The First Man Who Disappointed Me

When I was young, my dad made it a regular thing to leave me and my mom for months at a time. He had a graduate degree, and had worked in the United States before (where we live), but he chose to work overseas in China. He was gone so much that I got used to him being gone. I guess my 8-year-old self adapted mentally to the situation, because it felt normal for him to be gone. I enjoyed him not being around so much that when he did come back, I would be overcome with anxiety.

He and my mom would argue about money into the night when I was in the next room trying to go to sleep. To try to get them to stop, I would go into the room they were in to pretend to get something out of a drawer...hoping that upon seeing me, they would stop yelling. Sometimes they did slow down, but other times they'd bring me into the argument. My mom would give me a picture of a girl and ask me to cut it up because it was his girlfriend. My dad would pretend that she is being crazy, and say that it was just a picture of a co-worker's wife.

This went on for years. My mom always put food on the table, though, and worked in fields from real estate to retail until she finally landed a job in her actual specialty- engineering. The new job was a godsend because the pay was double what she was earning at the time, and it also forced her to move out houston, and out of the house she co-owned with my dad.

At the time, I couldn't see it that way though. I was a severely depressed middle-schooler who now had to move to a new school where I had no friends. I had such a low self-esteem that I was bullied, and I didn't have the confidence to make new friends. I was mad at my mom for moving us so far away from where I deemed was home. My mom also started dating a guy that I hated, so that didn't help. He would be at our place every weekend. Once, when my mom was gone, he walked into the living room with a towel to watch tv on the couch next to me, and spread his legs in such a way that i could see his penis. He never did anything sexual, but the show was obviously for me. he never did it again, and we never discussed it. He is married to my mom now. I flinch everytime I have to mention him because i hate calling him "stepdad."

...But back to my actual dad. After my mom got the good job, she invited my dad over for dinner. One of the first things he said to her about the good news was, "Let's hope you don't get fired." I could tell she was really hurt/upset about it afterwards, because she kept talking about it to friends/family members. My dad doesn't change his ways in all this, even with the house in houston empty. He would visit a couple of times a year, and bring dumb presents that were almost always inappropriate. The anxiety when he came around never went away. Now I realize he brought the presents to make himself feel better about being a **** father/husband. This way he wouldn't actually have to apologize or be a decent person. He could just keep buying ****. No piece of clothing he bought was ever my size, and no trinket was ever anything I would buy myself. He knew nothing about me and what I liked or what my tastes were. Nor did he ever ask.

My mom finally filed for divorce from him...even though they'd been separated for years. She took me to a restaurant to tell me. I thought I'd be happy or relieved...but at that point, I just felt numb. I was more angry at her taking me to a restaurant so I couldn't make a scene than at the news itself. I'd emotionally closed myself off completely from the situation with my dad. I didn't want to care about anything involving him.

He always uses money to get his way or win an argument. He bought me my car, and he still brings it up in discussions about anything. He pays for me to go to school, and he uses that as a threat against any behavior of mine he deems inappropriate. Halfway through college, he came to visit me and took me out to lunch. It was quiet, but nice. As he dropped me off back at school, he dropped a bomb on me- he had gotten remarried in China, and was bringing the woman to the United States to stay at his NEW house in houston. I would have to live there with her that summer- she complained about everything I did to my dad, and told him I was a bad daughter. She was also a huge racist that wouldn't pee in the same bathroom my black boyfriend used one time. I am still ashamed of that fact, and when my cousin told me what she had said about my (now ex) boyfriend, I cried all night at the ignorance of it all.

I am still in school, and he still supports me financially. He picks fights with me all the time that basically end in "You are worthless; I am a good person because I give you money even though you should be supporting yourself."

I hate him so much, and regularly wonder what my reaction would be if he died. I wonder if I would be sad at all at his death, or just be sad for myself. Or would I be finally relieved that he is gone and cannot make me feel bad about myself anymore. I feel like the guys I've chosen/been attracted to in the past all have the same inconsistencies that he has. Am I doomed to repeat the pain by choosing men who will leave me and emotionally abuse me and humiliate me?

I want to forgive him and move on, but every time I try, he will say or do something that makes me hate him all over again, and drudges up all these old feelings. he is in his 60s and playing the same games he did back then. Even when he is here in the States, he will leave for weeks for "business." and just like when I was a little girl, I would be totally relieved when he left, and feel completely anxious and at a loss when he comes back.

