As a young girl, I was groomed to be insecure and dysfunctional when it came to relationships. This was not a conscious or deliberate decision on the part of my family role models – but an innocent pattern of dysfunction that was handed down from generation to generation.
I’m sixteen years old in this photo; my mother is 36; and my grandmother 56 – a consistent twenty-year age difference. My mother was the eldest of five sisters. So, I had no shortage of female role models growing up.
One of my mom’s sisters married a man who locked her in the house all day when he went to work – she’s still married to him fifty years later and she’s still living under his thumb; another sister became so distraught when her husband left her for another woman that she died three years later – she had no clue who she was without him - and at fifty years old, she literally shriveled-up and died. And my own mother whose husband (my dad) gambled all the family money and ran up huge debts, had to resign herself to living with him because she couldn’t afford to live on her own.
I could go on…but suffice to say there was a lot of melodrama in my family – countless arguments, ugly fights, jealous rages, despair, and an avalanche of co-dependency.
The thread that weaved through my female role-models was to completely disregard their own needs, to keep the peace, in favor of relationships that were physically and emotionally harmful. They all made that choice. And they lived (and some of them continue to live) under that heavy fog of not knowing their worth.
There’s a saying that goes: You can only go as far as your self-image will allow. When your self-esteem is in the toilet how can you do otherwise?
It would take me until I was in my mid-forties for that fog to lift in my own relationships. Up until then, I had followed suit and blindly played out those same roles. Had I known back then how (distorted) beliefs get formed; had I known about my true worth; and had I known how I was creating everything, I could have had an easier life!
But there does come a time if you’re really lucky and thank god I was, where you get to kick the habit and break the cycle of these women who came before me.
There comes a time when something awakens within us to get out of the toilet and carve out a new possibility. A time when the switch is flipped. I managed to come out from under that dense fog and flip that switch. And what was on the other side was a whole different reality.
Walt Whitman says it well: I now see that I am larger, better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.
Linda Ford is a relationship coach. Her new online workshop (which she is teaching with Lana Bastianutti): A Brand New Way of Dating: how to BE and HAVE an Amazing Relationship, is now open for enrollment: https://www.lindafordcoaching.com/dating