Childhood may have been a happy time for some, but for you, it was traumatic and you carry that pain everywhere, even into your adulthood.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 14, 2019. It has since been updated.
You didn't have a typical childhood. You know, the one where you were given the freedom to run around, ask for things like toys or chocolates, jump into your parents' laps and demand they read you a bedtime story. You weren't one of those kids who were constantly fighting to get out of their mother's arms to play but she just wanted to hug you. You didn't get to experience times when your father would pretend to throw you in the air but only to catch you in his safe arms. You weren't one of those kids who were just learning to ride a bicycle, safe in the knowledge that your parents would be there to catch you if you fell.
No. You were one of those kids who always had to worry about what you said or what you did because you were scared that if you didn't, your parents would stop loving you. Yet, no matter how much you bent to their will, there was always that threat of them pulling back their affection. And it scared you witless. All you wanted was their love but all you got were name-calling, yellings, lectures, and a complete break down of your self-esteem.
You may have become an adult now, but that trauma of emotional abuse still carries over into your adulthood and can affect your relationships, according to Psychology Today. “Our study suggested that childhood trauma casts a long and wide-ranging shadow,” researchers part of The Great Smoky Mountain Study said, reported the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. And these are six ways it manifests in your adult relationships:
Being unable to say no to your partner because you just don't know how to put yourself first is a result of emotional trauma. As a child, you were always forced to attend to the needs of your parents and at some point, you forgot you even had needs. As a result, you developed little to no boundaries and because of this, people often assume that you are theirs to bend to their will. Since your early relationships taught you to equate obedience with love, you're scared that saying no will lead to your partner being angry or rejecting you completely.
Having to hear your parents call you "stupid," "loser" or "an idiot who can't do anything right" has destroyed a lot of your self-esteem. When you're constantly being hammered with hurtful words, you slowly start to believe it. Then even as you grow up, if no one ever offers you kind words, you feel like you're not worth anything. And even in your relationship, you begin to believe that you aren't good enough for your partner and do your best to become someone they want in you, instead of you just being yourself. You lose your identity in this process and your relationship will take a hit until you find a way to believe in yourself. Because no matter what anyone says, you ARE worth it.
Your parents were supposed to protect you, love you, and nurture you. But you were abused to the point that you just can't trust people anymore. After all, you tried to trust your parents every time they said they would never hurt you again, but it was left shattered. Now, as an adult, you crave emotional intimacy with your partner but mistrust has been so ingrained into you, that it is difficult for you to trust someone and open up to them. Even if it is your partner. This is why you need a partner who has the patience and the understanding to give you the time to slowly build trust.
Being a survivor of emotional abuse, you are used to putting other's needs far above your own. As a child, if even by accident you decided to do something for yourself, you were called selfish and insensitive. And now as an adult, you do the same thing. You could be running on fumes with lack of proper sleep, good food and just general self-care, but you find yourself dropping everything to do things for others. The moment you take some time out to do something for yourself, a sense of guilt overwhelms you and you rush to find out if someone needs something done.
According to developmental neuropsychiatrist Martin H. Teicher, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects some people who have undergone a traumatic event and child abuse is one factor that can cause the disorder. Those suffering from PTSD "keep re-experiencing the traumatic event in waking life or in dreams, and they actively avoid situations that might bring back memories of the trauma." So every time you hear criticism from your partner, it can make you remember the fear and pain your parents' criticism and abuse brought on and it makes you anxious. This is why when your partner tells you something even slightly critical, you tend to get jumpy and defensive.
Having been through emotional abuse or neglect, you know what it is like to be alone. It's painful and because of that, you fear being yourself. You're scared that revealing who you really are will cause others to leave you. So you do your best to change yourself into a person that they want you to be, just so that they will stay and love you. And the moment you find your partner showing even smallest bit of disinterest, even if it isn't the relationship causing it, it triggers your fear of abandonment. You believe that they don't feel you're worth their time and effort anymore and will just leave you.
It's heartbreaking to have to live like this. The constant fear, pain, anger, resentment, and overall lack of self-worth is exhausting. You know you want to change and be a confident person no one can take advantage of but where do you start? And how do you get past all the trauma dealt to you from the very people who were supposed to love you unconditionally? Though this might be tough, talking to someone about how you feel is the first step. It might take time to trust them and show your vulnerabilities, but you deserve better. And you are always worth love and affection.
Disclaimer: This article is based on insights from different sources. The views expressed here are those of the writer.Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.