Like Father

Direct Answers - Column for the week of July 5, 2004

I was married for 21 years to a man who enjoyed strip clubs, drinking, and his buddies. These things became important to him after we married, and part of his job as an undercover cop. He often brought home pictures of himself with strippers to show me.

Throughout our marriage I took care of our two children, the household, and worked full-time without a contribution from him beside his paycheck. I tried to talk to him because we never spent time together, he did not support me as a wife and mother, and I needed more from him as his wife.

Things did not improve. They continued to deteriorate . Our marriage relationship ceased to exist. Months before I left him, I tried to talk one more time and told him, "If this is all there is, I don't want any more." All he said was, "Stop crying and come to bed."

Seven years ago, when our children were 20 and 17, I left him. I felt they were old enough now. They would better understand that we did not love each other and I stayed because of them. I was also tired of being verbally abused on a regular basis by my son.

My children could not understand my feelings. I was and still am seen as the villain for destroying their "family." Even though I was on my own at the time, my ex-husband told my children he caught me in bed with someone, which was very destructive of my relationship with my children. He also told them that my best friend and I were lesbians.

Neither story was true. To this day my son thinks I was unfaithful to his father and keeps inferring that is why I left and that his father had no fault in the divorce.

I eventually met a wonderful man, and we have been happily married for two years. I love him more than anything, and he loves and respects me like I've never been.

Rachael

Rachael, Harry Chapin's song "Cat's in the Cradle" is about a son who follows his father's not-very-good example. One day, after the father talks on the phone with his son, the older man has a realization. He says, "As I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he'd grown up just like me. Yeah, my boy was just like me."

So you stayed for the children, and you wound up with a son like your husband. All blanket rules have exceptions, and the exception to "stay for the sake of the children" occurs when the other parent's example is a detriment to the child.

As a police officer, your former husband knows better than to destroy a mother's image in the eyes of her children. His lies reveal everything about who he is as a person. Unfortunately, staying bolstered your ex-husband's assertions. How bad a husband could he be if you stayed so long? That's his argument.

Your son's perceptions have been twisted by his father. He may be trying to win his dad's praise by torturing you, or he may be manipulating you into trying to win his love. Or perhaps he is simply acting out of defensiveness. He may think, if mom stayed with someone who abused her because of me, that makes me complicit. I'd rather believe dad's story.

When we do something we believe is wrong for the benefit of others, we cannot expect things to turn out well. A mother teaches a girl what kind of woman to be and what kind of wife to be. A father teaches a boy what kind of man to be and what kind of husband to be.

In Harry Chapin's tune, the son says, "I'm gonna be like you, Dad. You know I'm gonna be like you." That can have wonderful results or disastrous results depending on who we are as parents.

Wayne & Tamara

About The Author

Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at www.WayneAndTamara.com.

Send letters to: Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield, MO 65801 or email: [email protected].

In The News:

The Key to Relationships  Psychology Today
How to Have a Relationship and a Career  Harvard Business Review
Is Lack of Gratitude Dragging Down Your Relationship?  Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley
Identifying Toxic Relationships  The Stroud Courier

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