My Daughter’s Legacy

I come from a long line of women cheated on by their husbands. My grandfather cheated on, and left, my Mamaw after roughly twenty years of marriage, resulting in a nervous breakdown on her part. Ultimately, she ended up moving out of her home and out of the state, and in with her mother, where she lived until the day she died. My father cheated on my mother repeatedly, until finally she decided she didn’t want to end up like her mom- in her 40s, divorced, financially destitute, and living with her mom. She reasoned that eventually he would find one he would be willing to leave her for so she got out when she was in her early 30s- after affair #3.

I thought I had picked someone completely different from my own father. Turns out they had more in common than I realized. I ended up like my Mamaw- minus the nervous breakdown.

I often wonder what legacy I have left for my own daughter. Is she doomed to marry a man who will lie to her and cheat on her? That seems to be our pattern.

It’s no surprise, then, that the song, “Just Like Him” by Brandy Clark hit me hard the first time I listened to it.

He was kinda like Superman

Show up, save the day, disappear and then

We wouldn’t hear from him ’til Christmas

He was a whole lotta fun

Til he got one drink too drunk

A fight would start, he’d be breaking hearts and dishes

I used to say that I’d be damned

Before I’d ever fall in love with a man

Like the one Mama wasted her youth on

I wait up all night alone I feel like I’m six years old again

You’re just like him

Daddy had the bluest eyes

Kept my Mama hypnotized

Now I finally realize the reason

They say love’s like coming home

And I came from a broken one

So why am I surprised you’re always leaving

I used to say that I’d be damned before I’d ever fall in love with a man

Like the one Mama wasted her youth on

And I wait up all night alone I feel like I’m six years old again

You’re just like him

Promises all sound the same

Swear up and down you’re gonna change

And you never do

And I’m not that little kid

That’s why I can’t do this again

You’re just like him

Yeah, especially that part about wasting my youth on him. That always makes me pause.

I love the mobster with all my heart and I’m so very glad I met him. Yet I always feel a little tinge of sadness that we won’t have more time because we both wasted our youth on people who didn’t give a damn.

I had to listen to the song a few times before it hit me: She’s not repeating the cycle.

Promises all sound the same

Swear up and down you’re gonna change

And you never do

And I’m not that little kid

That’s why I can’t do this again

You’re just like him

She’s walking away. She learned from her mother’s mistakes. She knows he’s not going to change and she’s going to get out and save herself. Hallelujah!

A few days ago I was reading a post. The writer mentioned that her daughter declared love to be a crock of shit. She thought her daughter felt that way because her parents, who had been together for thirty years, were no longer together. He left for someone else.

That got me thinking. Is it a crock of shit, or do so many of us accept so very little and call it good?  The stories I read over on Chump Lady keep me shaking my head. Frequently I wonder, “Why do we accept this behavior? Why are we so willing to accept scraps and to cater to people who don’t deserve it?” There is story after story of people who give and give only to be dismissed as though they’re nothing. The mom that works full time, does all of the childcare, takes care of the home, does all the cooking and the shopping while her husband hangs out in his den and plays on the computer all night. The husband that sends his wife off on a girl’s weekend because she’s “confused” and “trying to work things out”, only to later find out he’s actually paid for her and her lover to go on a weekend getaway. The person who throws a surprise party for their partner’s big birthday, and doesn’t even get a card for their birthday in return. The person who carefully selects gifts every birthday, anniversary, and Christmas only to be given some token gift year after year. The person who remains at home taking care of the kids while their partner goes out drinking with their friends. I could go on and on.

This is the point where we should actively teach our kids about good relationships. I’ve long thought they should teach a class on that in high school. In between the dating violence and the liars and the cheaters and all these different dysfunctional relationships these kids need to be taught this shit isn’t normal. They need to be told what to look for and what to watch out for. Give them an example of what is good and what is bad, what is normal give and take and what is dysfunction that should never be tolerated.

To my own daughter I would say: Look for the one who reciprocates. Does he do sweet, kind things for you? Do your needs matter? Does he pay attention to what you like and what you dislike? Does he listen when you tell him stories? Does he even exhibit any interest in your life? Is he willing to take care of you when you’re sick or listen to you when you’re upset? Does he laugh at your jokes? Does he tell you you’re beautiful? Does he make you feel loved and cherished? Does he call you by your name? Is he considerate of you? If it’s important to you, is it important to him? Do you remember his birthday and important dates while he blows them off when it’s your turn? Does he value your opinion or is everything done his way?

Don’t confuse the above with love bombing. I’m not talking about the guy who comes in and sweeps you off your feet. I’m not talking about the guy who makes grand gestures and tells you that you are the most amazing person he’s ever met and he’s madly in love with you and his life would implode without you in it. I’m not talking about the guy who sends big bouquets of roses to work so everyone can see how wonderful he is (although I’m not opposed to getting flowers at work) or who buys you over the top gifts so everyone can be jealous of you. I’m talking about the guy who performs loving gestures. I’m talking about the guy who knows you love chocolate dipped strawberries so he’s willing to buy a carton of strawberries and melt some chocolate and dip those berries for you. I’m talking about the guy who will rub your back or cut your meat up for you (true freaking story!) if you ask him to. I’m talking about the guy who will make you breakfast or wash out your shitty jeans or butter your roll for you. I’m talking about the guy who knows you love polar bears so when he sees one he picks it up for you because he knows you love them and it will make you happy.

Stay away from the ones who take and take and take and never give back. Don’t ever make your needs smaller and smaller while you try to fill an endless void that can never be filled. You will be pick me dancing for the rest of your life if you do that because they will always demand more while giving back nothing.

Along that same line run from the ones who keep changing the goal posts. There are some people out there who will never be happy. There are some people who will always find something to complain about. Don’t make it your mission to change that. You won’t succeed. They will only bring you down with them. Leave them to wallow in their misery.

