I saw something today that made me feel a little sick and sad inside. We were standing in line at the grocery store, and there was a family, about our size, just ahead of us. The mom was short, and a little overweight. She held a small, chubby blond toddler on her hip, and bouncing around her feet was another kid, about a year or so older than the one on her hip. Her husband, much taller and also massively overweight, was making fun of her for looking at a magazine — saying she hadn’t even graduated high school and she didn’t like reading anyway. She hadn’t even asked to buy it; he’d just caught her looking at it.
I’m sure he thought it was ‘just teasing’ and would say she was ‘too sensitive’ if she complained. The little boy around her legs got in on it, a little bit, piping up with something about how he had to read his own bedtime stories, to the approving laughter of the dad.
It made me feel really sad and lonely that there are people out there like this, families like this. It made me want to cry, because relationships and families should be about love and respect and not crossing boundaries like that. Kids shouldn’t learn to disrespect their parents from their parents. Teasing is okay, but only if it stays teasing; friendly, fun, with everyone in on the joke. Once it crosses to genuinely hurt feelings — once those hurt feelings are repeatedly ignored — it’s not funny anymore. It’s not a shared joke. It’s mockery, plain and simple. It’s targeting areas of weakness in someone else order to make oneself feel superior. And it’s not okay.
I wonder how that family will turn out. I wonder if that poor mom will leave him, or if she’ll stay and get ground down over the years under his constant ‘teasing’, him always bringing up her flaws and mistakes without ever seeming to recognize the emotional abuse this entails. I wonder if those children will grow up to think it’s normal, and treat their own spouses like that, and teach their own children that behavior in relating to people.
I wonder where the cycle of emotional abuse ends, or if it can end — can someone raised to think this is normal, acceptable behavior ever change their communication patterns and reach a place where they don’t automatically revert to it in times of stress or anger? Do apologies ever happen, behind closed doors or as public admissions of failure to be a supportive partner? Is it possible to really love someone if you can’t speak kindly of them?