I swore I wouldn’t be like dad, but it’s happening

Dear Amy: My father was critical, critical, cruel to my mother, and generally lacked empathy or love. I don’t remember ever saying “I love you” to any of us. I would start these fights with mom that would make everyone uncomfortable.

Columnist Amy Dickinson (Bill Hogan / Chicago Tribune)

My mother died in 2007. She modeled good parenting, and we never questioned her love for us.

Now I am married (12 years old, second time). I consciously swore never to be like my dad.

I recently visited my brother and his wife. During my visit, I immediately recognized the exact same behavior that I hated in my father, coming from my brother. He constantly looked down on his wife, and was impatient and critical. It was terrifying to see him and it took my breath away.

Recently, particularly during the COVID-19 home stay, I began to recognize my father in me! Innocent little arguments with my wife turned into ridiculous big fights (usually dragged down by me). I started using the same derogatory language and anger tendencies that I recognized from my father (and now my brother) when talking to my young children!