Lessons from Childhood
Have you ever argued with your girlfriend or wife and realized — after hearing her words and voice tonality, viewing her facial expressions and body language, weighing the facts of the situation, and objectively assessing your personal behavior — that she was fighting not with you but with her father, mother, siblings, ex-boyfriends, or ex-husbands?
Of course you have, and I’ll bet it was recently. She hurled phrases, displayed fears, and used battle tactics that seemed incongruous with the matter at hand and inappropriate for you. Striking a chord yet? Congratulations! You know how to spot her emotional baggage. Now the question is, will that baggage ruin your journey?
What is baggage? Emotions from her childhood home or previous relationships and marriages that affect her current attitudes and actions. Her ability to resolve conflicts with you is a function of the age, size, weight, and style of her baggage.
There are three categories of conflict in the childhood home. The two polar extremes are 0% conflict, where her parents never argued at all, and 100% conflict, where they argued incessantly. I believe both of these to be detrimental to children.
If one’s parents never argued, they lived a somewhat superficial, disengaged life — with certain topics never broached, emotions never revealed, and words never uttered. Accordingly, with all that avoidance, there was no reason for conflict.
But, all people who are fully intermeshed have conflicts of one kind or another, at various times, whether they be spouses, paramours, business partners, or fellow citizens. Navigating those conflicts in healthy, constructive, respectful ways is the secret to successful human relations.
So, it follows that the child raised in an environment of either zero conflict or total conflict never learns those navigation skills, because he never sees adults successfully resolving conflicts and loving each other afterwards. Interestingly, this child, as an adult, will seek two extremes in mates: either one who is passionless, boring, and “safe,” or one overly emotional, anarchic, and given to explosive fits. The common thread in these two extreme relationships is the lack of closeness, confidence, and trust — and lots of avoidance.
The fundamental difference between the child of round-the-clock conflict and the one from total calmness is the amount of emotional baggage. Anyone emerging from a battle zone will carry forward some of the characteristics of that zone. Look at soldiers returning from a war — some of them never recover from the post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Consequently, the child who lived in his parents’ battle zone will mimic many of their words, thought processes, emotions, and actions. On the other hand, the child who never saw his parents fight will have a naive, unrealistic view of relationships, expecting his to replicate the artificial serenity of theirs, and will tend to avoid every future romantic conflict — even a healthy one.
The third case is the one in which the child’s parents had only occasional conflicts (I believe 10-25% of the time is a healthy range) and resolved them quickly, rationally, and lovingly. The child who grew up in such a household is not only rare but extremely fortunate — considering the high number of miserable marriages, the 50% divorce rate, and the 40% out-of-wedlock birthrate. His skill for resolving conflicts — if he was paying attention to his parents — is likely the highest of all cases, as is his ability to recognize and choose a mate with similar skills.
Add the baggage of childhood to that of previous relationships and marriages, most people need porters to help them carry it all — because they make no effort to emotionally downsize. Even though this baggage prevents them from enjoying life and new paramours, they cling to it as Linus clings to his blanket in the Peanuts cartoon. It amazes me that people find comfort and security in discomfort and insecurity, but that’s what keeps psychiatrists’ couches full.
The NoNonsense Bottom Line
We are taught by a schizophrenic society, one that purports to love religion and politics, to avoid discussions of religion and politics. Nonsense. I say talk about everything with every woman you meet: money, sex, marriage, divorce, men’s rights, religion, politics, business, history, music, sports, and the culture wars. Only by getting into tough subjects can you expose her baggage — and yours. You want a modicum of conflict with her, to determine how both of you handle it.
Why would you become emotionally involved with a woman and not know your ability to navigate inevitable conflicts with her? Yet, that’s what most men do: wait until the wheels come off the relationship, especially in divorce, to find out. To avoid conflict, to avoid learning about your respective conflict-resolution styles, is to become Tiny Tim tiptoeing through and around her “two-lips.”
The Transportation Security Administration screens all carry-on and checked bags. Why? They are heavy and can be explosive. Because of rising fuel prices, American Airlines is now charging $15 for the first checked bag. Accordingly, every man must screen his woman’s baggage, because it can be heavy, expensive, and explosive — ask any divorce lawyer.
If you don’t learn to screen her baggage, the whole journey of your life could be filled with her parents and siblings and all her ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands, in absentia. If that’s not the trip you planned, and I’ll bet it’s not, here’s what to do: When your warning buzzer indicates her explosive baggage is aboard, ask her to ditch it. If she won’t ditch her baggage, ask her to deplane.
© 2008 – Marc H. Rudov – All Rights Reserved