash those old scenarios and, with luck, resolve them. But it doesn’t always work out that way – and can, all too easily, make things worse, make the wound ever deeper and harder to heal.
But what was normal in a damaged childhood is highly unlikely to be normal, let alone healthy, in a more conventional setting – and I finally understand that the unconscious messages I give out (to men and to women) DO invite further abuse from those who have a predatory side to their nature.
I understand that, while I don’t openly ask to be treated badly, my clumsy ability with other people, and the vibes I am giving out, most certainly are inviting exactly that.