Wed 19 Oct, 2011 03:01 am
My boyfriend grown up in the Family. Him and his mother, stepfather and his step siblings and siblings left the cult when he was 7 (but they still stayed in contact and paid money for it for years).
When I started dating him and he told me about his past, I got a bit worried and was looking for some signs of 'damage' in his behaviour. Although I couldn't believe that such a traumatic experience didn't leave any sign in him, I really couldn't see anything being weird or wrong with him.
Not until recently. As we are going out for almost 3 years now, it became important for me that he know , and makes bonds with my family and friends. And here's a problem. He doest seem to understand those bonds at all. He doesn't seem to be able to understand why would I want him to go with mm to my aunts birthday, or to visit my cousin. He doesn't see why would he have to make friends with any of my friends.
I am very close with my family and friends so it really bothers me. He is happy to visit his mum once a year, sisters or brothers whenever they can be bothered to come over and I am not even talking about him not being interested with who his biological father is (at all) - what I also find unsettling.
My boyfriend is nice, friendly, people like him. yet he has no ability of ... keeping friends? He is very liked at work but outside work he just have no need to see someone for a beer, to visit someone, to talk to someone.
I dont know what do. I know he is not happy about that himself, although he would never say it , but I know that cause i see how sad he gats when i say : U HAVE NOT 1 FRIEND, or I point how he neglect his family.
Could someone explain to me, if that kind of behaviour is any typical for ex-Family members? or maybe it's completely not connected and it's just who he is?
What other dysfunctional behaviour can I expect from my boyfriend in the future?
in TFI basically you learn to maintain the appearance of being happy, friendly, etc. and in "witnessing activities" you learn to do and say all the right things to make people like you, adapt to their perspectives enough to "win them over" and just generally be a likable person, using apparent friendship in order to get them to open up or give money or buy a tool or some resources. At the same time, with other TFI members you were supposed to be as close and intimate as flesh and blood, but you still had to be careful what you did and said... essentially you were supposed to "be a good sample" and "encourage" other TFI members "not cause them to stumble" etc.
So, what i'm guessing is the case with your boyfriend and what I've had to deal with (and i'm guessing might be a common problem with former TFI members) is that genuine friendship and family relations isn't something he's grown up with and relates to easily. Family relations in TFI (parent/siblings/marriages) were really different and a lot of the things you'd consider normal weren't normal there. For example, you'd assume that parents wouldn't put their religion above love for their children, but that was often the case, or that families would stop communicating entirely when one person change lifestyle, but that was often the case, or that a child or sibling starting a new life would not only not be supported and encouraged in that activity but would actually be made to feel like a failure, but that often happened. The support and encouragement and unconditional love families should have were replaced with conditional statements, appearances, and very fragile bonds.
holding onto marriages and family bonds after leaving tfi is tough, building friendships with "regular people" is even tougher in some ways because explaining why you feel that way you do, communicating on a deep level, and talking about deep things can mean that the person you're trying to make friends with is either shocked, horrified, confused, scared and or other things.
Being married in TFI, after we left, one of the things i've treasured the most is the ability to be completely open and honest with my hubby, and share everything both of us are struggling with, and that he understands most of the things i go through as he experienced some of what caused it too.
For example, i'm estranged from my family, with a few exceptions, because there are so many things they don't want to discuss, too many things i'm not okay with from the past and want to discuss, and too many uncomfortable, awkward silences.... His family, not from TFI, is so different that it's almost like night and day. I feel accepted and loved unconditionally by his family and I enjoy any visits with them...even though sometimes it makes me feel awkward that I don't quite know how to reciprocate. Maybe your boyfriend is dealing with his own particular version of this?
Also, i can tell you that after leaving TFI there's a lot of anger, maybe irrational but it's there, at parents and older siblings for going along with things, not knowing or realizing how wrong things were and pointing the right direction. I mean, it makes sense that they were lost and confused themselves, but as far as the first generation of TFI members go (the parents) they had more of an opportunity to realize these things were wrong from the beginning, tell us, do the right thing and leave taking us with them, speak up, give some sort of hint that they knew these things were wrong, etc. So, bitterness, anger, frustration, estrangement. There're things that might either take years to work out or may never be worked out.
What i'd recommend is that, if your family is close and connected, you just keep trying to share that with him...while not expecting too much. Depending on how long he's been out of TFI he probably hasn't had much in the way of deep relations and unconditional love....just lots of words and show. Also, do lots of reading and learn about the weird and wacky beliefs he grew up in so you can talk to him about it and share in his anger, or frustration, or confusion, whatever it might be. Sometimes having someone to listen, approve your choices, encourage your decisions and support you in your progress makes all the difference.
