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can I ask about your relationships with your parents and intimacy please?

(29 Posts)
FortuneVomitsOnMyEiderdown Thu 17-Sep-15 20:29:11

apologies if this doesn't make much sense, I've re-written this a few times, trying to ask the "right" question. this is likely to turn into quite a long post so thank you if you get to the end.

although not a thread about a thread, there have been a couple of threads recently that have triggered this musing.

for background, I think that my mum suffered from some kind of PND/ depression when I was little. Although she took good care of us there wasn't any physical affection, and hugs etc were pretty much non-existent. most of the time I felt that my mere presence was annoying and wanting affection used to piss her off and I think she really begrudged it. This dismissive-ness (for want of a better description) presented in other ways too. If I was ill or injured it was dismissed unless dad dealt with it, as a consequence some serious illnesses never got dealt with as a child because I thought it was normal and just sort of got on with coping.

I grew up feeling barely tolerated, unsure of and not very liked by my mum although have never doubted that she loved me. on the other hand, I was always close to my dad and although we have argued a lot over the years, have always felt very secure in where I stand with him.

A few years ago mum had a serious illness and nearly died, the mum that came out of that illness was completely different and I feel she has spent the time since trying to put right what she feels she did wrong when we were little. as an example any illness on our part involves lots of mother hen type clucking, lots of giving hugs, being interested and supportive of us and generally being a "proper mum". the thing is, I find it really weird, the hugs in particular I find uncomfortable although always reciprocate. I've chatted to my brothers and sisters about it too and they find it weird but sort of go along with it too, my dad definitely thinks mum has gone soppy in her old age but again goes along with it. objectively speaking, I think mum did her best given her circumstances and I don't want her to beat herself up about the past but welcome the fact that I have a lovely mum now.

there is a but, I think a consequence of this is that hold everyone at arms length and have some issues with intimacy. on a fairly superficial level I'm quite good at pretending and have no issues with (and like) hugs, kisses, even sex at a FWB level. However on a deeper level I really struggle, whether that's with trust or insecurity, I have problems with actual proper grown up relationships. It seems the pretending to be vaguely normal only gets me so far. Mostly I function better alone, have become really self-reliant and independent to the point of stubbornness. While this is practically speaking really comfortable, it is also lonely, and exacerbates the feeling of not "belonging".

after all of that, the question I wanted to ask is, if you have had a parent who was physically or emotionally detached from you when you were a child, what are you like with emotional and physical intimacy now? If you had challenges around this, how did you overcome them? it's just that I have a fair bit of insight into the root of the issue but no real idea of how to move forward.

cantmakeme Thu 17-Sep-15 20:37:30

I had similar experiences in childhood. And I find that I am nearly always in a relationship now, but I get very anxious and claustrophobic within relationships. Sex isn't a problem, and I am quite affectionate by my standards... But my partners have always accused me of being "distant" or "independent". I want to be close, but I panic.

I don't know the answer to this, though. Maybe someone will come along with an idea.

pocketsaviour Thu 17-Sep-15 20:40:50

It's taken me a fair amount of work to overcome, but I am now very comfortable with sex, although has to be with a partner I trust. I hate receiving hugs, unexpected knee/arm touches, etc.

I can recommend this book: Emotionally Absent Mother

FortuneVomitsOnMyEiderdown Thu 17-Sep-15 21:24:35

I relate to the claustrophobia too, and not knowing how to feel "close" to a person and then inevitably I panic and completely fuck it up. confused

Thank you for the book recommendation pocket, while I know why I am where I am, I'm struggling with picking at that particular scab. Mum was obviously going through something painful and horrible too and I struggle to lay this at her door as I don't think it would help any of us.

She feels she got a second chance and I think it's important to embrace that. I need to find a way to give myself that second chance.

Dottymad Thu 17-Sep-15 22:02:16

I had a similar mother. I too am well aware that it created issues so I'm following with interest.

3mum Thu 17-Sep-15 22:30:23

My parents were both pretty emotionally distant. I think they loved me but I don't ever remember any hugs, praise or I love you's although practically they would do things e.g. drive 200 miles to take my stuff to and from uni.

I'm pretty self sufficient and independent which I think is a good thing. My one foray into a relationship lasted 30 years and consisted of me working like a dog to do everything (see the correlation with learned behaviour there?) and him just abusing me by telling me how deficient I was in every respect, withholding affection, using me as a sexual and financial convenience and cheating on me. Tellingly, I can't ever remember receiving praise or support from my exH either, not even a bunch of flowers.

