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I've talked before about the oddball habits one picks up coming from a broken home and how they can spank life's ass pretty hard (not in the fun way). What a lot of people don't realize is that these aren't just annoying quirks that we learn to navigate around. They are relationship time bombs, and when they go off, they explode-fuck everyone who dares to be in our personal sphere at that moment. It's hard for a "normal" person to understand that when you come from this sort of environment ...

5
Confrontation Is a Battle

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You Either Use What You've Learned ...

In most of the screwed-up relationships I've seen and been a part of, the pivotal person in the circle jerk tends to be an extremely dominating, hyper aggressive figure. For me, that was my dad. People who have lived through it can tell you that any confrontation, no matter how small, becomes an all-out war. Any objection on your part is taken as a sign of rebellion by the ... we'll call them "douchebags." The douchebag explodes over every little thing, and the people who don't want to go through their douchestorms tend to give in to their every whim.

Eventually, you learn that this is a normal means of leading a family. The domination and the outbursts become a sign of strength, and when you grow up in that hell, you can see the direct result: They have control. Later in life, when your own relationship flops out a big ol' veiny conflict, you use what you've been taught: douche it right on up.

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"I'll shit directly on your soul, you human toilet!"

... Or You Do the Polar Opposite:

Some of us are lucky enough to learn that the douchebag's system wasn't just wrong; it was abuse. We vividly remember the fear we felt when they were Massengilling up the joint, so we vow to never do that to other people. Unfortunately, many people who make that decision end up going too far in the other direction, avoiding conflict at all costs.

The longer that goes on, the more it seems like we're walling off or have become emotionally disconnected, and that's when the relationship really begins to collapse. But worse, if we continue bottling up and avoiding confrontation, it can eventually build until an emotional mushroom cloud shoots out of our heads.

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"Dude, all I said is that fedoras are kind of stupid looking!"

We're not all that great with the middle ground, and you'll see that theme throughout this article. It's not our fault, really. Broken homes are set in extremes by definition. If the parents weren't violent and abusive, they were neglectful or passive-aggressive. They were still douchebags, just a different brand. Like Douche Bagmatic or something. I don't know my douches. But the point is that it takes an entire childhood of witnessing the middle ground in order to understand it and utilize it, and we simply didn't have that.

4
Anger Dictates Every Decision

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You Either Use What You've Learned ...

If confrontation is the gun used to force control, anger is the ammunition. A kid learns very quickly that if he wields anger long enough, eventually people give in to his demands. It doesn't matter if they're doing it out of fear or just to shut your bitch ass up -- they're giving you what you want. Anger is the easiest form of manipulation because it's very direct: "Get Hulk beer! No?! HULK SMASH! Yeah, that what Hulk thought."

But like anything, it can become more complex with practice, which is what happens when you carry this trait into later relationships. You start using the insinuation of anger: "Didn't I tell you to take out the trash? Do you like pissing me off?" Or other people will use yours as a tool for their own gain: "You'd better listen to me. You don't want me telling your dad how you're acting when he gets home." People get so used to it, yourself included, that it becomes second nature to dip into that well, and before you know it, you've become a weredouche, and every night is a full moon.

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"I'm going to work. When I get back, that gold statue of me had better be polished."

... Or You Do the Polar Opposite:

One of the big things I still have a problem with, even at 40 years old, is shutting down when I'm around someone who's getting angry. I still go into the same defense modes I used as a kid, either shying away and giving in or using humor to deflect the incoming shit bombs. That's a pretty good formula for turning into a well-used doormat in any relationship (not to mention always getting picked last for backyard sports because everyone thinks you're a huge pussy).

When you're on the receiving end of the anger, you don't just master how to avoid and deflect; you learn how to provoke anger in others for your personal benefit. Sometimes it's for attention. Other times, it's to throw them off of their game in an argument. Hell, it could even be used to make them look like a fucking idiot in front of people if you're the cape-wearing evil villain type. Which I totally am.

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Don't let the smile fool you. I'm a goddamn madman.

Everything you do is based on that reaction, though, like wondering if what you're doing is going to send the other person into a rage, even if you know for a fact that they're not that type of person. Or wondering what buttons you can push to summon their punch tornado. It takes a very long time spent around emotionally stable people to grow out of that. But how many people are willing to put up with your bullshit long enough to see that through? Don't take my word for it -- ask those who have come from broken homes. They'll tell you that the answer is "not many." Those who have given up hope will tell you "none."

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3
Every Hurdle Is a Catastrophe

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You Either Use What You've Learned ...

Quick show of hands: How many of you who come from broken homes had a parent who blamed everything that went wrong on someone else? Even things that were obviously far out of human control? OK, put your hands down because I can't see any of you, and I wrote that question long before you ever read it.

A tornado could rip through your yard and wind-fuck your garage into toothpicks, and one of your parents would say, "See? If you had built that on the other side of the house like I first told you to, we'd still have a place to park our cars!" Not "Is everyone OK?" Not coming up with a plan to get this thing rebuilt. First and foremost, someone has to be blamed, and they'll be goddamned if they let it go until someone pays in humiliation and guilt. Becoming that person later in life is a surefire way of leaving a breadcrumb trail of resentful exes behind you, eventually leading you to burn a witch alive in an oven.