Keep in mind dating should be fun. It’s a time to figure out what you want. So if he’s already lying to you or cheating on you, breaking plans with you, talking down to you, breaking up with you numerous times and then getting back together, or doing any number of things you don’t like during your early dating stage, it’s not going to get better. That’s as good as it gets. You deserve someone who adores you, and in turn you should adore him.

Watch out for red flags, and when you see one don’t spackle. No, it’s not normal for him to blow you off to spend every weekend with his friends. No, it’s not normal for him to have female friends that either he doesn’t want to introduce you to, or who don’t like you. No, it’s not normal for him to tell you that particular outfit makes you look like a slut and it’s not normal for him to be obsessively jealous if you have male friends or have a regular conversation with someone. No, it’s not normal to sleep with your ex a few weeks after the two of you start dating. No, it’s not normal to call you names and say hateful things. No, it’s not normal to do almost nothing together as a couple. No, it’s not normal or okay if you plan something special for his birthday, or a weekend away, or do your best to make holidays or other occasions special, while he does nothing in return for you. Those are red flags, honey. Don’t. Spackle. Over. This. Behavior.

This is an oldie but a goodie. Anytime you find yourself thinking, “Life would be so much easier if he just died,” that’s a bad sign. It’s another big red flag. Get out. Save yourself. Similarly, if you find yourself recording messages for your friends and loved ones for after they find your body, that’s another big sign your relationship is failing and you need to get out.

Words and cards are nice, but actions are much more important. As the old saying goes, “Don’t listen to his words; watch what he does.” If he’s telling you he loves you and you’re the best thing ever but he’s sleeping with other women, doesn’t take your feelings into consideration, and/or mistreats you, he doesn’t love you. This is not a good relationship.

Don’t ever be so desperate for the fairytale that you’re willing to put up with endless amounts of shit.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and to say what you really feel, what you really want. If you’re afraid you’re going to rock the boat and he’ll be out of here then he’s not the guy for you. You can’t have a satisfying relationship if you always have to shut up and pretend everything is fine.

The cool wife/girlfriend is usually the one that gets cheated on. Stories abound of people who didn’t want to make a big deal out of their partner meeting up with an ex for dinner while they weren’t invited to join in, or going out with or texting opposite member friends, or co-workers.  There is no reward for being a doormat. Only more and more abuse.

Don’t ever be afraid to ask yourself this question: Is this relationship acceptable to me? You matter. Your needs matter. It’s not a license to act like a crazy, entitled person, but please, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t sacrifice yourself for a relationship that is unworthy of you. If the relationship is not acceptable to you you have every right to end that relationship.

Draw boundaries. Rock solid ones. Boundaries are not a bad thing. Get it out of your head that they are, or that you’re unreasonable for having them. If your partner repeatedly violates those boundaries they are not a good partner. Recognize that. Do something about it. And by “do something” I mean leave. Find the courage and have the self respect needed to get out of a bad situation. It will never improve. When people realize they can treat you badly they don’t ever change. Not without fear of very serious consequences, and even then, that change may only be temporary.

Make yourself a list of things you want in a partner. Then make another list of deal breakers. Refer to those lists often. Don’t be afraid to end a relationship if you discover this person falls short of your list, or if one or more of his behaviors is on the deal breakers list. Obviously I’m not talking about the more superficial traits, like hair and eye color, height, occupation, etc. But if loving animals or wanting children or having a relationship with God is important to you, then it’s probably not going to be a good fit for you if you end up with someone who can’t stand animal hair, doesn’t want kids, and thinks religion is a crock of shit. Similarly, if you want someone who is faithful, dating someone who wants to be in an open relationship, or who fucks around on you behind your back early on in the relationship, is not a smart move. Again, refer to your two lists. Far better to end things early on in the relationship as opposed to investing years in someone who will only make you miserable.

If he sucks the joy out of life, he’s not a good match. Be with someone who brings joy to your life. Be with the one who makes everything fun, who brings out the best in you, who ignites your sense of adventure and your childlike wonder.

Don’t mistake good sex for a good relationship. There are people out there that would fuck a snake if someone would hold its head down. Those people don’t actually care about anyone; they only care about whether or not you’re useful to them. Don’t be useful to a person like that.

My darling daughter, find someone who adores you. Find that person who wants to please you, just as much as you want to please him. Find that person who loves you back just as hard as you love them. Don’t settle for a barbed wire monkey because you’re afraid. I know ending a relationship is hard. Staying with a person who doesn’t respect you will end up being infinitely more difficult.

Find that person who brings out the best in you. That’s the person you want to be with. Find the person who makes you laugh, and lose the one that makes you cry.  As that saying goes: Find a man who ruins your lipstick, not your mascara.

And again I tell you, because it is so important, don’t ever make your needs smaller and smaller while you cater to someone who continues to demand more and more, appreciating none of your efforts. You want the man who thinks you’re worth the effort. You want the man who sees your needs and says, “Challenge accepted!”

Don’t be me, the person married to your father, the person who wasted her youth on someone who didn’t deserve it. Break this cycle. Demand more. Expect more. You are worth it. I was worth it. Thankfully, I know that now.

One thought on “My Daughter’s Legacy

  1. The BIGGEST gift we can give our daughters is an education and a determination to maintain their financial independence. That way, unlike most of our mothers and grandmothers, they can CHOOSE to stay or leave. I had to keep working after I had my kids because I was the income earner (although I desperately wanted to be a SAHM). BUT that job is what got me out of there, a divorce and a new life after I kicked that violent bastard out! Girls stay with him if you want to but put yourself in a position to be able to leave (with your kids) if you HAVE to! Make that choice YOURS!

    Liked by 1 person

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