I'm divorced now and not in a relationship and I'm staying that way! I'm much better off on my own than in a relationship.

TheLastCarnival Thu 17-Sep-15 23:41:32

I don't ever remember being hugged or held by my mother as a child although she was affectionate with my siblings. I wasn't wanted and was regularly beaten for my misdemeanours as well as my sibling's, everything was always my fault. Her telling me a few years ago, that she'd never liked me as a child and could barely tolerate me as an adult has pretty much ruined any relationship I had with her. Of course she pretends that all is normal when others are around. I see her approximately every two years now, a short duty visit when she spends most of the time I am there in bed.

The result is that I grew up believing I was unlovable and nobody would ever want me, the lack of affection meant that I don't like people touching me. I fell into my relationship and marriage with an abusive arsehole because I think I was just so grateful that someone wanted me I didn't stop to think if he was the right person and it is only recently that I have recognised the damage he has done to me. Years of further isolation means I find it very difficult to form friendships and am very reluctant to call/text people even when I feel desperately lonely as I think I am "bothering" them, I have no idea what a proper marriage or friendship should be like or how to behave in them.

Cloppysow Thu 17-Sep-15 23:52:37

I grew up with lots of hugs and affection, but a depressed mum and an alcoholic dad. I too am shit at intimacy. I make terrible choices in relationships so now my choice is just not to have relationships.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

springydaffs Thu 17-Sep-15 23:53:00

It's a challenge to pick at that scab but imo it is essential to get through to healing.

I remember my dad reluctantly picking me up at the station after I'd spent the week at a residential therapy course in which I had beat the shit out of a cushion that represented him with a baseball bat. I was a bit nervous at the thought but, in the event, the two things could run concurrently: my anger, grief, self-protection, self love and my 'forgiveness' of him. It can be a self-defence mechanism to not face the pain of this stuff flowers

You say she has PND but it sounds like she had it for a long time, if so...

I've had to face some really difficult things about my dad - and, latterly, my mum.

springydaffs Fri 18-Sep-15 00:01:22

Sorry, didn't answer your q. I didn't have the same issues - my mum in particular is very demonstrative - but I certainly do have others as a direct result of my parenting. My life, up to a point, is a kind of map of how I was parented, for good or ill. Eg my parents were goers sexually and I have no issues with sex as a result; my dad reacted with pride and joy when he heard i'd started my periods and as a result I have always had a positive view of all things female in that way. Just examples of how their direct input - or lack of - can have an effect.

squidzin Fri 18-Sep-15 03:33:50

It appears you have done a lot of work in analysing and thinking. You understand how you are, how you behave, and why. This in itself is priceless and something to behold.

From the opposite side of the spectrum, I had a lovely affectionate complimentary mum, who never protected me from my over affectionate sexually obsessed father. As a result I also carry through life massive distortions with regards to intimate relationships and even friendships.

How I mean to advise is that there is no "undo" button. Believe me I have tried. Accepting yourself is a big step in itself.

Forgiveness is a huge step ... I no longer blame my parents or hold onto the anger. This, however, has not changed the way I am.

You seem wise.

FortuneVomitsOnMyEiderdown Sun 20-Sep-15 23:41:38

sorry for going quiet for a bit, I just wanted to say thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

I've been thinking about what you've all said and accept that there isn't a way to undo anything, for the future I guess I need to focus on learning a new behaviour while still protecting myself so I feel secure. Achieving a balance will a challenge, so will need to think of strategies that help with that.

I'm just home having spent the weekend with my mum and dad, this confirmed that I don't have any anger or disappointment towards them. They love and like the person that I am, so there really isn't anything to forgive as I believe they did the best they could given their circumstances.

I've been umming and aahing about seeing a psychotherapist for some additional help, I'm not sure that I'm yet prepared to face picking the scab but more than that, I don't feel ready to give up. If at the end of it, I decide that this is how I'll feel most secure than I think that would be okay, part of it seems to be to make sure I'm making the right decisions for the right reasons.

Thank you again for your thoughts, this insight has been so helpful.

springydaffs Mon 21-Sep-15 01:07:55

I've had a lot of therapy so it's not the big bogie for me. Though I can't help thinking that if I had a bad back i'd go to a back doctor... No different with the head/heart stuff imo.

