Can I change?

Can I still enter a long-term, mutually satisfying relationship? Are there any Dopers who have come from a broken home to enter such relationships?

I grew up in a single-family home. Although my mother and father are both married, my father left parenting mostly to my mother. He also travels frequently to work, so I rarely see him. I have not seen him for two years and counting (and enjoying each moment).

I have witnessed my father physically abuse my mother once. Although my mother took my father to the police and eventually the court over this, my mother pleaded with the judge to spare my father a jail sentence. Although my father has not been physical abusive since, he has and remains verbally abusive. He refuses to take responsibility for anything and he burdens my mother with all the financial stuff. She often sleeps at 12 and always wakes by 6 AM just to deal with her job and all the financial crap of our household.

My mother, as a result, is sometimes a bit short-fused. Well, it’s 99% not her fault. It’s my fault for often provoking her. She’s an easy punching bag, since she’s my mother, and I know that no matter how much I might verbally abuse her, she’ll eventually forgive me or live with it, since I’m her son. I don’t try to compound my father’s work. I just often times have a lot of stuff on my shoulders, and I know it’s bad, but I unload on my mother. I also unload on my sister, and I verbally abuse her each day. I realize that I’m wrong, but it’s a hard habit to break. It’s internecine, but I cannot stop.

At school I put on a heavy façade. All my teachers think I am well-mannered. My peers think I am well-mannered. I have friends. They hear other people talk about me. My friends report that other people talk about how nice I am, and how I say “hi” to them each day in the hallway. I’m good friends with the peer-nominated “class clown.” We hang out so often and screw around with each other so much that some people surmise that we’re couples (we’re just friends). In case anyone was wondering, I’m a high school senior.

By any standard, I’m fairly popular. It’s pretty clear that I can put on a pretty good show in front of other people for 7 hours a day. I’m definitely not a stereotypical broken family and antisocial kid at school.

But what happens when I get in a committed relationship and spend more time with other people? What happens if we eventually move in together, and the other person gets to witness me 24 hours a day? Will maintaining this façade of normality become too much? At home with my family I like to unleash on them all, verbally. I do so because I know they’re my family and no matter how much I hurt them, their love is unconditional.

Even if I do maintain a façade of kindness toward my significant other, will one day I start to unleash on them as well, because we’ve gone too far for a divorce (e.g. we have kids) or separation? Me and my sister were the main reasons my mom did not pursue a divorce; she didn’t want us to be raised with an actual stigma of coming from a single-parent household, when in actuality, we might as well have come from a single-parent household.

Um. Like everybody is from a “broken home”.

You have my sympathies it sounds pretty awful.

But you seem to be saying you want things to be other than they are. You don’t want to be verbally abusive to your family, all the while knowing how damaging to them it is. Because they ‘have’ to love you. You’ve made no mention of changing any thing, but gee you wish it would change.

You’re not your intentions, you are your actions. If you don’t get away you’ll become irreversibly just like them. You already are well on your way, I’d say. The muscles you use grow stronger. You keep practising being a bully to those around you and you’ll just get better at being obnoxious.

There is only one thing that will throw you from this course. Stop.

It’s time to start practicing so your kindness is no longer a façade, because you’re right, no healthy relationship is going to come out of you having a habit of verbally abusing those close to you when you’re stressed out. Guess what? Everyone is stressed out. Life is stressful. Learn to cope with it now. Talk to your school counselor about developing better coping skills. You’re going to need them.

I’d suggest starting with actually not abusing your mother and sister anymore. Do you ever apologize for it? If not, start now. Every time. For cripes sake, you admit that you’re in the wrong. Own your mistake. It’ll serve as reinforcement that you shouldn’t have done it in the first place.

On the plus side, it’s unlikely you could maintain a façade long enough not to crack before the wedding. It’s possible that it could escalate, once you’re in a relationship where there’s not an authority figure with power over you in the same house. (This doesn’t preclude the relationship continuing, unfortunately, so you’ll have to think about whether you want to be That Guy, and what you’re going to do about it now.)

And yes, everyone came from some sort of family dysfunction. Some people use it as a lesson in how not to lead their own lives.

There comes a point in life when you gain a certain clarity and suddenly realize just exactly how your parents fucked you up. That point is the last time “my parents fucked me up” is a valid excuse. Once you have that realization, then *you *are responsible for fixing your fuckedupedness.

How do you change? You fake it until it comes naturally. What would a functional, nice, responsible, loving person say to her mother in the morning? Say it. What would a functional, nice, responsible loving person say to her sister? Say it. What would a functional, nice, responsible, loving person NOT say to her mother? Don’t say it.

