Healing Domestic Violence by Proxy – How to Love in the Context of an Unhealed Injury

If you and your children are victims of domestic violence by proxy, you know one of the deepest human injuries. It’s a wound to the core of your being. And your greatest challenge in healing this wound is to allow yourself to feel the ache of it in the course of your loving your alienated child…or parent.

Loving and Longing All in One

Have you ever noticed how reunions bring up the good, the bad and the ugly? They trigger the love, the pain, the sweet memories and the nightmare. By the time you get to the encounter, you could be so stressed out from the mixed bag of emotions that you stumble on your own two feet.

Here are some things you can do in preparing to re-connect with your estranged children. If you are an adult child reading this, you may also find value in applying these points as you prepare to meet your alienated parent.

1) Separate the love from the nightmare story.

Even though they feel ever so entangled, the love is not the story and the story is not the love. The primal connection you have with this person is as real and enduring as you allow yourself to know it. It doesn’t ever go away, unless you let it go.

That being said, you hold the keys to rekindling the flame…igniting the natural bond. Now, granted you will find yourself stepping over mounds of memories that send you spinning. Hold compassion for yourself as you tiptoe through the parade of pain, and prepare to step into the place inside that makes your heart sing.

2) Embellish the moment for what it is now,…over what is missing through the lost days, months and years.

You can’t get back what is gone. Impossible! I know you know this. And with that knowing is the understanding that your parent-child cup is not empty. Rather, this cup is filled with mixed emotion and conflicting memories.

If you step into the moment and taste what exists today, you inspire opportunities for mending yourself and your estranged loved one. This can only be done in the present-here and now.

3) Hold the vision of what you seek to create in your relationship with this person.

Life goes in one direction: forward. Move it in the forward direction even when you feel compelled to reflect backward. The relationship you seek to know exists in what is ahead. Cradle the joy of this birth, as you hold the intention of that which you seek with your loved one.

In closing, let yourself feel the blessing before you as you embark upon rebuilding this relationship given to you (not taken away).

The Love Predator

Every living thing predates, which simply means life eats to stay alive, both materially and, for humans, emotionally. Though some say all life feels.

We have learned only very recently in human history that we are the abusive predator, who predates not just for food, but also for everything in sight, making us the most greedy species. This trait is not entirely villainous. It comes from our favorite talent-making choices-a powerful opportunity we haven’t yet learned very well how to manage.

Our greatest awareness of excessive predation is our abuse of the environment and the resultant extinction of animal species. Many of us feel profoundly worried and ashamed as a result of this new comprehension. Some of us even feel terrified that we’ve already done irreparable damage-global warming-that may eventually extinct our species.

And yet, in spite of learning such hard lessons, curiously we are the least aware of our most heinous form of abuse as a predator-the misuse and abuse of each other. Way out in front, the most dominant event in human history, of all peoples and cultures, and the most prevalent form of our behavior toward each other has been the mass murder of as many people as possible at any given time and technology. In spite of our increasing awareness of such foibles, we continue to act in the arena of violence toward each other as if it is both necessary and inevitable, requiring massive armies, defensive strategies, hugely intimidating military technology and the deadly sting of secrets and secret opps. All of which is perpetually in danger, as it always has been, of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But all of this, no matter how horrendous, is only the tip of the iceberg of human abuse of the procuring act of predation-eating to survive. In dozens of more subtle ways we predate each other emotionally and financially. We have, for instance, made profit the most sought-after aspect of human exchange, by our unfortunate belief in ownership. This assumed to be virtuous necessity is the right of the first procurer to discover a new element or opportunity, to extract tolls from anyone thereafter needing to use it. By virtue of their first-use we’ve granted them title to what for eons included the ownership of other humans. The necessary aspects of ownership can easily be handled in other ways, like a lifetime lease.

To justify this I-can-do-with-it-what-I-want abuse we pretend the finder invented what humans can only discover. Nature has already done all the necessary inventing. All technology, good medicine and creative effort is simply an imitation, at times cleverly rearranged and represented, of nature’s ways, to the extent that we know them. In other words, we all plagiarize nature. It’s the only option available.

With all this on our conscience, there’s still one more aspect of our excessive predation, which might ultimately be our most damaging one. It’s by far the hardest form for us to acknowledge, that we predate each other within the context of love-which unwittingly includes our children. We do so, not knowingly, nor because we are bad people, but because we have no other way of getting what we all need all our lives-to be loved, supported, encouraged and admired as part of giving our lives support and significance.
Though we pretend otherwise, we have not yet effectively arranged for that to take place within society in general. Indeed individuality-what is special within love-is regarded generally with great mistrust as unloving selfishness, kept under wraps by the primal command, above all else, to serve others. When for individuals good comes in a great diversity of forms. And all chicanery hides behind various notions of the general welfare, with the usual assertion, “it’s for your own good”.

