This is not an easy blog post to write. I was thinking about this question last night: At what point do words become verbal abuse? I think I saw a sponsored feature on Facebook about “How to recognize signs of abuse” or something. So I did a Google search and read a few short articles and took a quiz. Was I verbally/emotionally abused growing up? According to the Internet, I act like it.
I love my dad, but he is mean and (seemingly) unaffectionate. My sister-in-law recently told me that she disliked how he always teased my sister and me. His favourite thing to say is “who cares?” and his favourite pastime is criticizing his family. Still, “abusive” has a connotation I wouldn’t associate with my dad.
My parents did their best and I think I turned out to be a decent human being because of them. My dad will do anything for someone who truly needs him. Yesterday he remarked that he was glad to see me healthy and “with a zest for doing things.” As Philip Larkin wrote, “They fuck you up, your mom and dad/They don’t mean to but they do.”
However, realizing this, and calling it what it is, is extremely helpful. I recognize its affects on my relationships with others. I am extremely sensitive to others’ anger, for example, and avoid conflict so much that I miss opportunities to resolve problems before they become unfixable. Next I learn how to loudly set a glass on the counter without flinching.