04/05/2017 08:22 SAST | Updated 04/05/2017 08:22 SAST

How I Finally Realised I Was Focusing On The Wrong Parent In My Quest To Avoid A Broken Home

We really need to confront our problems with our parents' relationships.

I love my mother. Of course, like most other people, there are things about our relationship that I hope I will better with my own children. But she's always been the person I look up to the most and my adoration for her has always pushed me to try my best to be more like her.

My parents are divorced, and when I was a teenager someone told me that children from broken homes are damaged and often approach relationships from a destructive place. This hurt me. And even though I argued and fought with the person saying this to me, I subconsciously carried it in my spirit for years. I was broken, my family was broken and I was doomed to a life of broken relationships with anyone I met.

I now know it was a dangerous thing for that person to say, particularly because over the years I've realised that just because people come from dual-parent households doesn't mean they have healthy experiences of relationships.

In every relationship, I thought my main fear was ending up with my father. It was him I was avoiding and it was my relationship with him that I constantly focused on and fought to overcome. After a series of failed relationships, however, I took a break and went on a journey of introspection. I made a startling revelation.

It wasn't my dad I was avoiding -- it was being "too strong" like my mother.

I had spent years dating men who didn't challenge me and when they did I would cower and silence myself in a desperate attempt to ensure they wouldn't leave. I had internalised my parents' relationship. Mom was strong, she was dominant, she was the trailblazer and dad, well he was the nonchalant cool dude who didn't make a fuss about much. Somehow my teenage self believed this was why my father left and so my adult self tried by all means to be less of an intimidating woman because nobody wants that.

I wept. Heartbroken that I subconsciously blamed my mother for my parents' divorce and that I had become a shadow of myself -- someone I no longer recognised.

In 2014 or maybe 2015, I listened to the Power Life back when Masechaba Ndlovu was the presenter. She had a couple in studio and they were talking about soul ties and generational curses. They spoke about how many people set out to break the burdens their families have had over generations but fail to recognise what it is that broke down in the first place.

How can we fix a symptom if we do not know the source? And how do we move into the future without confronting the past.

I had to sit and think through what I resented my mother for. I had to fight myself and think about why I chose to be less of a woman to make a man feel like more of a man. It was only then that I felt free enough to walk into a relationship with the courage to be an unapologetic version of myself. And every time I'm close to faltering, I'll read or listen to this poem by Warsan Shire and remind myself that my strength is not a weakness or something I should ever feel ashamed of.

An article I read in Psychology Today spoke about what we've all probably heard more than we would like to: we often date our parents. In it the psychologist writes about the failure of most people to actually address this issue and moreover the direct correlation between watching your parents interact with one another and the manifestation of that in your own relationships. You might behave like them or choose the other extreme and completely avoid everything they did, which has its own negative implications, like it did in my experience.

What I've learnt is that avoiding yourself and fighting tooth and nail to run from our psychology bears no fruit and will probably leave us jumping from person to person with the same issues recreated in a different circumstance.

I loved this article and video on Brain Pickings. It explains the same play, different cast concept and says that even though we are doomed to this life because our brains are weird, not all is lost.

We have to confront the issues we have with our parents no matter what kind of home we come from because it is our relationships with them that define our relationships going forward.