My husband was raised by parents who refused to deny him anything. I suffered the consequences.
Somewhere out there sits a girl scrolling aimlessly through her friends' vacation pictures on Instagram, listening to a mother rant in her ear as she tries desperately to ignore her. Somewhere, perhaps not too far from her, is another girl retweeting a celebrity's latest comeback to a politician because she thinks it's the PC thing to do.
There's yet another young girl who's forwarding Facebook pictures of the boy she likes, along with giggles and hearts, to her BFF.
One of these girls will marry my son. And any one of these girls could be your son's first love interest or next girlfriend, and I'm hoping she's been told what to expect as far as respect from a significant other goes.
My husband was raised by parents who refused to deny him anything he desired. His wish was their command from a very early age. He said, "Jump." They not only said, "How high?" but, "Would you like us to do a few tricks whilst in the air, my dear?"
My husband never knew disappointment until I came along. He was never told he couldn't have exactly what he wanted at the moment he wanted it until he met up with me. He had no reason to ever expect that he wouldn't receive exactly what he asked for until I turned him down.
He was simply never told, "No." I became the thorn in his side and bane of his very existence. He resented me from very early on, and it was simply because I had the audacity to tell him, "No."
From the very beginning, ours was a marriage steeped in hatred and psychological damage. Being the first person to ever deny him anything, he didn't quite know what to make of me.
He took it very hard the first time I denied him what he asked for; the reason mattered very little. He was right; I was wrong. I was beneath him. His wishes would prevail. It was all he knew.
When I say he was never told, "No," I mean it. The concept was truly foreign to him. To have the woman in his life question a decision or pose opposition was incomprehensible.
The first time I challenged him about a purchase, he reacted in such a way that it caused me to laugh. I'd never seen an adult have a tantrum, but he did.
I didn't take it seriously because, after all, he was well into his twenties; It was purely comical. A little more time passed and I noticed more evidence of his brattiness.
He was far too old to be considered a spoiled brat, but there was no better comparison. He was like a brat on steroids. If I said, "No, I don't think so," or "I would really rather not tonight," I'd pay for it with, at the least, a blast of put-downs such as, "You're so stupid. How do you even live?" and, "I don't know why I bother with you. You're such a waste."
All these punches to the gut came over minor things like me trying find the best way to save money on our monthly budget or my suggestion to try a new restaurant that may be a little out of his comfort zone. He made life so hard. In fact, he made it feel less worth living after a while.
As the years went by, he could never quite pull himself together. He would have his way in all financial decisions, discipline of our son, household improvements (or lack thereof), and intimacy.
A decade of matrimony showed me two things: He would, indeed, win all arguments even if it meant hands might be laid. This man wouldn't — and couldn't — break the cycle of damage his parents had begun years ago by their refusal to deny him anything he wanted.
My thoughts were invalid, and my own body ceased to belong to me. The slightest hint of being turned down or challenged was met with fury, name-calling, and, on more than one occasion, a firm squeeze of the wrist or shoulder, or a shove he'd downplay and shrug off.
There was a pattern set in motion years before I came on the scene, and I couldn't alter it. Someone should've told him "no" before me.
I blocked much of that mind-boggling pattern out and tried to go on with my life. We had a child, and I knew with his birth, that I'd do things differently than my in-laws had.
I'd make sure my son understood what it was to experience some manner of disappointment. My child would learn how to accept a letdown. He wouldn't grow up expecting to have his way.
Life isn't a Burger King order, and every woman he meets will not be his handmaid. I wanted him to know that — and know it well.
Now, I'm not saying I broke my child's spirit or enjoyed the idea of telling him he couldn't have what he wanted. But I made sure that if I didn't want him to have it, I said as much. If he at first refused to do it, I saw to it that, in the end, he did.
Giving into tantrums was never an option. With each demand I turned down, I met him with an explanation. I was determined my son would be able to take defeat and come to terms with rejection.
Dealing with disappointment as a toddler doesn't seem vital until you've seen the grown man who was that toddler; who became the five-year-old; who blasted his way through his teens; who then became the adult no one could stand to be around.
Saying, "no" mattered. I became as tough as my in-laws were permissive. Tough love really wasn't that hard when you saw the results of not giving it.
When he grew up and said, "I love you," to his wife, I wanted him to mean it and not just say, "I love you when you give me what I want." My baby boy would know how to do that. He would know how to hear, "No," and be OK with it.
We're over halfway there. Adulthood is coming faster than I like to admit. As quickly as his childhood is sprinting past me, I'm able to catch glimpses of success.
My son isn't what I imagine his father to have been. For that, I'm thankful. No, it goes beyond thankfulness; I couldn't have lived with myself if I hadn't broken the cycle.
My son will be ready for the world beyond me, and he will be ready for it whether it gives him what he wants or not.
Those girls out there, one of them will be his wife. She sits there right now wondering what life will be like when she finds my son. As she scrolls and tweets and texts, she also hopes.
She hopes the same way I did, and she looks forward to happiness the same way I did. I hope and I pray that I've done my part for them by telling my son "no."