Today I’ve been thinking about how we are biologically programmed to learn, for better or worse, to define acceptable partnerships by how our parents treat us. If our parents nurture and support us for who we are, we will seek that in a partner. But if our parents demonstrate conditional love, that is all we will accept. If, as daughters, we see our fathers exhibit uncontrolled rage, we will lose interest in the “nice guy” (or gal) and will instead seek an angrier, more controlling partner. If we witness violence regularly in our childhood home, our adult lives will feel incomplete without it. This is why our choices as parents matter so much. If we love our kids, as the vast majority of parents really do, we make decisions about how we care for them based on wanting what is best for them. Surely this includes wanting them to be capable of happiness as adults, to form healthy, lasting relationships, and to refuse abuse, to not fall victim to others who would treat them poorly. But if we do not control our own anger, if we destroy property or make threats to “teach them a lesson,” we are sending our children a very negative message. We are effectively saying, “Might is right.” We are telling them, “I don’t value your opinions, your feelings, or your possessions.” Our words are nothing compared to our actions. Our outbursts tell them, “I only accept you when you do as I say; any independent thought that disagrees with my views earns my contempt.” Do we want our children to choose friends and partners who talk to them this way?
Then we have to stop. We have to be the adults who act from loving kindness, instead of reacting in anger. If we need help, we must seek it. This Valentine’s Day, I’m taking action to end the violent outbursts in my own home, beginning with myself. I am disembarking from the angry train, and I invite you to join me.
Be the change. Begin now.