One of the persistent issues in my life has been a low self-esteem. It stems from being told implicitly and explicitly that my opinions don’t matter. More than that, I was made to feel like I had to keep everything to myself. The only person allowed to be angry in my family was my father. And, since my mother made me her confidant when I was eleven (or earlier, but that’s when I first remember it happening), I learned that my feelings were secondary to hers. It got better when I was in my thirties, but it’s reverted now that my parents are elderly and my father isn’t in the best of health. And is still the same narcissistic, yet insecure person he’s always been. Some of the things she complains about are things he’s done their entire marriage, which is nearly fifty-one years in length. It’s frustrating as hell because I can remember her complaining about the same things thirty-five years ago, and I don’t have a better answer now than I did then. Or rather, my answer is the same. Divorce him. I know she won’t do that, however, so all I can do is–nothing.
I hate that she only calls me to complain about him. She might ask me about myself (or not), and she might even listen for a few minutes, but then it’s time to talk ad nauseam about him. I wouldn’t want to hear that much about him if he was a good person and they had a great relationship. The fact that he’s not and they don’t just makes it even more painful. I know that on my end, I should just give a couple nondescript answers and end the call as soon as I can. I don’t, however, because I feel guilty that she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to. I shouldn’t, I know, but it’s my programming. I’m only here to manage the feelings of others. I thought I had it under control, but the fact that my parents are in the last stage of their lives has made me soft. It’s ironic that I’m better able to deal with my father because I just accept he is who he is. I know that he’ll never change, so it’s easier to gray rock him into oblivion. I just nod and agree with whatever he says or state my case once and then move on. I can do that because I don’t expect anything better from him. From my mom, it’s another story. I know she’s better than what she’s displaying right now. She’s a badass woman who single-handedly brought sandplay therapy to Taiwan. She has a waiting list for clients that is over a year long. She’s the foremost expert on the subject in Taiwan. She’s highly respected in her field. And, yet, in her personal life, she’s reduced to being the helpmeet of my father.
I’ve said before that one of the reasons I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship is because I can see myself in her. I could easily be that person, and it scares the fuck out of me. She couldn’t call him at work because it would make him lose face (yeah, I don’t get it, either); he would get angry if she asked him to let her know when he wasn’t coming home for dinner (because he was fucking around); and his way of punishing her would be to angrily yell at her until she backed down or give her the icy silent treatment.