One of the most horrible things one can face in childhood is watching your parents fight in front of you. I know from my own childhood that it leaves scars that can stay for life. My parents not only fought verbally, but my alcoholic father would often push or punch my mother. I would often have to pull him off her and flee with her an my siblings into the dark of night. I still hate being out at night...
It was not unusual for my mother to refuse my father sex if he came home late from the pub that night, and we would know that it would be a night where we would have to flee again.. We slept with one eye open often in our clothes...
In the morning, Dad would be on his best behaviour, and Mum would often praise me for intervening and saving her from a punch or hair pulling.... she called me "loyal" and I would hate it! When you have to attack your father to save your mother, it is the last thing you want- to be patted on the head for loyalty when in fact you hate yourself for seeing your Daddy land on his bottom, a wrinkled, angry heap of alcoholic fumes...
My twin sister and I slept in the same room, and at 8 years of age, I can recall the conversation where we agreed that when we were married, we would never say no to our husband for sexual favours.... our understanding of intimacy was very rudimentary, and we shouldn't be as knowing about sexual matters at 8, but growing up in a dysfunctional family like ours made one grow up very quickly...
Unfortunately at 16 I became pregnant to my fiance who I was to marry at 18. Even though he was already showing signs of being an abuser, I was hastily married. My parents weren't happy and loathed my ex-husband who was Italian and 10 years older than me.
They offered me 3 choices before marriage: 1. have an abortion (no way) 2. have them raise my child as their own (are you kidding- in that environment?) 3 get married with special permission from them. This was the course I took. So began a life of domestic violence and hell for me that lasted for 25 years before he nearly killed me and I left.
Today, the legacy of my parents fighting in front of me has resulted in 2 of my adult children trying to come to terms with their mother being a divorced woman- and trying to get on with my new husband. Because of my childhood, 90% of my domestic abuse went on behind closed doors. Until the very end I was able to keep my injuries and tears relatively private to protect my children and to avoid passing on another similar legacy.
Consequently, today the 2 older children tend to blame me for leaving a man who appeared to be a good husband. Only now 19 years after my remarriage, are they starting to understand a little of what went on and why I was always bruised. The younger ones now 38 and 39, saw more violence and understand how difficult it was... especially in the later years when they were also at the receiving end and came with me to women's refuges..
By fighting in front of us as children, my parents have given me a legacy that has been difficult to stop. I succeeded in giving my own children a happy childhood- indeed, each of them in private, has told me they had a great childhood. But the price on my health has been costly however the relative peace each of my children now experiences in their own marriages, has proven that it has paid off.
I have been fortunate in stopping this negative legacy through my determination not to fight in front of my children, but as I said, the personal cost has been enormous. However, I would do it again if I had to.
My advice is to never fight in front of your children, for it sets in motion a course for low self-esteem, marrying too young or unadvisedly, sets an example of aggression and/or passivity caused through fear, and inability to stay in a relationship, domestic violence and divorce.
It may be difficult to do, but sorting out differences that come in any marriage, should be done without little eyes watching, but the rewards in your children's lives and the godly legacy you will be leaving them, will be worth every effort. Whatever you do, don't fight in front of your children! Leave them a legacy of peace!
© Glenys Robyn Hicks
Better [is] a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices [with] strife. Proverbs 17:1