It’s been said that most [straight] women are looking to end up with someone like their father. I’ve always found that idea vaguely incestuous and therefore disgusting. Also, my dad is an abusive dickbag so I guess I just can’t get my head around someone admiring their father and wanting to find a man with his sterling qualities. I mean I suppose it happens, but I can’t comprehend what that would be like.
But because my dad is the first guy I ever had any kind of ongoing relationship with, on some level he became my template for how interactions with guys were supposed to go. And so, looking back, I realize that in my first few relationships I was drawn to people like my dad: smart, but childish and emotionally and physically abusive. It’s not that I liked those qualities. It’s that a guy with those qualities seemed somehow comfortably familiar: I knew how to act with him. I could just fall right into all the well-worn patterns I’d grown up with.
With my ex husband, I thought I’d finally escaped that particular trap: Ex, though a super-genius, was also a patient person who wasn’t constantly lording his superior intelligence and physical strength over me*. Only after we’d broken up did I realize that he was like my dad in another way: they both tried to control me by making me dependent on them. They both tacitly encouraged my social anxiety and offered to do things for me that I was perfectly capable of doing myself. Also, Ex did turn out to have a violent temper. His temper was a little different from my dad’s, in that I don’t think Ex was ever tempted to actually hit me – he just liked to let his temper out by punching inanimate objects. Whereas my dad clearly punched inanimate objects because he wished those objects were my head. Still; both of them intimidated me via screaming and violence. And both of them have – at one time or another – gotten right up in my face and screamed “I’M NOT THE BAD GUY!!! WHY DO YOU ALWAYS ACT LIKE I’M THE BAD GUY?!?!?” because I cringed away from them during one of their tantrums and this offended them.
Minx wasn’t like my dad at all, as far as I can figure, and that led me to believe that I was finally free of these lingering echoes.
But The Pedant…oh god, The Pedant.
The Pedant has this very animated way of telling anecdotes where he’ll imitate people’s accents and voices. Some people can do this and come off super-cool and funny; The Pedant is not one of those people. He does the accents and voices badly, and it comes across as offensive rather than like he’s just trying to set the atmosphere for his story. And yet he throws himself into his storytelling full-force – no hesitation or self-consciousness at all – and I think he believes he’s being super-cool and funny. He’s not, though; he’s missing the mark, and it makes me cringe in embarrassment for him. All of which feels a little bit…familiar. My dad used to do the exact same thing.
And he also constantly offers to do things for me that I can do for myself (and some things that I can’t). The intent behind it is different, I think; I don’t get a vibe that he wants to make me dependent on him, only that he likes to be helpful. But nonetheless I suspect the whole “No, wait, I can do that for you!” thing is one of the traits of his that sucked me in, and that it sucked me in because it was what I was used to from my dad.
And it occurred to me the other day that I happen to have the same psychological disorders going on as my mom – depression, social anxiety, etc. – while The Pedant is Aspie, just like you-know-who. Is my shitty subconscious trying to recreate my parents’ relationship?!?
…Okay, probably not. The defining thing about my parents’ relationship is that my dad is/was extremely jealous, clingy, and verbally and physically abusive and my mom just kind of desperately tried to placate him and stay out of his way. The Pedant is pretty much the opposite of jealous, clingy, or abusive. He’s never tried to frighten or overpower me and I’ve never even heard him raise his voice. It’s okay. Deep breaths.
But still. When does this shit ever stop? I know I don’t want to be with anyone remotely like my father, and I think I’m consciously avoiding all of his traits in people, but then a new aspect pops up. WTF, BRAIN?!
*When my dad and I were arguing, he would start deliberately using big words he knew I wouldn’t know; he knew I’d be too proud to stop the argument and ask what they meant, and he liked to watch me flail. Sometimes, he’d ask me skill-testing questions and then mock me when I didn’t know the answer (especially if he had an audience). As far as physical strength goes: he thought it was funny to grab my hand in public – so tightly that I couldn’t get away – and then deliberately start walking really really fast so I couldn’t keep up and he was practically dragging me through the street/shopping mall/wherever while I yelled at him to slow down. Or he’d randomly take my hand and squeeze it to the point of pain while smirking at me and repeatedly asking “Do you want me to break your hand? Do you want me to break your hand?” Or he’d instigate playfights with me (my pride and temper made me stay and try to best him instead of walking away…and the one time I did try to walk away, he slapped me on the ass so I’d get enraged and come charging at him again). I’m pretty sure he broke my tailbone once when he tripped me during one of these melees and I fell on my ass on the kitchen floor.