Do you ever feel like your (bad) choices in relationships were influenced by an invalidating or abusive childhood? Warning: long

Do you ever feel like your (bad) choices in relationships were influenced by an invalidating or abusive childhood? Warning: long

bayosgirl bayosgirl
Ok, this is a somewhat complicated topic, but I'll try to keep it brief.

First let me preface this by saying that I'm not putting all the blame on my parents. I know that I'm not the only one from a dysfunctional household, and not everyone in my case has made similar choices as I have. I believe in personal responsibility. However, I still think it's important to understand where we came from so we can make improvements for the future. I'm making this poll so that hopefully I won't feel so alone in my situation.

Recently I've come to the realization that in the case of both my relationships, past and present, I chose the men out of an emotional NEED, not out of mutual compatibility, shared goals...you know, the NORMAL things people get involved in relationships for. Just a bit about my background, I was emotionally and physically neglected by my parents. They were (and are) workaholics-which is just as damaging as any drug, by the way-and left me at home by myself for hours at a time when I was as young as 5. As a result, I became very needy and fearful of abandonment by everyone else in my life. My school life was hellish, constant bullying, and my parents never did anything and even told me "everybody gets teased." I cried about it so many times and they never comforted me, or even noticed. I was so desperate for someone to love me, particularly in a romantic way. When I was 18, I found a man on the internet. He was 11 years older, no job, no degree, no future to be seen, and we had absolutely NOTHING in common except the fact that we were both only children who had been neglected by our parents. And therefore, desperate and needy. It could've been MUCH worse, I have to say. He could've been a psychopath. I could've been killed when I went to see him in Canada-he couldn't leave the country because he was there illegally living with this older couple. Anyway he eventually came to the U.S. to be with me and we were together off and on for four years. At the time I felt like we were so "close" but when it all boils down it was about neediness and lust, that's IT. And eventually my neediness and emotional instability drove him away.

I was single for about six months before I met my husband. I won't go into that whole story, but needless to say I repeated the same situation in that he is older, and though I care for him deeply, way below my potential. He is NOT the kind of person, in any way, that I would have chosen as my mate had I been emotionally strong and looking for a compatible partner. I think I've chosen older men (11 and 14 years, respectively) because I wanted a replacement for my dad. My dad was never there to protect me from the instability of my mother. I can only remember one time in my entire life he stood up for me, and that was fairly recently when I had a miscarriage and she told me to "get over it" because the baby was "only" seven weeks. :-(

Let me clarify when I say "bad relationships" I don't mean necessarily abuse or anything horrific. It could be that, or like in my case just unfulfilling and below your potential. I'm wondering how many people, like me, realize they got involved with people they normally wouldn't because they were looking for emotional validation. Again, I'm not blaming my parents for everything that's gone wrong in my life. I'm just seeing that due to them not being there for me when I was younger, it's shaped my personality and my view of myself. Somewhere along the line I determined that I was worthless because they didn't give me the support and consistency that a child needs from their parents. I realize many people have had it worse, with physical and sexual abuse, and my heart breaks for those children. But as mild as my childhood might have been in the spectrum, due to a naturally sensitive personality, genetics, and whatever else, it affected me deeply. I'm thinking about seeing a therapist for this, and now that I understand it and can face it head-on, I hope they can help me overcome my sense of worthlessness and have a happier life. I don't know how but maybe it's possible before I'm too old and it's too late.
Answers (private voting - your screen name will NOT appear in the results):
Yes, I've had bad relationships and I think my childhood had something or everything to do with it
8  (62%)
Yes, I've had a bad relationship/s but I don't think my childhood had anything to do with it
2  (15%)
I haven't had a bad relationship
1  (8%)
Other?
2  (15%)
Total votes: 13
Poll is closed
10/17/2012
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panthercat23 panthercat23
Your childhood helped make you the person you are today, so of course it affects your choices and decisions.
10/17/2012
- Kira - - Kira -
I had a terrible dad but an awesome mom. As a young child I went out of my way to get attention from boys, some of which were far below what I deserved. As a late teen I had one awful relationship, but I blame that more on my desperation to get laid than anything. I stayed in it because I was young and stupid. I don't blame my dumb decisions on my dad.

I'm now married. My husband is wonderful, though he is as head strong as I am and has some anger issues. Despite his few flaws, I think we are well matched. We have similar issues we struggle with and we can each handle the other at his or her worst.

I actually found my husband through the awful relationship I had as a late teen. He was friends with that guy. We became good friends and ended up married. So I have no regrets about staying in a terrible relationship longer than I should have. Had I not, I might not be married to the man I am with today.