My point about my dad picking me up from the station (after I'd cussed him all week in therapy) is that forgiveness and acceptance can run concurrently with anger and grief. Maybe they didn't mean it, did the best they could, but it did damage us nonetheless. Ime that damage doesn't drain away. Not a bad idea to get it addressed, just like a bad back?

headexplodesbodyfreezes Mon 21-Sep-15 01:43:26

Without going into detail, I recognise a lot in your OP.

I've had some psychotherapy, but its a long and expensive process. If you've got some insight into where you problems stem from, I'm not sure how much it would benefit you over a quicker and easier-to-access CBT-type (or similar) approach. Feel free to PM me if you want to know more about the psychotherapy.

CheerfulYank Mon 21-Sep-15 01:55:05

My mother was like this too. I still rarely hug my parents. I know they cuddled me when I was very young (have vague memories and have seen them holding me in old photos) but after the age of six or so hugs were rare and kisses nonexistent. We never said "I love you."

I'm okay with intimacy, sex, etc but I find I have to go out of my way to hug my eight year old DS. It felt much more natural when he was very little and it feels natural now with DD (2 years) and DS2 (4 months). I know that everyone needs cuddles and hugs though, so I do it and I like it of course! It's just hard to get around the thinking that it's for very small children only. Also I tell them all I love them every day smile

Lasvegas Mon 21-Sep-15 14:13:46

Mostly I am very similar to your sentiments.

"I function better alone, have become really self-reliant and independent to the point of stubbornness."

Have just started in mid 40's counselling to do with mum.

Pocket thanks for book suggestion

springydaffs Tue 22-Sep-15 07:20:17

Some wounds are too deep and conclusive and do need professional attention eg psychotherapy imo. The point of psychotherapy is that it is not a process you do in your head - you need a professional to (safely ie a safe space) to explore the wound and overturn it, using 'techniques' that specifically avoid rationale.

ShebaShimmyShake Tue 22-Sep-15 18:28:58

I'm sorry to hear of your troubles. The good news is, with the right help and experiences, I do think it is something you can heal from.

My father was always foul mouthed and foul tempered, but it turned into physical and emotional abuse when I was 13. When I started trying to have a sex life, I was hugely sexually repressed and suffered from vaginismus for several years. It took a long time to work out that it was down to Dad's abusiveness. He would slap me across the face, punch me in the mouth, kick me and throw things at me, and make very nasty remarks about my sexuality (for example, saying "I'm not running a brothel" when I asked, aged 19, if my boyfriend could stay over, and making a number of highly inappropriate sexual comments to me). At the same time, he expected me to be responsive and accepting when he wanted to touch me. I don't mean sexually, as he was not sexually abusive, but he would get angry if I didn't want to cuddle him or let him stroke my skin - even if the reason I didn't want to was because he'd punched me in the face the day before! He also got angry when, on family holidays, I refused to let him photograph me in a swimming costume.

There is absolutely no doubt that he fucked me up royally and is the reason for my years of sexual dysfunction. I was, however, very lucky in terms of the people I met and the man I married, and the damage has mostly been undone through positive ongoing sexual experience (penetrative sex is still a little painful in some positions but nothing I can't handle). I might as well admit that some of the kinky stuff I'm now into has an extra edge for knowing how much Dad would disapprove. I don't do it for that reason, I do enjoy it in and of itself, but it's a nice little extra.

I didn't have therapy - in my case it was unnecessary as I knew exactly why I was so repressed and miserable, and I was lucky enough to meet a person who initiated me very well indeed. But if I had not been so fortunate, counselling may have been helpful.

Justaboy Tue 22-Sep-15 18:53:04

I wonder? What else your mum had suffered from when she was younger?. My first wife's mum was an oddball case and emotively abusive of her over the years However it came out after first wife's mum died that she her mum was raped most every night by her dad. Yes you have read that correctly, in fact it was worse and not only was her mum raped her older sister was first she was second in line for abuse a bit later on in the evening.

Course the bastard died long ago now but he he was still around then he wouldn't be around for long even if i had to do time for him the * well what words can describe someone who does that and everyone else was just too scared to do or say anything about it.

Yes they can feck you all up generations later the relationship I had with the first wife was very good otherwise apart from her eventually developing manic depression and taking her own lifesad

I'm just so glad that my mum and dad well, they had a bit of a tempestuous marriage there was the odd bit of violence, nothing that serious, he in an argument walloped her and she walloped him back she was an excellent plate thrower. She was a simple country girl and he was in much the same mould But the crucial difference was that they in their own sweet way loved each other and there was a lot of warmth and kindness and affection around which was for me, normal!.