Family is still the only place that, at least to a significant extent, we’re treated in that right manner-as special. As we already know, human nature will never thrive-or learn-in any other environment. A hundred years of psychotherapy has taught us that much, at least with respect to children and animals. We have yet to fully realize that adult humans are no different.

But most important, we have still to acknowledge the simple, but painful truth that, in seeking what they need within the same social context, adults will always win a competition with their children, no matter how hard they try to avoid doing it. We didn’t used to care. But nowadays we all try; yet it can’t be done. Needs don’t wait for permission. They automatically demand, and children, equally automatically, step aside-in ways seen by no one at the time.

Many, if not most readers will cry out how wrong this assertion must be! Yet only one piece of evidence is necessary to verify its truthfulness. It’s something we’ve learned only within the last 100 years, that family produces as much harm as good. Family itself, in its traditional form as arbiter and policeman of culture’s habits and biases, is outmoded, in need of significant transformation-an unthinkable thought because it seems so disloyal to the font of our comfort. We hate to think about the big picture of what families have become: a mixed bag. Indeed, at times with genetic help, all psychic dysfunctional symptoms were learned, or genetic vulnerabilities exacerbated and made much worse, within families of origin. From one generation to another we pass along our prejudices and foibles as well as our virtues.

Human prosperity has enabled us to perceive our family origins as the mixed bag they really are, mostly by providing an alternative place of intimate resting and exchange-the workplace, now available, at least in better financial times, to most people. Without another experience-option, independent of our origins, we couldn’t have finally seen the shortcomings of that ancient font of security and wisdom-family, clan and culture, which is at the core of most religions, in the simplest words, ancestor worship. Thus, until very recently in human history, we’ve been unable to look askance at the hand the feeds us.

Perhaps it’s time to consider whether parenting needs to become more professional, in the sense of handling adult and child needs in different contexts. Children used to be reproduced in large numbers to add to the labor force of the family’s livelihood. When large families seriously dilute what one child receives. Siblings, who in big families act as additional caretakers, are very dysfunctional parents; they’re only kids, can’t very easily handle the enormous responsibility of another’s life, and have their own life and its needs to attend.

Nowadays we realize that, if done primarily and fully to the benefit of the child, it takes more than the one or two adults to do the job-particularly if adults are to have ample time to serve the continued evolution of their own lives, hopes and dreams. Over time we’ve added teachers, babysitters, live-in caretakers, etc., which help, but none of which adequately accomplish what the child, or the parents need-very special personal care that integrates all the pieces together. Children don’t do that very well unattended. We’ve added pieces to the child’s life, but children don’t learn in pieces. Only adults can do that.

So what is the primary problem with families, as they are currently structured? What aspect of family damages individual growth and development the most? The answer verifies the innocence to which we can all lay claim. There is no fundamental villainy here. The problem is that family requires adults and children to compete for their need-gratification at the same font. Though we are strongly encouraged to think otherwise, adults need just as much benefit from family as children do-yet they need, in some ways, very different things. What’s more adults need things they can’t get anywhere else, including the workplace, though it’s a useful alternative. Very good parents try and circumvent this inevitable competition by putting their needs aside, when truth is it can’t be done. Needs will find their way out of any carefully constructed love-fortress.

No villain created this problem. We simply haven’t evolved nearly as far as we think we have. We’re still trying to get-it-right the first time, when we don’t yet know what that really means. Though it’s very difficult, even terrifying for some, to look upon ourselves in such tentative, seemingly critical ways. Instead we usually think and operate as if we already know what it means to be human, institutionalizing one mistake after another-and then taking eons to escape our own carefully constructed bad habits-like tyranny.

As an example, that particular perfidy is usually viewed as an oppressive intrusion. When it is most likely that no one imposed it upon us. We cried out for it when first we occupied this planet in tribal, social sedentary ways, terrified of a life that seemed filled with happenstance and the unfathomable, what easily became chaotic and out of control. We demanded the presence of a human god who could mollify and influence the cruel heavenly Gods who dominated and tormented our lives by, for instance, bringing famine or flood. It’s taken us thousands of years to get over this bad habit of wanting Big People to take care of what frightens us-and we still haven’t finished. We continue to elevate some people to a position of superiority, like the rich and famous, and then envy and adore them, the remnants of tyranny, what we now call inequality.

