My sisters and I were groomed to be victims

Lefty Graves

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** This article is based on nonfiction by actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

Devoutly religious parents raised my sisters and me in an era where children were supposed to be "seen but not heard." Our parents taught us that the husband is the head of the household and whatever he says goes. We were instructed not ever to question our father or our husband when we married.

As children, we were also taught that women didn't need an education beyond high school and that a girl needed to be thinking about a husband by her junior to senior year in high school. Little did we know that this was grooming us to become victims of narcissistic abuse.

Our mother was very strict with both my sisters and me. We had chores that were required to be done daily, including dusting, vacuuming, ironing, and laundry (yes, we had to do each of these chores daily). We were also expected to know how to prepare lunch and dinner, and occasionally we had to prepare breakfast all from our early teens.

If we failed to complete our chores or tasks, we were reprimanded and not allowed to go anywhere until our chores were completed. So we thought everyone lived with this amount of chores, and we never dared to question any of it because that would simply mean that we were in trouble and likely to deserve more chores.

To further complicate the situation, we also had to be in nearly every church service that was going on at our particular church. Friendships were closely scrutinized, and if our parents didn't think that someone was of good enough character, we weren't allowed to be friends with those persons. Worse, our mother never hesitated to tell the people we couldn't be friends with that they weren't good enough to be our friends.

It was never shocking to my sisters or me to arrive at school and have a friend tell us that our mother hadn't let them talk to us on the phone and she had said to them that we couldn't be friends because of something that wasn't good enough about them. To say that my sisters and I were embarrassed is an understatement. We were horrified, and it wasn't very comfortable to have to explain to our friends that we personally didn't feel that way about them, only our parents.

Every note or letter we received was closely read. Our diaries were closely read, and all of our phone conversations were closely monitored. At the time, we thought that all families lived like this, we didn't dare question anything, and we were to remain quiet unless we were spoken to.

My sisters and I all chose to run away at some point in our teens, but the police were never far behind. We were assigned more chores and even closely monitored after such escapades.

Perhaps they were just very old-fashioned, but we knew that we had to be engaged and planning to marry by the time we were out of school. Any education after high school was played down, and we were afraid to consider any occupation.

According to our mother, the main goal was that we get married and pregnant as soon as possible. Unfortunately, my sisters and I were poorly prepared for what a real marriage was like and we certainly didn't know how to properly manage money or pay the bills.

Thus, we were very ill-prepared for marriage. We weren't prepared to run a household, manage the household bills, or even hold down a job. We were also encouraged to become pregnant as soon as possible.

We all wound up divorced within a few short years. The men we were encouraged to marry were very domineering and required that we stay home and rely on them for everything. One of us wasn't even allowed to drive to and from the grocery store alone, let alone do the shopping without a spouse with us.

The trauma that my sisters and I all suffered from such oppression was phenomenal. We couldn't call our parents for support, and one of us wound up in a shelter with two children. If we were hit, our parents told us that "we deserved it and that if we had been a better wife, we wouldn't have had to be hit. "

My sisters and I all spent time in recovery from narcissist abuse. We struggle with PTSD often. Simple things that many couples experience are very scary for us. We're hyper-vigilant about what is going on around us and have to guard ourselves against stress because it can trigger a myriad of health issues after what we have all lived through.

What we learned in therapy was how we were groomed to be victims and not question anything. How we weren't allowed to develop our own identity. How we weren't allowed to be normal teens. That we were set up with expectations that didn't exist.

Each day that we don't have a flashback is a victory. Each night that we are able to sleep through the night without a nightmare or our minds racing is a victory. There are still rough days, but every day is better than the previous one.

Today, we've all been to college and have great occupations. We understand finances and budgets, and all of us own our own homes now. It has taken all of us many years to come to terms with what we went through and how abusive it really was.

We know that our parents did the best they could with what they knew, but my sisters and I all agree that it was abusive, and we've vowed never to be that way to our own children. In fact, all of our children have gone on to college and have great occupations. None of our children had children until they were in their 20s. None of our children were told that they had to marry right out of high school.

Were other people raised like this in devoutly religious families? How did you deal with it? Please share your stories with us in the comments. If you're experiencing anything like this, please see our resources below or seek help from someone you trust. Don't let your spouse abuse you ever!

Sources:

Personal experience

https://www.verywellhealth.com/narcissistic-abuse-recovery-challenges-and-treatment-5210945#:~:text=Is%20it%20possible%20to%20fully,entirely%20possible%20with%20professional%20help.

https://www.choosingtherapy.com/recovering-from-narcissistic-abuse/

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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming & more. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington state.

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