Dear Dr Eve,
I had a rough childhood. I felt neglected and always lonely. I do not want the same for my children I want to protect them from feeling this way, I want them to know I am always available to them. So I am overly involved with them. I am the mother who always volunteers at the school, does all the lift clubs, and am never happy when my kids go to friends.
My husband complains that he feels neglected, especially sexually. I tell him I’m just too tired for sex. I’m afraid he will cheat and leave me. How do I manage all of this?
DR EVE REPLIES :
It is so interesting how our childhood ghosts make their presence felt so strongly in our adult lives! And it can be exhausting. And that’s the thing about childhood trauma- it is exhausting to live with as an adult.
The good news is that as an adult you have the opportunity to manage these ghosts. So you just reaching out now is a step in the right direction- you are letting those ghosts know that you notice them and that you are going to take control of them now that you are an adult.
Here is some food for thought and I hope once you have read this you will be motivated to reach out further for professional help. Having a professional therapist at your side as you manage these ghosts is the way to go as it can be harrowing work and completely joyful and liberating!
Let me talk about your concern. Having an experience of a neglected and abandoned childhood makes it hard to feel safe and secure in the world.
Consider what makes us feel safe and secure. It’s not money, status, a good job, or a nice car. It’s always about interpersonal relationships. It is about having significant people in one’s life.
Not just any people, but people who are predictable, reliable, responsive to your call for help or call to celebrate. People who are mutually present for you, people who show you respect, and you get a feeling that there is a sense of equity in the relationship.
The problem with these childhood ghosts is that they keep whispering to you as an adult, as a parent, that no one is safe and secure, and no one can be trusted. And it is with these voices in your head that you parent.
You ghosts don’t trust anyone with your children and don’t allow your children to feel safe and trusting with anyone but you. Exhausting, right?! 24/7 on call for your kids.
And please note that I am not blaming nor judging you.. it is an instinctive force of deep animal nature that makes you so protective.
You are married, you are an adult in an adult intimate relationship. And in a way, you are cheating on your husband. You are taking all your resources and giving them to your children … well, actually your ghosts are so demanding that it feels as if you have no choice, right ?! And so you as an adult lose out on a lovely intimate life with an equal adult partner.
The best way for you to parent is to practice self-care. Take care of those ghosts. And once you are in control of them, you will free yourself and your children up, to be able to have good boundaries for all. And I’m excited about the sexual pleasure and intimacy that awaits you in your marriage.