Everyone makes mistakes, no matter what their childhood was. The important thing is to learn from them and grow as a person. If you spend your whole life trying to make up a crappy childhood you won't get very far. Though I was physically and emotionally abused by my father I choose to not let his dumb actions determine my life and happiness.
10/17/2012
EdenUser EdenUser
I haven't had one horrendously bad yet but I'm only on my second. Haha.
10/17/2012
Supervixen Supervixen
Most of my past relationships were like the ones you describe--men who were not compatible with me, and I was capable of so much more. I made three really big mistakes, that I'd rather not go into--but I will say, I was with someone much older, very manipulative with my emotions, in a position of authority over me, and he used his power to get whatever he wanted from me. And I was so afraid of him leaving, that I wouldn't leave. I needed his validation, or else I would take his rejection as an indication of my failures. It was a very destructive relationship that did not end well, and the repercussions of it are still being felt, over a year later. I just kept digging my hole deeper and deeper because I was afraid of letting go. I wish so badly that I had been emotionally stronger.

I still get sudden "what if he leaves!" attacks with my new guy (who is totally awesome), and I have to talk myself down. Right now, he's in a different country and I won't see him for a few more months. We keep in regular contact, but when he get really busy, I get this panicky sense that he's just going to forget about me. It's totally irrational, and every time I freak out about it, he always pops up with nothing but affection and expressions of happiness about our eventual reunion. But because he's not physically here, I can't always get that reassurance. And I try to not let it run wild, but emotionally...sometime s I can't help it.

Part of it is related to those bad past relationships. He's such a keeper, that sometimes I can't believe my luck! Now that I've found someone compatible and someone who I am genuinely impressed with as a person, I get worried that I'm not worthy and he'll eventually see that and leave. Isn't that ridiculous?

And I too go for older men. I have no interest in men my age at all. My own father has always been an emotionally distant person, and a difficult person as well. My mother and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, and I've always felt misunderstood by her. We just seem to talk past each other, and have for years. I think that led to a very long term relationship when I was younger (8 years, actually--I was 15 when we started) that was codependent and unhealthy, a rebound situation with someone, in retrospect, I shouldn't have even liked (and it didn't take long for me to realize that I couldn't stand him), a few unhealthy flings with unavailable men, and one really bad relationship with a sociopath that I had to move to the other side of the world to disentangle myself from. I'm really trying so hard to not let my neediness screw this one up. I've gotten a lot better, and I've improved my sense of trust in men and my decision that I want a partner--not a crutch. These men also ended up being needy--my neediness validated them, and whenever I left (and somehow, I was always the one leaving), then suddenly they were scared little boys who were crushed by the thought of me not needing them. Ugh!

So yes, I can relate. It's been on my mind lately actually. This is a very timely post. I am trying so hard to cultivate a different set of habits because I don't want this to get messed up and I don't want to be this way, you know? It's tough, though. My parents are good people and they loved me growing up and they love me now. But my dad is very inaccessible in a lot of ways, and my mother and I just butt heads. It left me feeling very alone at times when I was younger, so I sought refuge in the arms of unworthy men...just because I wanted to be in somebody's arms.

I like to to think that I have a lot of choice in how I fix this issue, though, because I want to think that it isn't ingrained, and I find it empowering to think that way. I don't want to feel like a victim all the time, you know? And since I'm with this great guy, I think I have the opportunity to cultivate a healthier approach to relationships in general. He's been immensely patient with me when I lost my cool in the past. I practically blew up at him a couple of times over something minor, because I took it as a sign that I was being used, unappreciated and that I would inevitably be hurt and disappointed again. It wasn't fair to him, but I've told him about my trust issues, and he understands. Sometimes the degree of trust I have in him is frightening...and simultaneously, liberating. I feel like I'm growing and making progress, but I also feel the tinge of paranoia that I'm getting involved in a bad relationship again. I'd feel that way with anyone though, after what happened to me last time. It's tough.

Anyway, I know how complicated it is, and I totally feel for you. I've had second thoughts my whole life about raising children myself, because I'm so scared that I wouldn't be able to give them the best example to live by, or that I wouldn't know how to be a good mother, or...again, I'm not worthy of such a lofty position. I tell myself, hey, I'm 26. At least I'm aware of it now, so I can work on it, wherever I might find myself, and with whoever I might end up with.

You're not alone. Childhood is a very formative time in a person's life. How you're treated by your primary caregivers is important.

But you sound pretty self aware, too. That's further than a lot of people ever get. I think a lot of people don't understand themselves or their behavior, either out of choice, or because the lack the self perception. You don't seem to be in either of those boats. It's a painful thing to confront about yourself, but acknowledging it is big. I know you're married now, but you can still grow and learn about yourself. Life's great in that way, but is sure is damn difficult to suffer through your weaknesses while you grow stronger. But it's a necessary process at the same time.
10/18/2012
Total posts: 5
Unique posters: 5