Forming Ethics in a Dysfunctional Family

1950kinkI grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family. If you’ve read my previous entries I’ve detailed the problems I’ve had dealing with a father who abandoned me and a step-father who abused me, my sister, and my mother. We carry the psychic scars to this day and my mother carried them to her grave. Long after the death of my step-father, his abuse left the three of us unable to relate to each other in a reasonable and loving way. Is it any wonder that I have issues with my husband?

Needless to say, there was a nod to church and religion, but no examples of Christian behavior whatsoever. So, I did not form my ethical view from Christianity. Growing up, I formed my ethical view from my own experiences with people. I learned that trust is not automatically given but earned. I learned that forcing forgiveness is more damaging than healing. I learned that most people will use you for their own ends rather than treat you with respect and dignity.  I don’t recall thinking anything at all about marriage. Despite my mother’s horrible experiences with marriage, I did not believe that the institution itself was bad. Surprisingly, I always thought I’d get married.

Perhaps, because in a small Midwestern town, there is nothing offered but marriage and children, I automatically thought that it was my lot in life. Guidance counselors at school wrote off those who did not perform well and did not even offer to tell them of opportunities they MIGHT have if they concentrated on school work rather than partying every night of the week like I did. My acting out was a given. I drank alcohol like there was no tomorrow and I had one-night stands and no clue how to achieve a normal relationship with someone. My experience taught me that men demanded sex to cement a relationship regardless of what I wanted.  When I see women today who are so present in themselves and assured, I mourn for the clueless teenager that I was.

Ethically, I have never felt that non-monogamous relationships could work. Perhaps because in my world, there were NO examples of any. Theoretically I agree that people are not monogamous by nature. There is enough evidence in the world to show that marriage cannot contain the wandering eyes of men or women. I can count on one hand the couples I know who have not been divorced at least once. Marriage is a civil legal arrangement only. Now I can see this. Back then however, I had all of the romantic notions of any teenager.  I expected way too much.

So, as an adult I’ve tried to think in non-monogamous terms, but I also think I’ve narrowed my world too much. Forget monogamy and non-monogamy. I’m thinking in non-marital terms right now. Why be married at all? Perhaps marriage was never for me because my expectations would never be met or because I’m better off with my own company. I also feel that I’ve never allowed myself to grow as a person in my own right. I’ve always been in some kind of relationship. I do not know myself as a single person. I would love to find out.

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