We talk about healthy relationships with our daughters, hoping to teach them to be strong, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. As mothers, and sometimes fathers, we arm our daughters with tools to navigate the world of relationships so that they can stay true to themselves, expect nothing but dignity, respect, truth and honor. We emphasize a bonding between 2 people where friendship, trust, honesty, and unrequited love is an absolute must. We encourage a spiritual bonding as well, letting no one person to stand between such love. We are to lead by example. We strive to protect our daughters from agony, pain and abuse.
I have had some major relationship failures in my past and I am not proud of that. I try to talk about “mistakes” I’ve made so that they are not repeated. I’ve accepted behaviors and withstood abuse because I thought I wasn’t worthy of anything else. I accepted these relationships as normal and believed they were in the name of love. I made excuses, I hid certain behaviors, I denied my true feelings and alienated my friends and family because I was ashamed of what I had become as I accepted these behaviors as normal. It was only after being “outted” by close friends and family, did I realize that I had failed. I had failed myself. I failed my children. I disappointed and worried friends. What I realized was those very friends and family were crying for help on my behalf. Until I could see that, I couldn’t accept that help and feel the love in a very healthy manner.
I have had some pretty in depth conversations lately with my kids. We’ve talked about those failures (I still will not call them mistakes), why they happen and how to never repeat them again. We learn from that. We grow from that. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to go through the rain to see the rainbow. My children have seen me go through so much. They have helped me in ways I never thought possible.
I am stronger today than I’ve ever been. I never wanted to be treated “less than” again. I protect my heart as though it has steel built around it. I don’t want my children to see me hurt again. It’s not their job to pick me up, even though that is NOT what I have intended them to do, ever. They want to protect me, just as I want to protect them. I guess it is a codependency of sorts.
All this time I have worried and stressed about my failed relationships and what it has done to my daughter. I’ve always tried to see things through her eyes and only hoped and prayed that the unspoken lessons, actions and prayers have been heard and seen so that she doesn’t make the same mistakes. I want her to be an independent, strong, intelligent woman who will fight for what she needs and wants. Never in a million years did I ever think about my sons.
Our sons are watching and listening too. They are in relationships. I have always taught them to be respectful, honest, trustworthy and kind. I’ve taught them how to treat a woman….how I want to be treated. I have supported them, listened to them and always have an ear to lend and a shoulder to cry on, when needed. They know that abuse of ANY kind is unacceptable….they talk about it and I know they understand. They also know if I ever get wind of such behavior, they will answer to me and that is understood.
Why am I concerned? Just as I lead by example, faults, mistakes, failures and successes, my children can enter relationships that are not healthy and are down right frightening. You see, they can be in a place where they respect, love and do all the things I have taught them to do, but they have let the relationship become abusive to them. They are following in my footsteps and that is NOT good. It pains me to see this happening and delivers a shocking blow to my heart and soul. I never dreamed that I would have to explain the “other side” to my son. Boys need to be taught exactly what we teach our daughters. Be strong, independent, and fight for what you deserve….don’t accept anything less. Manipulation and isolation are evil.
So for now, talk to your sons. Talk to your daughters. Talk about both sides of the coin. Don’t be the abused and don’t be the abuser and don’t accept anything less.