Anyways, that's just one perspective. Hope it helps.
since he left when he was 7 though, unless his family kept a lot of the TFI ways of operating and believing, its hard to imagine these things would still affect him so much? maybe he's just more of a reserved type of person
I left after about six months in 1972. I was a freshman in college, traveled to Europe with COG and left when the prophecies didn't happen. I moved quickly to a trusted role in each colony and had plenty of access to the outside world. If I stayed within the confines of the colony, the brainwashing would be more complete. My real family came to my aid when I decided to leave so I had no problem. You have to make a decision about how well he has adjusted to "real" life.
they left when he was 7, but really behaved like if they were still there for years.
While I did not grow up in a cult, I really identify with the stories here and of escapees from other cults and from mainstream but very controlling, authoritarian religions. I am reminded of wild animals that were raised as house pets until they matured or got too big. There is/was a zoo in Big Bear, CA where they are housed. They cannot be returned to their natural, wild habitat because they wouldn't know how to survive. When you were raised in an abusive family, be it emotional, sexual, or physical, you have lifelong trouble adjusting to other people. Abnormal behaviors were accepted and excused, so try as you can, you will spend the rest of your life struggling to trust those who will never understand you. Our society is often too quick to criticize, bully, and condemn those that are at all "different." I feel that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The truly spiritual will support those that may not know basic things that "everybody else knows and can do." Unfortunately too few in this world are really truly spiritual and loving.
You are in for a long haul. I'm 43 and still to this day cannot comprehend other people's attachment to their families. I literally don't understand it in any emotional way. It's simply not there. I am baffled by it, and it's created a lot of problems socially for me, as I see no difference between a family member that's important to someone else and a complete stranger. Being raised in a completely conditional environment in which there is no real emotional love and everything is some form of control or manipulation, makes people extremely... how can I describe this... separated from other humans. The social bonds aren't developed and being emotionally vested in any family or social structure is a completely alien concept.
I'm capable of extraordinary callousness (so I am told) and terrifying (I'm told) indifference to others' emotional bonds. I literally don't understand things like parents' love for their children. To me, every human being is an island of sorts, a lone being. No one of them is any more significant than any other. I have no close friends, only part-time acquaintances, as I've learned my inability to feel emotional bonds to other people creates real problems, and it's better to not fool people into thinking I view them as friends when I can't.
Essentially there is no trust in human groups, and without trust there is nothing, no real emotional bond, and the best I can do is sort of hover on the periphery of human groups, even though I really feel no attachment to the people in them, whether family or anything else. Hell, I can't even be in a dart league because the idea of being obligated to a group, and behave a certain way around other people, frightens and appalls me.
Your boyfriend may be so calloused by being in an endlessly, demanding, unsupportive group/family that he may never be capable of being fully a part of ANY group/family/friendship. About all I can do is go through the motions of being a part of society; internally I feel nothing.
And that's what he needs to do, if he is going to be with you: at least fake it, as it's what he has to do. There's nothing really wrong with being physically present and emotionally absent, as long as he can structure a behavior that is acceptable to you. He doesn't have to love your family if he genuinely can't, but he should at least go through the motions as a compromise, and do stuff like visit your relatives with you. That's my two cents.
Also, as an aside, it's easy to see from the above how former cult members can be very, very, VERY prone to involvement in abusive situations: not having real emotional attachments leads to not being able to determine when a situation is bad for them. Without an internal sense of comfort or discomfort (right and wrong), they will often do what is expected of them by a family/group whether it's good or bad. You need to be very careful not to abuse your position of being forced to guide your boyfriend's behavior to your satisfaction.
Best wishes, and good luck.
I see everybody's blaming his behavior on the traumatic experiences he had during his years in the Family. My opinion is that this doesn't have to be the case. People raised in normal families also exhibit diffrent sort of disfunctional behavior. In my workplace i also observe people like you described - not sociable. It's easy to blame your own shortcoming on upbringing instead of trying to change it. I'm not saing that his past couldn't influence his present behavior, but expecting pople here to predict what other kind of disfunctional behavior you may expect is pointless as there is no universal set of behavior you can expect from ex family member. I know many ex members and as in society there is variety, some are just normal very sociable, others tend to be more withdrawn.
I personally love my family and like visiting them, I like to meet friends and spend time with them. On the other hand my wife which has a strong catholic upbringing isn't much interested in socializing with my relatives.
Finally, to all here that cannot get over the past, start living the future and if you cannot handle the problems seek a help of specialist.
I really agree with your comment. Too much generalisation is done. Also blaming your past or your parents can be an excuse not to take responsibility for your life now. On the other hand as someone who spent 30 years in the Family cult mindset I can definitely see patterns and stages my friends are going through in their withdrawal. Professional help can be really useful as you say.
I am amazed that every detail of our lives and children`s upbringing was dictated by unqualified people working from premises without any proven basis. So it does bother me that people try to give unqualified advice, like the poor guy who admitted being totally out of touch with his emotions and felt that is a fine way to live. Get some help!
I`ve had similar symptoms to you of emotional detachment. Believe me overcoming it is a better way to live. It actually isn`t that hard with a good counsellor. Also Peter Levine`s books are helpful with exercises to do.