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"Now don't you come out until you're a pie."

... Or You Do the Polar Opposite:

You view every problem, no matter how minor, as a life-crushing blow that must be dealt with immediately. It's your responsibility because you caused it ... even if you didn't. "No, it's not your fault. I provoked you into throwing the dog at me. I'll make things better -- I can change." "The kids shoved LEGO blocks up each other's asses? I shouldn't have bought them toys that would fit up there."

I think part of that is not wanting other people to feel that sting of misplaced blame that you felt as a child. The other part is simply never outgrowing your involuntary role as an emotional codpiece tester. So you take on the responsibilities of the world, and when you fail to solve them all -- and you will fail, because that task is impossible -- all of that anxiety and fear come back to spin kick you in the mental balls.

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"Now I won't be able to make mind babies."

Humans weren't built to handle that kind of prolonged stress. If the other person doesn't beat you to the punch, you can absolutely find yourself getting overwhelmed, cutting your losses, and fleeing the scene. I used to do that so much, you could set your watch to my perpetual life cave-ins. It got so bad that people were wearing hard hats around me, just in case.

2
Raising Children Is a Confused Mess

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You Either Use What You've Learned ...

Raising children after living through a broken home is scary because even if you know you don't want them to go through the hell that you did, you could still very easily fall into your parents' old cycles. If it's all you've ever known, it's the only thing that feels natural. Hell, you were raised that way, and you didn't turn out to be a serial killer, right? (Murderers, please ignore that last part.)

You probably won't even do those bad things as a conscious decision. Being around those actions all your life is enough to embed them into you like an accent in your voice. You're not trying to sound like Forrest Gump ... you just happened to live around an absurd amount of idiots. And no, you're not trying to scream like a psychopath every time a kid spills juice on the carpet ... you just happened to live with people who did that for the first 18 years of your life.

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"You've turned her into a monstrous freak with your juice rules!"

... Or You Do the Polar Opposite:

On the other side of that coin, it's just as easy to completely eliminate punishments from your parental arsenal. It sounds crazy to "normal" people, and perfectly logical to us fucked-up freaks. The really bad shit was always associated with punishments when you were growing up. Even if they weren't, they felt like it. So why inflict that on your own kids? And while we're at it, you never had cool stuff when you were young, so let's make sure your kids have everything they ever ask for.

Of course, those extremes hardly ever work out. There's a pretty good chance you're going to raise a bunch of assholes and dickheads, and the rest of the world has quite enough of those already, thank you. That middle ground I talked about earlier is so extremely important for a healthy relationship, but it's so hard to learn when you've never really experienced it. I have quite a few friends who have never had kids because they know how they fall into those extremes, and they don't want to fuck up innocent little people.

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Honestly, some of them are probably right.

Let me tell you this much: If your logic is along those lines, you are already much more normal than you think. It means you're putting other people's welfare above your own, and that's how the rest of the sane world works. You may be more ready than you imagined. Don't take my word for it and immediately throw away all your condoms; introspection makes for great foreplay in the long run.

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1
Compromise Is an Alien Idea

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You Either Use What You've Learned ...

Everything has to be your way, no matter what. This is your house and your rules. "You paid how much? For fucking curtains? Take them back. You don't spend anything without running it by me first!" Any relationship you have must conform to your personal commandments, or they simply aren't the person for you. They can just fuck right exactly off. No discussion.

If there are kids involved, they have no choice in the matter. Your word is the law, and they will abide by it without protest. You are the parent, not them, and you know what's best, even if you actually have no goddamn clue what you're doing and are just kind of winging it like the rest of the world.

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"Thou shalt not kill ... thou shalt not kill ... thou shalt not kill ..."

... Or You Do the Polar Opposite:

No matter what type of dysfunctional family you come from, compromise was likely never an option for any decision. By the time you get into your own relationship, you've had virtually no hands-on practice with the concept. As far as you're concerned, compromise is something they do in Disney sitcoms and sappy family movies. And you don't even own a sweater vest.

The way you always compromised was by giving in to the aggressor. It got them off of your ass, and it's just as easy to continue doing that now. Unfortunately, that means that many of your needs aren't being met. But here's the part that many of us "damaged" people don't get: Many of our wants aren't being met, and we're totally entitled to that.

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"I'm kind of fond of the Knight Rider one for the living room."

We never consider that it's an option because we're still in the frame of mind that "It's not important enough to argue over. Just let her have the hot pink bedspread instead of the cool one I want with skulls and flames on it." If we're in a healthy relationship with a normal, sane person, we forget that they want awesome things for us as much as we want awesome things for them. Learning to compromise is hard for us. It's scary. So many of us just cut it out of the equation to prevent those old feelings of stress from ever coming back.

None of this stuff is insurmountable. You learned the behaviors -- you can learn new ones. It just takes practice, an open mind, and good people around you to tell you when you're starting to sprout douchefangs. Nobody likes a weredouche, man.


John is an editor and columnist right here at Cracked, with a new article every Thursday. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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