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Can someone from an emotionally distant parents be close with their kids?

(31 Posts)
vincettenoir Tue 17-Jun-14 20:24:53

My bf is from a very reserved middle class family. Parents were boarders and are emotionally distant. He calls them once every 3 weeks. They literally never call him and he sees them about 3 times a year. Maybe more some years but my bf or his brother always instigate the meet ups. Never his parents. They don't really open up or show emotion around each other. Bf opens up a lot more with me but he doesn't exactly wear his heart on his sleeve. He is a bloke afterall.

This has never sat well with me and I have sometimes wondered what this might mean for our family if we have one.

Anyway has anyone got experience of this? If someone is from a very emotionally closed family what does that mean for their family?

Ratbagcatbag Tue 17-Jun-14 20:26:24

It means you do everything to be the opposite grin or I have anyway. I'm really close to dss and its awesome. It will be the same with dd too.

vincettenoir Tue 17-Jun-14 20:28:58

So are you close with your kids but not close with your parents? (sorry if that's private)

HauntedNoddyCar Tue 17-Jun-14 20:29:39

It means you have to coach them through how to let go. Get them involved and be patient. DH doesn't do emotional but he's a hands on brilliant dad. The dc can laugh, cry and have cuddles with him.

beccajoh Tue 17-Jun-14 20:30:03

Yes I'm very tactile and loving with my children. My parents weren't at all affectionate.

Rowgtfc72 Tue 17-Jun-14 20:33:05

Same here, desperate for my dd to not feel how I did and we have a lovely touchy feely relationship unlike the last time I hugged my dad being the year 2000 !

ChairmanWow Tue 17-Jun-14 21:02:30

My mum is emotionally cold and her parents were too, so it's very much ok my mind now I have kids. I'm determined that they will grow up in a warm, loving home and so far we shower them with affection. I think I can break the cycle.

Does your DP understand that being distant with parents is not the norm and is not desirable? It's important that he has insight into this because we take a lot of our cues from our parents and he will need to overcome this.

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Tue 17-Jun-14 21:06:02

My dh's parents weren't very tactile or expressive and he's the exact opposite. I think the very fact that you're conscious of it shows that you are different.

Chaseface Tue 17-Jun-14 21:09:39

Ha, well I just read that he calls them every three weeks and thought it sounded excessive and you were making a mountain out of a molehill.

So I hope emotionally reserved people can go on to make good parents. confused

CMOTDibbler Tue 17-Jun-14 21:12:24

My parents were/are pretty cold, as were their parents (not through any fault of their own - mums mum spent 5 years in Great Ormond St as a child, seeing her parents once a week, then later when my mum was small spent a year in hospital when mum + sibs saw her once in the year).

I cuddle ds all the time, tell him I love him etc. I think if you are aware of your parents failings as parents, accept them, and think about the parent you want to be, you can make good decisions for the future

Optimist1 Tue 17-Jun-14 21:13:52

Provided he's not emotionally reserved with you I think there's every chance of him being a good, warm parent. As pp has said, he'll use his parents as a blueprint of how not to be.

My mother and I have a very emotionally-detached relationship, but my kids and DILs have all expressed their satisfaction with me as a mother/MIL. <preens>

My parents were pretty detached, and whilst this (amongst other things) has caused me problems, it hasn't stopped me developing very close, loving relationships with my dses. I think what matters is if the person can see that the lack of closeness in the relationship with their parents isn't the best way for them to have parented, and that there are better, closer, warmer ways to be a parent.

If they have this awareness, I think they will do what is needed to parent differently to how they were parented. I'd worry if they had no awareness that emotional distance/coldness is not a good way to relate to children.

OxfordBags Tue 17-Jun-14 21:36:06

Apart from the boarding aspect, you could be describing my DH's family. He doesn't even ring them that often, either! They are lovely people and all get on well, but perhaps because things are kept on a more shallow level than normal. My DH is very tactile, affectionate and sensitive, to me and our DS. His parents' relationship is also very traditional - which MIL is as happy about as FIL is - and DH is as feminist a man as you can get (I'm often to be found on any thread where people are generalising that men can't or won't do housework or look after Dc well, etc.!).