Decide what your life would look like if you were the person you want to be. What would you do, say, think, be? Don’t wait. Do, say, think and be that person. Will it feel really freaking weird at first? Yes, absolutely. It felt really freaking weird when you took your first steps as a baby, too. But keep at it, keep doing it, begin again every time you make a mistake and fail, and eventually it will become second nature, just like walking.

Have you tried continuing what you seem to think is a “facade” at home? Treat your family the way you treat strangers and the people at school. The only way to truly change is to start modeling the behavior you want to achieve, and in time it will become the default. Your life doesn’t sound so awful that you need to be venting on your family every day, but then I remembered you are still a teen, and despite what you may think about yourself NOW, the fact is that your brain isn’t done percolating yet, and in a few years you will be horrified at your teenage behavior. So since you are beginning to realize that your behavior is not optimal, you can make concious steps towards improving. So be polite, be kind, and treat your family with the same respect you treat others. Then you will become the (I’m assuming you are male) kind of man who is worthy of a good relationship.

I’m going to try practicing being nice and biting my tongue more often with my family. I already do, but yes, it’s hard. I’ll just keep on practicing at it then. Nothing great was achieved without effort. Thank you all for telling it to me straight. There really is no easy way out. Baby steps at first, and later it becomes natural. And I guess I should eat my own medicine. As I’ve been telling my high school senior peers, “Don’t let the college campus define you. Define yourself.” Same here. I’ll stop letting my mildly unfortunate circumstances define me and I’ll start defining myself. I know there are people who hail from much, much worse circumstances than I. There are definitely more broken households than mine. Time to will myself to vent less.

You mentioned unconditional love from your family, but really - they don’t have to love you. Really. The more you vent your anger on them, the more you will slowly poison your relationships with them.

It’s not a matter of sucking it up because your situation ‘isn’t that bad’ - it’s realizing what you’re doing and working on fixing it. You learned some pretty awful lessons in your family, and as much as you hate dealing with your dad, you seem to be emulating what he taught you. You have to work on dealing with that anger in a better fashion.

You can fix this. My husband grew up with an abusive father, and set his standards of behavior to basically act the opposite of what his dad does. He made it his aim to succeed as a decent human being in spite of - and often, to spite - his dad, and he did it.

I was serious about your school counselor. There are healthy ways to vent and relieve stress – as well as taking stress and anger and channeling it into something productive – which don’t involve verbally abusing someone. It’s a good idea to learn them, because suppression will only get you so far. You need coping skills, not suppression skills.

I think your relationship is what you make of it not of your family history. Relationships take work that is just the way it is. Working hard helps but is no guarantee. Also don’t be afraid to get help if you need it.

FWIW my folks divorced in 1966, didn’t see my dad for over 10 years. I have been with my wife over 36 years and we a doing well. Also now have a good relationship with my dad.

Don’t be afraid to try happiness is worth trying.

If you truly wish to change this I suggest when you do it (though you’re trying), afterward, next day whatever, apologize. You don’t have to spit out much more than, “Sorry. This is not who I wish to be, forgive me please.”

This is a way to make sure you do more than just talk about changing. And you’ll learn some important things, not only about yourself, but about the people around you. Give yourself, and them an opportunity to impress you!

QFT. I saw so many of my mother’s relationships fall apart it wasn’t even funny. She married and divorced four times and had at least that many boyfriends. Yeah, she was abusive. Yeah, it had a pretty dramatic effect on me. But at some point I realized that even though my resulting behavioral issues were not my fault, they were my responsibility. That is part of what becoming an adult is about… having to take complete ownership of your actions regardless of the circumstances.

My Mom used to lose her temper a lot, and when I was in 4th, 5th grade I thought that was how you dealt with anger. When I was mad I slammed and threw shit around and verbally berated the people around me. Like it just never occurred to me there was another way. Until one day, I was with my Aunt - a great positive influence on my life - and I was pissed at my Mom, and I threw the phone or something. My Aunt was, legitimately, mad. She said, ‘‘You will not behave that way in this house. That is not how responsible people deal with anger.’’

And from then on, it was on me. I got out of the habit pretty quickly, though I admit at the beginning of my relationship with my husband I started to slip again. And again, I had to take ownership for it. Our lives, and our relationships, are shaped by a series of individual choices - choices that may even seem minor at the time. The first step is bringing more awareness to the situation ever time you are faced with a choice. Think about the long-term consequences.

It sounds like you might benefit from therapy or just talking this through with someone who cares. The message here is not, ‘‘Oh, stop being a big baby and suck it up.’’ It’s, ‘‘Learn to deal with this very real pain more constructively.’’

NM, misread part of OP. Good luck.