Self

My Parents Had An Abusive Relationship — But I Found A Way To Build A Happy Life Anyway

Photo: Deboraht Suarez / shutterstock.com
South Asian woman looks sideways in the desert, wearing sunglasses

Like most children, some of my first experiences of the world were through my mother and the relationship she shared with my father.

She was altruistic and intelligent. I saw her give all the time to everyone she met in public or in our home. She never betrayed anyone nor did she ever give up on anyone, no matter how eager they were to give up.

My father is a patient listener and a silent thinker. You would assume such idealistic people would have an ideal relationship, right? But no.

They fought over money day and night. Those fights, that eternal conflict, shaped my early impressions of the marriage dynamic.

To this day, I still feel the influence of those fights about finances. As with most kids, the way my parents interacted when I was young became my early template for relationships.

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Our history shapes us, even before we're born.

My wounds began before my birth. My dad’s family wanted every cent of his earnings and did not want him to have anything.

The goal was to convince my mom and take us, their children, with her.

These are not assumptions. My grandma wrote these words in the letter, asking her daughter-in-law to leave with her children — as if we were not our father’s children too.

Thankfully, we lived a thousand miles away from them, so they could not physically push us out of the door. But every letter that came to us from their address was a demand for my dad’s entire salary and an order to cast my mom and us out of the house.

My mom was an activist, and she would not keep her head down and mouth shut and take the abuse hurled at her. She would be upset as to why my dad wouldn’t stand up to his mother and sister for her on her terms.

My dad would sit quietly and listen — until one day he physically threatened my mom.

I was 3 years old and asleep in my room. I woke up and ran out to the living room and saw my mom in one corner and my dad in the other holding a raised sickle. I stood in front of my mom, shielding her, and pleaded, “Daddy, don’t kill my mom” repeatedly.

He dropped the sickle, picked me up, and took me off to put me back to bed. My mom sat on the floor sobbing.

This is a story about my parents, but this is a constant story from the poor households of India. And my parents weren’t poor. They were both college graduates and employed in good government jobs.

“Dowry deaths” and “bride burning” are common phrases littered all over world news about how daughters-in-law have been treated in post-independent India for 75 years.

Women learn two languages: one of the men and the other of silence.

I knew there had to be another way two good people can live together. My parents were good people, yet they had a terrible relationship.

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I found my dreams in the lives of others.

When I was fourteen, a cousin of mine married a wonderful man and lived that wonderful life that I knew was possible.

She lived with her husband for twenty-one years until her passing.

When I visited him he sighed and said to me: “Maybe my love wasn’t enough and that’s why she left me.”

Another sister-in-law too sighed and said, “maybe his love was too much for her to bear and that’s why she passed away.”

Perspectives!

My brother-in-law never married and lived as a widow for eighteen years before he passed away.

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Though I had vivid personal examples of both types of relations, one painful and the other ideal, my scars from my early childhood still remained and I lived it out loud for thirty years with my ex.

I have witnessed abusive relations between good people in the lives of my friends and clients.

You could say that in accordance with the law of attraction, I lived in an abusive relationship and also attracted in my life other good people who lived in abusive relationships. What I knew from my earliest memories to be true is still part of my subconscious belief system and plays out in the lives of those who are close to me.

Though I know of numerous loving couples, I just know of them from a distance. They are not even part of my outer circle.

And all the bad relationships I know about fight over two things — money and in-laws. Surprise!

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How to survive your wounds and lighten your scars from childhood

Since I was 18, I have worked on self-development and personal growth. Books by Dale Carnegie got me started and even 38 years later, I spend at least a couple of hours each day immersing myself in books and magazines on personal development and spiritual growth.

I have worked with innumerable healers, therapists, coaches and mentors.

Also, I have spent two-12 weeks every year in silent retreats with spiritual masters and gurus of various faiths and traditions. Every day I spend ninety minutes in the morning and sixty minutes in the evening chanting and meditating.

And you might say, what’s the point? Healing seems to be an exhaustive process.

Yes! You are right! But what else are my options? Medications? Drugs? Alcohol? Gambling? Lottery? Sex? Internet? TV? Gossip? Food? Series of monogamous relationships?

Personally, I know all these hurt people physically, emotionally, mentally and financially. So, I invest in my health at all levels, dignity, and sanity by writing, learning from those who have walked the path of peace and freedom even if they are one step ahead of me — and then working on how I can be more grateful and diligent each day.

I am not embarrassed by my shadows or my scars. I use them as teaching tools to work with those who show up in my life.

I learned to listen and feel from my dad. I learned to give and think for myself from my mom. And with pride, I will always claim to be my mom’s child and my daddy’s girl.

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Energy can only be transformed, not destroyed.

Without forgiveness, there’s no freedom. I practice the forgiveness of my birth ancestors and land ancestors.

There’s nowhere on earth where hurt has not been inflicted on someone by someone else. The cruelty of the abuser and the agony of the abused are part of every corner of the planet.

And that’s why I have to forgive my land ancestors, so they may be free from their karma and I may be free from the energetic effects of their thoughts, words and actions.

I am also grateful for finding my brother-in-law through my sister and knowing true love exists and ideal relationships happen, not just in dreams.

As the Buddha taught: “Attachments, desires, and expectations create suffering.”  

As for you my friend, to reconcile the influence of your past with your goals for the future, every evening before bed write one thing that was good for you today and express gratitude for it. Also, write about one not-so-nice thing that happened today and what did you learn from it.

Then, express gratitude for this learning. Your loss is the price you pay for the learning you receive.

By not being attached to any outcome, I live a happy, healthy, peaceful, and free life. My emotional scars are just that — scars.

They are visible just as people have physical scars from hurts of the past, but don’t get attached to your scars, and do not let them define you.

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Keya Murthy, M.S., C.Ht. works as a clinical hypnotherapist, spiritual life coach, and energy medicine practitioner. She has authored eleven books and is an international bestselling author on Amazon. She’s also the host of the Be Happier with Coach Keya podcast.   

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