So yes OP not too surprising then that the odd problem they can be helped with the right sort of help.

chaosagain Tue 22-Sep-15 18:54:35

Another one here who recognises a lot of the detached, unavailable mothering that was also abusive. My parents' relationship was abusive and my lovely brother was sexually abused by my father. My father is currently serving a long sentence after an historical sexual abuse trial. I've had no contact with him for 2years and am low contact with my mum. When I do see her she spends a lot of time telling me she wishes we were closer.
I was very stand-offish, held back and fiercely independent. When my lovely brother was given a terminal diagnosis in his twenties my life felt in a tail spin. I spent half the week in his town, 100 miles away and half at home with the long term boyfriend I'd only just moved in with. In the 3 months between diagnosis and his death, I needed support in a way I never had before. My lovely then boyfriend stepped in and for the first time, I let him.
The last thing my brother told me was to let my boyfriend in. I guess I listened to that.
After my brother's death I spent 2 years in therapy. It was immeasurably helpful. I'm now married to the wonderful man I was with back then and parenting together has also helped me to 'lean in' In a way I always struggled with.
I offer my kids as much affection and presence as feels possible every day but I sometimes look at my fiercely independent, spiky (and totally wonderful) 6 year old daughter and wonder how far I've really come!!
Give yourself time and space and just recognising the 'unavailable' behaviour is a big first step -one I didn't manage for a long time!

absolutelynotfabulous Tue 22-Sep-15 19:10:39

A lot of your experiences and those of others resonate with me too, OP. My mother was not affectionate, and very judgemental. I became very independent and self-sufficient as an adult, and also non-demonstrative. I fell into a relationship which, in hindsight, I did not feel worthy of affection in. I think I accepted poor behaviour when really I shouldn't have. As for sex, I've always found that difficult. My mother was also very disapproving of sex, which may have affected me too, I dunno.

I'm a bit torn on the issue though as I suspect I'm older than you and I do believe that demonstrations of affection can be a generational thing. People of my mother's generation weren't generally outwardly affectionate.

I also believe that huggy, cuddly behaviour accompanied by lots of "luv yoos" isn't necessarily indicative of genuine affection either.

MusicMum18 Tue 22-Sep-15 20:49:46

My dad never really gave us much affection. I remember asking him if he love me when I was little and he said he shouldn't have to say it, I should just know. It turned out when I was 18 that he had had affairs and was going to leave the family. In the end he decided to stay but it meant I spent the next few years distrusting all men who tried to get close to me. My dh is amazing but I even question him sometimes. My mum isn't that affectionate either.

I know people can be overly affectionate with the hugs kisses and I love yoouss and it might not be genuine. But I plan on telling my dd I love her and kissing and cuddling her whenever she needs it. Life's hard and I want her to know I'm always there for h no matter what.

Carlywurly Tue 22-Sep-15 21:24:14

I really identify with your op. I'm hugely independent and would rather not be so much. It happened from such a young age I don't know any different.

I also struggle with real intimacy in relationships. Dp is so affectionate, especially verbally but I really struggle to reciprocate, I feel so uncomfortable telling him I love him.

I think I've always questioned if I genuinely love the people I'm with - it's somehow not obvious to me, if that makes sense. My dcs it comes very easily with, thankfully.

mrstweefromtweesville Tue 22-Sep-15 21:33:40

My dad was in every way 'detached' from me in my childhood. When I was 19 he stopped speaking to me and I didn't notice until he started again after I married at 21. His first words were "Pass the salt, Twee".

My mother was mentally ill and emotionally abusive.

I have a positive, affectionate relationship with my dd - some of which I learned from my mum, who, despite the unpleasant truths I usually post about her, did have a positive streak. I kiss and hug my dd whenever I see her, and when my DGD is up for a cuddle, I hug her too.

I've spent most of my life cut off from the rest of the world, for a variety of reasons, some intrinsic and others learned. But I'm healing fast and looking forward to what comes next.

Houseofmirth66 Tue 22-Sep-15 23:21:30

My mother was very depressed when I was a child and most of my dad's energy was spent caring for her. I am in my 40s now and can't say 'I love you' to them without inwardly grimacing. I have tried to use this experience to inform my relationship with my own children and tell them I love them and hug and kiss them all the time. I do think there has to come a point when you recognise that your parents are human and fallible and try to disconnect from their negativity. Easier said than done of course.

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