If you’re familiar with Attachment Theory for children, you’re probably not surprised to hear about Adult Attachment Theory. This is a pretty new area of study, and the basics are outlined in a pretty reader-friendly book called Attached by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A. It’s really marketed as a self-help book, claiming it “can help you find- and keep- love.” The book is interesting even if you’re in a relationship, though. I may write a review soon enough, but for now, I just wanted to mention that adult attachment exists.
My view of attached relationships (commonly termed “co-dependency” by psychologists seeking some sort of disconnect from biological needs, treating them as bad habits needing to be broken) is that they are healthy. The research thus far shows us that a relationship which is secure soothes our nervous systems, helping our bodies and minds function with relative ease. Who wouldn’t want this for their marriage? In an era of skyrocketing divorce rates and little hope for preserving life-long commitments, I think we need this science to emerge a little faster. A lot faster. However, what we do have right now is a foundation: marriages can be secure, attached relationships, and they can be better understood. We have hope for improvement.
One of the biggest challenges to a healthy marriage, however, is the social atmosphere of our culture. By this, I mean that people are just not designed for commitment or healthy social interaction these days. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it’s very rare to find a person who values relationships enough to make the effort to maintain them. If the relationships are not even their own, such as a mother who is a peripheral part of her son’s marriage, then all bets are off- why should she try and protect or even respect that relationship?
I know that this post started off all educational and seemed like it might be an introduction to some valuable information, but this is where that stops. This is where I say, “I do not have any of the answers I need.”
I do not know how a marriage is supposed to be a healthy one if outside relationships are competing with the marriage. I do not know how to resolve conflict with competing people. I do not know how some people can be over 60, yet act like they are barely more emotionally mature than a 2-year-old. No, friends, this is not an educational post. This is a flame fest.
This post goes out to all the baby mamas whose children have grown and started their own family, but those baby mamas somehow think they have rights to that family. This post goes out to all the parents who insert themselves in their childrens’ marriages with the intent of dividing them. If you take nothing else from this post, take this: you are losing. You are probably succeeding in creating problems in that marriage, in that family, and you are definitely succeeding in creating problems in your own relationship with your child. Everyone loses, but you are the biggest loser. Gone are the days when the elders received unquestionable superior status- everything is questioned today, and the answer to the question of an impossible family member is simply to remove them.
Families today have to contend with so much negativity just to stay together, without people who claim to love them also attempting to destroy something they’ve worked hard to create and maintain. We have to educate ourselves on how to have happy lives because a large portion of the previous generation has failed. We have to sift through overwhelming amounts of bad advice and do what’s right for our families. America is unlike other cultures in that we cannot trust the practices and knowledge of our parenting generation; it’s no fault of theirs, but their parenting and relationship advice got its roots in the worst kind of revolution. The “medical revolution” turned our natural instincts and healthy traditions into jokes, and we have suffered for that. Our generation faces a massive number of struggles with parents and in-laws over parenting and family choices because of the discrepancies between what we now know to be true and what was taught to previous generations as a result of the medical model for families. (Try to explain this unbiased, scientific observation to your mother, however, and you’ll probably get scolded.)
Parents: DO NOT FEEL GUILTY for requesting that your children be cared for in the way that you know is best. Do not accept the notion that your parents did alright with you, and thus can be trusted with your children. Do not feel like you have to accept destructive behavior from parents or in-laws simply because they are family. These are our challenges. To set healthy examples for our children and help them build healthier lives for themselves, we have to stand our ground and demand that those involved in our children’s lives respect our decisions. Same goes for marriages- a secure marriage is valuable. Make that clear by protecting it.
And to those who oppose the notion that the older generation is “not the mama,” so to speak, I will say this once: grow the hell up. Whatever you might have experienced, and whatever issues you might have with someone else’s (even your child’s) decisions within a marriage and a family, you have no right to take thoughtless action against them. I am appalled by how common it is for parents, mothers especially, to try to divide a marriage, or compete with the wife. Get over this! If you were doing what’s truly best for your children and grandchildren, you would be supporting the marriage and listening to and respecting them. This means there is no room for trash talking your son’s wife to everyone who will listen, including him; no room for blatantly disregarding parenting wishes; no room for manipulation with gifts and charity; no room for guilt trips; no room for treating someone like dirt and expecting there will be no consequences.
My choices are not only my own; a ridiculous number of people have cut off parents and other relatives for the same sort of problem. We are taking a stand against this treatment. We are protecting our families and their future. We’re modeling the good and throwing out the bad. And that does not make us bad people; that makes the opposition bad people. The fact is that a family member is not going to be shoved out of another’s life based on one or even a few little mistakes- you’ve probably done many very offensive things, been asked to change your actions repeatedly, and shown no progress before someone is willing to cut a family member out of their life.
So to all the friends and family out there feeling like victims because you’ve been removed from a family’s life, this is for you: you are the problem, and you can find a solution. It’s time to stop pretending that you shouldn’t be taking responsibility for your actions and learn how to relate meaningfully and responsibly. It’s time to fix your mistakes or back off and let the well-meaning, hard-working parents, husbands, and wives be.
For all the parents/grandparents who have respected their children’s family and marriage, KUDOS! Congratulations on being a thoughtful, caring individual who your children probably look up to and respect tremendously. Keep on setting the example you set, and one day we will aspire to be the kind of grandparent/parent you are being. We need many, many more of you…