MmeMorrible Tue 17-Jun-14 21:39:52

Yes I think as others have said, when your own parents are emotionally distant you are very aware of wanting & needing your relationship with your own children to be very different. I have a very loving, cuddly, fun relationship with my DC, very different to my own experiences.

What I have found harder to deal with is that my feelings towards my parents have changed. Now I know how it feels to be a mother and to unconditionally love my DC, I struggle to reconcile their coldness, selfish behaviour and emotionally abusive actions. I've gone NC with them because of this.

Imbroglio Tue 17-Jun-14 21:41:45

His parents don't seem very 'rewarding' iyswim - they don't reciprocate.

Your children will be a lot more fun and will demand his attention.

The litmus test is how he is with you. Can he relax and have fun? Enjoy your achievements? Share your sense of humour?

vincettenoir Tue 17-Jun-14 21:57:47

Yeah he has a great sense of humour and is affectionate and attentive. I wish he would say that he wanted things to be different with his kids but he doesn't lament his family's coldness. He says he knows his Dad might be a bit odd but he's his dad and he loves him. He says that all families are different and he wouldn't necessarily want to have a family like my family where my 30 yr old bro lives with my parents. Well I agree about that too but I would find it comforting if he was clear that he wanted something different. But he is a bit defensive about his family which is most likely because he loves them. But still.

holeinmyheart Tue 17-Jun-14 22:38:14

I had an emotionally abusive father and an enabling Mother. My husband had very odd parents who did not speak to each other and divorced after years of what I would call anxious silence. Mother was brought up by servants. My husband's family never touched or expressed words of affection, neither did mine. However, my DH is a loving tactile supportive Father who is adored by his children. I did not do so well as a parent. I had counselling and then I sought their forgiveness, and my relationship with my children is Ok. I love them very much and tell them so constantly. They write cards saying I am the most wonderful Mother in the world. But because of lack of self esteem I have trouble believing them and if they are in any kind of trouble I blame myself and the way I brought them up. However, to answer your question, I think if you are self aware then it is possible to break the circle.

newnamesamegame Tue 17-Jun-14 23:05:43

Haven't had experience of this in a partner but speaking from my own experience: I was never close to my mum. I know she loved me and did her best, she certainly wasn't neglectful or abusive but there was a lack of connection between us.

She wasn't cold but very very repressed -- basically couldn't handle talking about anything involving feelings or anything important really -- money/sex/love/life and death, so everything always had to be very "nice" and superficial. I know this was due to her own problems and don't blame her for it as such but I do still carry a lot of resentment.

But with my own DD I have gone totally the other way, probably over-compensating, smother her with love, feel very close to her and when she is old enough intend to be very open with her. It may be a reaction against my mum but it feels like it comes from a very natural place.

So all I would say is that its not a given that these traits will be passed down. It doesn't even have to be a huge effort of will to overturn it, though holeinmyheart is right that it helps to be self aware.

If he is affectionate and attentive I wouldn't worry too much... it sounds like he is a great dad.

pigluscious Tue 17-Jun-14 23:06:47

My DH's family are very cold and detached. I've known him since we were kids and despite being cold when we were younger, he had grown into the warmest of men, and is an open and loving father. Some of it took some learning, but it is possible.

DroppingIn Tue 17-Jun-14 23:16:55

My parents have always been very cold. I had to hide my emotions growing up as the only ones that mattered were my mothers. In fact when my mother hugged me when I about 37, I was shocked as it felt so odd as I had never remembered her doing it before.

I am and always have been completely the opposite with my DC mostly because, like others,I had the self awareness that I never wanted them to feel like me and it was just instinctual to me.

blueshoes Tue 17-Jun-14 23:28:33

My parents were emotionally distant. I hardly ever call them (once every month or so?) - not for any reason other than we are not particularly close.

Does that make me a bad parent? I think I am a more touchy feely emotional parent that my dh who is close to his mother and calls her once a week.

How warm you are as a parent depends on your personality rather than your parents'.

ShineSmile Tue 17-Jun-14 23:30:49

Yes, I'm the complete opposite of how my parents were. Who knows, maybe my DD will find me a little over bearing and want to do the opposite

I am v similar to your DH. Not close to my parents at all. Call them once every 4-6 weeks. It's almost a year since I've physically seen them (other than Skype) I think...
They were boarders and not tactile people at all but quite open otherwise. I find it easier to cuddle my kids, often I have to remind myself to cuddle DH confused
I think I can be quite a cold emotionally detached person. I take v little personally and other peoples negative opinions will only upset me when I think they have a point.
I think its possible to change a pattern of behaviour but you have to be conscious of it iykwim? I don't see anything wrong with my relationship with my parents but DH regularly points out how odd it is.....

