Dear Life Matters,
I have never felt my parents cared about me or loved me. They divorced when I was 4 years old. I’m an only child and I think I was a burden to them.
I got into a lot of trouble at school, which now I realize, thanks to seeing therapists, was acting out. But that did not make them love me. They just got mad at me.
I’m desperate to have them love me. I am so lonely. I can’t seem to make a relationship work and I blame them. I have been to countless therapists who all say the same thing, but none could fix my problem. I doubt that you can, but I wanted to know what you might say.
I am sorry to hear that you are feeling so unloved and lonely! This truly is a horrible way to live.
I see also that you are angry, not just at your parents but at therapists as well. I think the best place to start is with your notion that your problem can be “fixed.” I don’t think you want to hear what I am going to say, but it honestly would be in your best interest to be open minded and consider what I am about to tell you.
Parents are people first and parents second! We hate to think this because we want to believe that as soon as one becomes a parent it’s all that matters to them and the actual person (of the parent) takes a back seat! Not so! Sure there are definitely maternal and paternal instincts, but they do not necessarily prevail.
There are people who become parents but do not know how to show love or affection. They never received it so perhaps they think as long as they put a roof over your head, feed you and make sure you are relatively safe, they are doing their “jobs.” No fun feeling like a job.
Love is a noun and a verb. Some people have it in the noun form, but cannot make it happen as a verb.
I have had patients whose parents loved them in their minds and hearts, but were never able to express it. They never said “I love you,” never hugged their kids; they just did not understand that love is a verb too! I know this because of family sessions where this became quite clear. They did feel love, but could never truly show it, realizing this was a relief and help to the patient, but at the same time somewhat baffling.
Then there is the woman I am seeing now whose mother was a heroin addict and ultimately was murdered over a quarrel with her addict boyfriend. This patient rarely saw her mother. She lived with her on and off but was mostly left to live with her grandparents and/or an aunt and uncle.
Fortunately for her she had siblings and they cared about and protected each other to the extent that they could.
But did she feel loved? Absolutely not. She was a motherless child with a father unknown to this day. Did her mother love her? Who is to say? But clearly her personal interests and drug addiction made her put her children way in the back seat.
Then there are single mothers who have to work and care for their children on very little money and they are usually tired and overwhelmed. Unless they have extended family to help, their children probably don’t feel loved either. These are just a few of many circumstances that can steal the love that a child needs or is looking for.
And yes, unfortunately there are parents who shouldn’t have had children because they really never wanted to be bothered or simply could not love them. Sad but true!
Your parents may not have loved you. Perhaps they were wrapped up in their own pain and drama of their divorce, and you may have felt like a burden to them. Hard to hear but sometimes true.
Parents are people too, and they really are people first. Some of us are luckier than others when it comes to a parent’s love, availability, attention and true caring. But the big question is what do you do if you are one of the unlucky ones as you say you are?
No therapist in the world can change or fix this. But a therapist can help you face the truth, mourn your loss and then claim your own life. Claim it and start living it and give up the horrible dark hope that one day you will find a way to change them. This notion can truly ruin your life.
Sometimes it is best to give up the hope! Kill it off and move on with your own life, without hanging on to hopes of the past.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters, because it does!