I don't know what to do or how to get away from it. In the end, it makes me hate myself that my self-esteem is so low because of him, and that I haven't found a way to be brave enough to cut myself off completely. Also, if I do that, it will give my stepmom more reason to talk **** about me.

Anyway, thank you for reading this far. I wrote this more for me than anyone else. It feels good to vent and have it all in one place.

tayriley11 tayriley11
26-30, F
2 Responses May 21, 2012

Wow, this could be my story - except that my parents never separated, so there was no opportunity for my mother to try to escape the emotional abuse of being stuck with a man who made clear that he felt his family was a burden but that he was doing everything he "should" by paying the bills. My father would go to Indonesia or Asia for work for months (sometimes years) and we'd hear great things about his long term "housekeepers" over there - we're not stupid, of course, pretty clear even to a kid what was going on. Then he'd come home and his greatest pleasure seemed to be from mocking, belittling and humiliating my mom or my sister or me. I left home at 18 to get away from him and have been supporting myself ever since... it doesn't make the scars go away (and it also doesn't mean you don't have to have any contact with him) but it does help to know for yourself that you are doing it in spite of the fact that he doesn't think you're a worthy, capable human being. <br />
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I am now over 40, so I'm speaking with some insight to the questions you raise. The one that really caught my attention and made me respond to your post was about seeking out guys who have the same inconsistencies he does. WOW did that resonate. And yes, you will keep replicating his role in your life until you finally learn to break the psychological hold of those childhood patterns. For myself, the final straw came when I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with a man who did nothing but make me feel insecure, walking on eggshells all the time and never confident that my accomplishments were good enough (meanwhile I was a highly successful corporate attorney making a quarter million dollars a year and negotiating multi-billion dollar deals... in retrospect I realize that I was pretty darn good at what I did but was responding to HIS insecurities). It ended not after multiple sleepless, teary nights where I knew I wasn't being treated with respect and love (but resolved to try harder so he'd know I loved him enough that he didn't have to treat me that badly - ?????), but after I discovered he was having an affair. At that point, I was devastated and angry... not so much at him, but at MYSELF. For putting myself in such a situation to be treated badly time and time again and not demanding more or making the choice to seek better. That was when I hit rock bottom - and happily, when I revisited why I was repeating this pattern of being in relationships with men who treated me badly. Men who were like my father was with my mother.<br />
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I won't belabor my story, but I did go to a therapist, who referred me to a book called Women Who Love Too Much. Some parts weren't a good fit, but the overall theme - and many, many of the stories - were life changing. Essentially, the point is that we seek out scenarios that are "normal" or "comfortable" - not because they are pleasurable or bring out the best in us or make us happy, but because we are used to looking at the world through that lens and it is a mental pathway that makes sense even if it isn't healthy. There was one story where the woman said "I felt like since I could tolerate it from day to day, it must not be that bad." But just physically surviving another day really isn't good enough, is it? You deserve more. And realizing that - knowing that I was just falling into patterns where I wasn't treated with respect because I didn't know what respect looked like - helped me re-evaluate what I was doing on a day to day basis. Was I being true to MY needs when I interacted with people - in other words, was I holding them accountable to treat me with the same respect I treated them? Professionally and personally, I found that I wasn't, and was able to make changes in the boundaries I drew, and the amount I was willing to give to a relationship before I would institute changes, and it made a world of difference. It's been 7 years since I had that epiphany, and I'm now married to a man who has been a wonderful reward for a lifetime of abuse (including the self-abuse I allowed myself to commit unwittingly). He is confident enough to be truly supportive of my goals and dreams, and even my shortcomings, and I am rewarded every day to know that I am able to give everything I have to offer - which, I now know, is a lot - to a guy who deserves my love because he's All That too :-).<br />
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I confess I still hate my dad. He can still pluck my triggers like a pro. I have trouble dealing with his choices, especially since my mom (who had her own issues, but ultimately I can't help but see as a victim of his emotional abuse) died and he is now free to flaunt all his "sacrifices" for the woman whose affections he bought with all the ill-gotten gains of my mom's lifetime of sacrifices. I don't respect that, and I resent being a prop on the stage of his make-belief life with his new wife. That said, my hatred doesn't rule my existence anymore, and I hope you will find the maturity to declare yourself emancipated from his control even if you can't separate yourself from him personally. <br />
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My advice to you, as an older and wiser person who has traveled in your footsteps:<br />
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1 - Understand that your mom and your dad are flawed human beings with their own histories that have culminated in their own unhealthy ways of coping with their lives. It doesn't make their failings with respect to you, their daughter, any more fair, but it makes it easier to digest the emotional reaction (anger) you have to it.<br />
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2 - Force yourself to GROW UP. I'm not saying that as in "oh, just grow up and get over it." I'm saying it as in "learn to think of yourself as a mature adult, someone who is responsible for her circumstances and makes choices designed to effect her desired future." This means, in part, accepting that you're going to be criticized for some of your choices - and accepting that criticism as part of the burden of a choice you still feel is best. It means, in part, giving up things that you want to do on a short-term basis because you know that it doesn't really move yourself in the direction you have decided you want to go on a long-term basis (even if everyone else is doing them now). It may mean finding a way to support yourself so that you are not beholden to someone financially (and it is possible to put yourself through college). Being a grown up means taking the reins on your own life and not apologizing for it - but it also means analyzing where you are and making corrective decisions when you are going off the track. All of this boils down to taking responsibility for your future.<br />
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3 - I'm not a therapy person, and in truth I only had to go to a 4 sessions with my therapist before she told me she thought I was finally on a path where my destiny was finally in my own hands. But it was a really fruitful 4 hours of my life. I feared it would be a new agey, hold hands and emote kind of experience (not my style). Instead, I found it helpful to talk to someone who had no personal investment in my situation and was accordingly able to give me ob<x>jective insight into myself, someone who is trained to get to the heart of the matter and to communicate with you effectively and to give you actual tools to help effect the changes you need to make. I highly recommend you find a professional to help you get a handle on your confidence issues... I struggled for years before I hit the bottom and was forced to confront them. There is NO reason you should suffer when there is hope - and help - out there. (And part of taking responsibility for making necessary changes is seeking help to do what needs to be done!) You may not find the right fit with a therapist so be open to making a mistake - and going into the very discomforting environment of talking to someone about your most private feelings and confronting the possibility that you are contributing to the situation and the fear of changing deeply ingrained habits. Be open to a future where you own your own self-esteem.<br />
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Good luck to you. If you take anything from this post, I hope it's that you do have the power to change your life, even if it's not easy to do.

