I Demand That You Love Me
I have something that I am ashamed to admit. It is something that I have known for a while now. I thought that in realising it, it would somehow just bubble to the surface and go away.
My mother is a petite figure with the strongest hands. She and my father shared a unusual relationship, one that us kids grew accustomed to and never questioned. I remember telling my ex-boyfriend that my parents do not share the same bed. He shot me a strange look, and that was the first time I noticed my family's strange dynamics.
I have been carrying a sort of heaviness these days. I feel sorry for myself, for being born to my dysfunctional parents. At this point, this self-pity is simply part of being me and I should expect it to come and go periodically. Like a cold that I shall beat.
Before you say a word, I should say that I absolutely despise the way people jump to the defence of my parents. As if all parents were the same. I know these people only mean well, but a blanket statement like, 'I am sure that your parents love you very much', simply does not cut it. In fact, those words push the dagger deeper into my heart. It screams to me that you are not listening!!
Perhaps you have grown up in a loving environment, perhaps you have not been neglected as a child. Those things are easy for you to say. You are not the one who got repeatedly threatened, who then hid under the blanket in the middle of the day, because it was a safe space to be. You are not the one whose mother left without a good explanation, but not before blaming you for it all.
I downloaded the TikTok app earlier this week. I watched this video by a random lady, who shared her response to the question, 'What is one thing someone did for you, that made you realise that it wasn't that you had high standards, it is just that nobody had treated you right before?'. She shared an incredibly sweet story of how her now-husband went above and beyond for her on their fourth date. He went out at two in the morning, searching for green apples, after she told him that she has this 'quirk' of eating a green apple in the middle of the night. They have been together for a decade now. You can tell that she appreciates him very much.
Before hearing this story, I felt all sorts of gratitude towards my life. I would wake up each day and give thanks for the food and shelter that I have. For the incredible amount of time that I have to be with my daughter as she grows up. I would typically consider myself as a contented person, but that story seriously rocked my boat. I realised how ridiculously low my standards are. The worst part is, it seems like there is nothing I can do about it.
My husband and I have been married since April 2019. Since then, it has been a rollercoaster ride as I learn to fight for myself. Some people might say that if you need to make him respect you, then he is not the right man for you. I have to agree with them on that one. But what else can you expect from someone who has never seen what it is like to be adored, respected and valued? Can you really blame the victim?
I know that my mother tried to earn the respect that she so desperately wanted from my father and his parents. She did everything to earn their approval, from working a job to spending entire days alone in the kitchen, whipping up 8-course reunion dinner for Chinese New Year. Maybe because she tried to earn their love and respect, that's why she never got it. I won't be that silly. I want to demand that my husband love and respect me for simply existing.
I think that there is a fine line between brainwashing yourself to see 'the good in everything' and being truly contented with what you have. I watched my mom to do the former and believed with all my heart that she was contented just being my mom. I learnt to see the good in everything - which is a good thing - but what if my positivity is actually blinding me from seeing things for what they really are?
There is a big difference between settling for a partner's shit behaviour, and raising your standards for the way you are being treated. For now, I am doing the latter in gradual increments. I walk away from the conversation the moment I sense a lack of respect. I get on with my life, sometimes with rage, but I do.
The thing that I am ashamed about, that I have known for a while now, is my terribly low standards. It is a natural consequence of my parents' lack of love for one another. But the most fucked up thing about this whole situation, I realised, is that my parents' amiable distance has created such a twisted template for my marriage. I feel so helpless about it. I wish that there was a magic potion that I could have taken to undo my childhood, my parents, even me. Would my kid feel that same about me when she is my age? I hope not...
But as I sit here writing, with my toddler bugging me to go to bed, I know that there is no choice for me but to get on with life. To continue playing the game of life with the cards that I have been dealt. But hey, at least I have got writing on my side. I may not have an empathetic husband to help process my feelings, but I would like to think that I have got empathetic friends. I just need to shake this need to have to shoulder it all myself, and to trust, to demand that you love me.