I hadn’t given too much thought to the behavioural patterns that we learn from our parents that influence our own lives and development until recently. Perhaps, having reflected on the learnt behaviour of my own children and the impact of witnessing domestic abuse has had on them has caused me to look back on my own upbringing.
Elsewhere in my blog I have already written about the biggest benefit I received from the counselling I underwent was discovering the coping strategy I employed during my marriage was one I developed in my childhood.
My childhood was unusual. My parents had met in church ministry and were part of a church that constantly moved their ministers to different locations. A two year placement was considered long-term. I attended nine different schools, four of those were in five years of secondary education. With the exception of my last school, I was always the new boy in the classroom. Although at the time I thought that this had no effect on me, I clearly failed to achieve my juvenile academic potential. Life was one of constant change, with perhaps the most significant factor moving home and school during my O level option year. When arriving at the new school, the O level syllabus had already been decided, so I ended up studying subjects for my GSCE O levels that carried pupil vacancies rather than the subjects I either particularly excelled in or had a passion for.
What of the influences that have made me the person I am? I am the oldest child of three. Although there are only 3 ½ years between me and my youngest sibling because of the way in which our birthdays fell, I was two years ahead of the middle child and this most often meant that I was at a different school to my younger siblings. They were in successive years at school and therefore tended to attend the same school and perhaps, developed a closer bond with each other. Therefore I was nearly always the new boy in the class, but also had no sibling to play with at break time. I just got on with the cards life had dealt me. I seemed to understand that things occurred beyond my control and so there was little point blaming my bad luck or circumstances. There was no point in getting angry or losing my temper. Therefore I have never been confrontational and would often seek to pacify should I find myself in a situation. I just had to get on with living my life.
My parents raised all three of us in a happy home where the family was important. Of course, there was the occasional parental argument but these never ever resulted in any form of violent or aggressive behaviour. My parents came from different backgrounds, my father was raised by his widowed mother and always tried to be the father that he never had. He very rarely spoke about his own childhood but we knew that it was one of immense hardship and struggle. Perhaps in taking this on board myself, is where I learnt my own coping strategy of ‘that’s life, get on with it.’ My paternal Grandmother was alive during my childhood, but we were separated by a vast distance so visits tended to be an annual holiday. What was evident was the tremendous love my father had for his mother who showed great strength and fortitude in raising her family with little support.
My maternal grandparents were the one constant in my childhood. They never moved house and their home was the one my mother grew up in. Although we lived in various parts of the country, we were always able to journey there. While my home and school continuously changed, my grandparents provided the roots I never really had elsewhere. The family was everything. Anything done in life was for the family and its well-being.
Although my childhood was unusual in comparison to most, by the fact I attended nine schools and had lived in twelve different houses, I had a good upbringing and happy childhood. The adult I grew up to be was shaped by positive childhood influences.
However, no one imagines to find themselves in an abusive marriage. I certainly hadn't. These childhood influences meant that keeping the family together was of paramount importance to me and I just had to cope as best I could with all the issues. I made excuses for her violent behaviour. I tried to pacify her rages. I reasoned that it was the 'worse' of the 'for better or worse' marriage vows I had taken. I had to shield and protect our children from her anger. I just had to grin and bear the violent and verbal assaults and pretend to everyone that all was well. Life goes on.
I still try to analyse my ex-wife’s abusive behaviour and always wonder whether it was fuelled by her own learnt behaviours, her childhood (of which I know little about) and even possible jealousy towards my own upbringing. I guess I will never know.