I had an ex when I was young and stupid that told me if my parents got a divorce he couldn’t marry me. My reply was of course a stern “go fuck yourself who said i’d marry you anyway” but it still hurt a bit. I dumped him a few months later but I always reflected on what he said. I toyed with the idea that my parents would get divorced one day. I knew that is where my parents were headed. I knew I would be a girl from a broken home.
My parents have always had a turbulent relationship. My mother is a stubborn women. She never wanted to be the stay at home house wife he wanted her to be. In part because my father owned bars, which meant he was out all night and that bothered her. Her working bothered him, so on so forth..you get the idea right?
My mother was with my father for over 30 years before she left him. She wanted her children to grow with a father. My dad was not a good husband but he was an amazing dad. There is nothing that my father did to me or my brothers that made us hate him. As a husband though, we understood why she wouldn’t want to be with him. He kicked and cried and screamed for her back but she couldn’t do it anymore. She was done. None of us blamed her. That isn’t to say that we were left untarnished though..
My father vowed his love for my mother as long as I can remember. I remember the mornings that my kitchen table was full of flowers and complete jewelry sets for her to wake up to. I remember her drawing a meek side eye while walking past all of these beautiful things. Why wasn’t she as fascinated by them as I was? I remember the cash and the shopping she always enjoyed. I remember all the dinners and fancy cars. My mother was well taken care of, but her heart was neglected. I couldn’t grasp this until I started dating for myself. No money or material can replace what makes your heart smile.
I’ve always envied my friends whose parents were together. Not fake together like my parents, but happily together. Willingly together. They went on family vacations . They ate dinner and played board games. They took family photos. My parents never did those things. The idea of love wasn’t painted for me until I picked up the brush myself, but I found that I was drawing over my parent’s canvas.
This type of relationship cycle is a common one in my culture. Our women are raised to think they should be in the kitchen. You should know how to take care of a child. You should have no aspirations other than to make babies and keep your husband happy. His family should all marvel at your beauty. In my parents day, arranged marriages were common. Having another person pick who you spend your life with isn’t always a hit, its usually a miss. Well guess what? Too bad. Because you cant leave him either, who knows what they’ll label you as. Where were you to go anyway? You’re in a foreign country with no job. My generation of Albanian-Americans is full of kids from broken homes. Our parents never stood a shot. Many of us find that reflecting in our own relationships.
When I turned 17 I met a boy who I thought was the shit. He had a nice car, flashy things, and he was “popular”. A 17 year old girl’s dream. I got acquainted with him through a friend, and eventually we started dating. I shouldn’t say “we” started dating. It was me dating him, him dating everyone (including the friend who hooked us up). Little did I know, because I was the sweet Albanian girl who stayed home and listened to her boyfriend. I hardly went out with my friends and when I did it was always a check in, who is there, what are you doing. This was normal though, wasn’t it? Isn’t this how my parents were? Every Albanian couple is like this, no? I dated him for close to two years.
How could I find myself in the same position as my mother? I watched her juggle her emotions on a daily basis all my life and here I was doing the same thing. Being made a pet, laying down like a door mat to be walked on. My mother at least got gifts when she was done wrong, I was just left in frustration. I was being controlled. Don’t do this, don’t wear that, don’t speak like this, not even my parents ever tried to put these limitations on me. Eventually I got annoyed and tired of it. I was an 18 year old girl who was about to turn 19, I needed to be me. I needed to grow how I saw fit, not molded. I decided that this wouldn’t be me. I have already read this book, I know how this story plays out.
Within 8 hours of deciding this wasn’t the way I wanted my story to go, i dumped him. I look back on that day a lot because I didn’t think I could do it. I knew he was awful for me but for some reason I was stuck. I made it easy on myself and told him I needed a break, this wasn’t a break up. He cursed and got angry, told me he was driving to my house but I didn’t care. I turned off my phone and went about my business. He was not going to change my mind. People like this only get worse with time. There is no teaching them. There is no “it gets better”. The simple solution is to pick up, and go. Was I concerned about his feelings? Fuck no. This was my turn to be selfish. I changed my number and never called him back.
At 23 I am happy to say that I have never done that to myself again. I will not be the type of women to let herself be manipulated. I will never let anyone break me down enough to think that emotional abuse is normal. I will never let anyone, especially a man, tell me how to dress or act or speak. My parents didn’t teach me how to love another by word, they taught it in actions. My mother’s weaknesses drew strength in me. I know better, and for her sake, I will do better.