GarlicJuneBlooms Tue 17-Jun-14 23:45:42

I think the overwhelming point from previous posts is that, in order to be different, he has to understand that his 'normal' isn't normal for the majority of families, neither is it what you want for yours. And he would have to actively want a different style of family, being prepared to learn almost from scratch. It's quite possible that his family finds their way superior to mushy, demonstrative types - in which case, you're on a hiding to nothing I'm afraid.

How does he react to children being hit, for instance? I don't mean what he says in a theoretical conversation with you, but if the pair of you see adults hitting their kids. Do you feel the same way? Has me made any offhand comments about giving a child a good hiding, and so forth? How does he react to emotionally demonstrative families? Would you say he's easy to touch physically; is he relaxed about touching other people, especially kids? These are the sorts of things you want to be looking at.

GarlicJuneBlooms Tue 17-Jun-14 23:48:09

often I have to remind myself to cuddle DH confused - for some reason this really made me laugh! Sorry!

Eekaman Wed 18-Jun-14 00:09:56

Yes, it's entirely possible to be close to the kids.

My Mum died when I was a toddler, my Dad worked all hours (out of necessity) and was pretty straight laced from his upbringing. My brother, sister and I went to different boarding schools, all that sort of stuff. Used to only really see Dad in Summer and Christmas holidays.

So my DW and I had a boy, he's 12 this weekend. Even my sister said that at 18 months I'd spent more time playing with him than my Dad had spent with me in 18 years.

I knew that I had an opportunity to break the disfunctional parenting cycle. I knew about the crap caused by familys not being together and if I could do nothing else, I couldn't not show him unconditional affectionate parental love. I HAD to give him a warm, happy affectionate life, as I knew what the alternatives were.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 18-Jun-14 06:40:46

IME people either treat their parents as a 'great example' or a 'dire warning'. If he's capable of being affectionate with you, if he has a good circle of friends etc then he's probably going to go with the latter. Does he realise his parents are rather distant?

BertieBotts Wed 18-Jun-14 08:10:14

My DH has emotionally cold parents and doesn't think it's a huge problem but he's fine with DS. The only thingis sometimes he can be a bit dismissive or old school about things like small injuries, or if DS is upset because he's been told off or something, he's more likely to say tough get over it whereas I'll be more sympathetic/supportive. He's not cruel, and if there's a big issue he's often better than me as he's much calmer whereas I can panic and worry which sets DS off.

It's rubbish isn't it Garlic. I find I am so busy sorting out the kids, and the house when I get in from work that not only do I not make the time to be physically affectionate with my own husband, it doesn't even occur to me. Then when I remember it feels forced and awkward. He reckons it is because I didn't see my own parents do it but I am much more relaxed and affectionate when I can stop stressing about the long list of stuff that needs doing when I get in.

Anyway - back to the OP. I'd be surprised if your DH is distant with his children, it's a learnt behaviour to some extent but there are things you can do to break the cycle. Ensuring he is a hands on parent for example, takes paternity leave and if you return to work, you share childcare emergencies together. Our parents generation had very traditional roles and it is very easy to be a distant parent when you haven't got the faintest idea what your child does from morning to nightfall, and your involvement in their schooling is limited to an annual report. Parents these days are expected to be much more involved.

One thing you do need to consider is that your own parents will probably be much more involved with any grandchildren you may have. You need to understand now that your DH's parents are unlikely to be turning up with lasagnes, offering to babysit and generally making themselves useful/doting on your child and getting in the way. You may well count yourself lucky when it comes to that point or you may also take it very personally that they are distant and seem disinterested in your PFB.

Ratbagcatbag Wed 18-Jun-14 21:31:33

Sorry, just came back to this, god know, I'm not close to parents, I'm completely NC with my dad. My dm is ok, but it's a very distant relationship.

Dh I hug, kiss, snuggle, everything and I'm very affectionate with dss and dd.

Ratbagcatbag Wed 18-Jun-14 21:32:57

Know = no. Sorry

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