To consider revising the ways family works, in order to make it a more effective provider of what we all need, is part of a bigger picture: to learn to see ourselves as an evolving species, instead of an already-arrived-in-wisdom one. It’s a more frightening, contradictory course to take. But it’s also a more powerful one, to perceive all things from as many perspectives as possible … and never stop doing it. That effort produces a form of balance that is more evolved than balance concepts available in Eastern Oriental philosophy, which resolve negative experience and emotion by learning to live entirely in the positive. When negative and positive elements always coexist simultaneously, the negative to educate us, and the positive to give us rest, reassurance and encouragement.

Parents Caught in the Sex Act

I was at a friend’s house for supper when their teenage boy decided to embarrass his parents. He said, “Ya’, I wish my parents would keep it down when they are having sex.” To which I replied, “Don’t you think they deserve some fun too?” Mortified, he and his red-faced parents pretended not to hear.

Apparently the heating ducts in the house connected to all four bedrooms. According to the mom, a loud whisper could be heard if the house was quiet. Later on, the mother confided that, ever since the revelation, she and her husband were too paranoid to have sex.

On the long list of things that help parents be asexual, getting caught in the sex act is certainly a concern for many. But should parents give up their sexuality just because they feel it will have negative implications on their children? Absolutely not.

Sigmund Freud is the culprit for creating this fallacy. Freud theorized that children who witnessed the “primal scene” (i.e., seeing parents making love) would become neurotic because of their unfulfilled desire to marry the opposite-sex parent. It is interesting that Freud’s theory stuck, considering the majority of the world today and in history have/had families living in one-room dwellings. Privacy for parents is a relatively new phenomenon.

Even knowing this, I recognize how uncomfortable getting caught or having sex while the kids are still awake can be. However, you and your partner need to be clear if this unspoken expectation is causing marital distress due to zero reconnection time.

Valerie Davis Raskin, M.D. and author of Great Sex for Moms: Ten Steps to Nurturing Passion While Raising Kids, wrote, “It is absurd to try to provide our children with a perfect environment. Ironically, while we zealously ‘protect’ our children from seeing their parents as sexual beings, we relinquish our only opportunity to teach them our family’s values about sexuality. We miss the opportunity to teach our children that love and physical intimacy go together, and this important message is too often exactly opposite what they see in the media.”

In her book, Dr. Raskin conveys it is not only healthy but necessary for parents to be affectionate, touchy and yes, a bit sexual, in front of their children. Does that mean you should have sex in front of your children? Of course not. Dr. Raskin believes that discretion and a regard for appropriate sexual boundaries important.

How much affection to show is up to you and your partner. For example, growing up my friend’s mom allowed her husband to openly touch her breasts in front of the children. That simply would not happen in my home. Where I was fascinated, my friend found it commonplace.

Where should you and your partner start in creating sexual intimacy in the face of getting caught? Of course, communication and planning are your best friends.

First, discuss any unspoken expectations you may have around not being sexual because of the children. Next, talk about any guilt associated with presenting yourself as a happy, healthy sexual couple to your child. Finally, discuss what your sexual privacy and sexual boundaries will be and, more importantly, how you will stick to them when wanting to cave overrides good sense.

After communicating, go immediately to the hardware store and buy a set of good locks for your bedroom door-your mantra to and from the store should be “boundaries, boundaries”. If you are worried about being too noisy, buy something to create white-noise, like a loud humidifier, fan, radio or stereo that can be moved close to the door.

Discuss what you will do in the worst-case scenario: your child walks in on you making love.

A younger child is unlikely to understand what is happening and may simply be frightened by the sounds of lovemaking. Address your child’s fear. Matter-of-factly reassure them that no one was hurt and this way of touching is something grown-ups do.

A primary school-aged child may simply be curious. Say only what is necessary to move to the next subject without shaming or inadvertently stirring up even more interest. Say, “I can see you are inquisitive. Sometimes adults do things kids don’t understand.” Then switch the topic.

An older child may know exactly what is happening and may be disgusted or embarrassed. If an older child bursts in, do not lie or get defensive about what is going on. Instead get dressed and talk about what just happened, acknowledging that this as awkward for everyone. Then, set your boundaries with the child to ensure your privacy.

However you work this out, make sure the fear of getting caught is not stopping you from keeping you connected to your partner.