thank you so much for taking the time to craft such a well-thought out answer. it helps to know that i'm not alone, and that someone out there cares so much for a stranger. i looked up the book you recommended, and look forward to reading it.

i'm so glad you were able to overcome the issues with your personal relationships. it really gives me hope that i can as well. i am actually about to say goodbye to a guy that i really love and care about because he has been an absentee friend/lover to me. we would have a really great time for a month or so, and then he'd disappear on me for months. (sound familiar?) he now has a girlfriend that he hasn't bothered to even tell me about. i truly don't want to cut him out of my life, but i feel like it is the only way to gain any respect from him.
you are so right about people making choices to put themselves in situations that mock their childhoods/what they grew up to believe is the 'norm'.
i have had a most horrible week in which i have seen the worst in several guys around me (my stepdad and my friends' boyfriend)...i am still angry about it, and i have been wondering how i can move past it without ignoring what has happened and the horrible things that have been said. i'd forgotten that this forum was a way i could vent until i came back to this post and saw your wonderful comment. thank you again.

Hi. I'm a dad and I have two girls who are now 18 and 22. I'm divorced from their mother. My dad used to do kind of the same thing to me, about money and all. I got money, but not attention or love (love that I could perceive). I found taking his money was bad for my self-esteem. When he died I felt sort of relieved. I did love him desperately. He was away traveling a lot when I was growing up. So your story really resonates with me. Now I'm a dad I recognise that I sometimes do the same sort of thing he did. I have used money as a way of showing love to my girls, when I found giving them my attention too hard. It's better now though. I think I suffered a lot from guilt about marrying a woman I didn't love. It's all sub-conscious, but I recognise it now because I've done a lot of work on looking inside. There is no quick fix, but I've found Marshal Rosenberg's Compassionate Communication really helpful. It even works with people who are now dead. Maybe it would help you too. Maybe. It's really hard a heavy thing to carry all this stuff around. And it doesn't really go away. Be brave. I think people try their best, but often their best doesn't seem enough. We wonder why parents don't get it. The most important thing is to try and bring this stuff into consciousness. You've started now with this posting. Good stuff. Always remember to breathe. Breathe deeply, try to find a place of calm and develop an idea of your own 'emotional axis'. Then when somebody tries to pull you off your axis, you recognise it and can return to your breath just for a minute. People often feel that nobody is listening to them. Until both parties are listening, there is no communication. <br />
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