Maybe you know the ways your childhood impacts your relationship(s). Maybe you’ve never thought about it. As an Attachment Based Therapist, I see the impacts of bonds and relationships. From my perspective, strong bonds are what keep us grounded, feeling confident and secure in ourselves and our world around us. I believe, we all need and desire to feel safe and secure; this is what motivates a lot of us.
Unfortunately, we get stuck in our (not so helpful) coping strategies that ultimately deny us of this and we often don’t even realize we do this. Especially in our adult relationships. Do you ever wonder why you do the things that you do? Do you ever look at yourself objectively and ask yourself, “What’s really going on for me?”
5 Ways Your Childhood Impacts Your Relationship : #1 You Don’t Trust Easily
Trust is the foundation of any relationship. When we as adults struggle with trusting others, it may be due to deep rooted issues from past ruptures with the people we were innately supposed to trust. If our parents neglected us, abandoned us, abused us, criticized us and/or created a relationship that was conditional, we don’t realize that we innately feel a sense of insecurity as we evolve into our environment and sense of self as we grow. This doesn’t mean our parents didn’t love us– this doesn’t mean you don’t love your parents. This may mean that the tools they had weren’t always effective. Often, our parents “did the best that they could with what they had,” but that doesn’t mean the impact of those tools (or lack of) should be dismissed. It had an impact!
#1 You Don’t Trust Easily
What you can do: It is important to understand that trust is difficult for everyone regardless of their past. If you experienced some form of disconnect with your caretakers and/or parents growing up, it’s important to acknowledge and give yourself permission to see how it may have grown into a bigger sensitivity for you and may be something you struggle with even to this day. Acknowledging this doesn’t mean you have to blame your parents for everything; this doesn’t mean you don’t love them; this doesn’t mean you are betraying them. This means you are acknowledging yourself and your needs as a child– which is extremely validating and OK to do.
#2 You Need a lot of Reassurance
If we forge an insecure bond with our parents or caretakers in infancy and childhood, (whether it’s because they were helicopter parents and never allowed us to have any sense of autonomy, or because they were never around or abused us), we innately develop a sense of insecurity and doubt in ourselves.
Maybe we weren’t given the reassurance as children that was necessary for us to feel a sense of confidence in ourselves to explore and make mistakes; maybe we weren’t ever acknowledged to begin with. Maybe, we were acknowledged too much and everything we did was critiqued or validated in positive way.
#3 You Struggle with Intimacy
From my perspective, “vulnerability” is when you expose a piece of yourself that you don’t tend to expose to everyone. Vulnerability is when you take a risk and are 100% authentic. “Intimacy” is when vulnerability is reciprocated with another person. This can be sexual, mental, and emotional. Levels of intimacy and vulnerability are built on the foundation of trust.
If you find yourself struggling with any form of intimacy, it could be because you had a difficult time growing up feeling safe opening up and being yourself. Maybe you felt misunderstood a lot; maybe you felt dismissed a lot. Maybe, you struggled with feeling disappointment by your parents and nothing you could do was ever good enough. These messages play a huge role in our adult self talk and innate reactions to emotion. This affects our intimacy because we aren’t allowing ourselves to feel comfortable or confident in our authentic selves. We aren’t being present with our partners, because we are stuck in our coping mechanism of protecting our authenticity. We aren’t trusting that our partner has got our back and will be there for us even if we aren’t perfect or even if they see us as “weak.”
#4 You Feel Immediate Panic When You Perceive Your Partner Is Pulling Away
It may be “irrational,” but in those moments your brain isn’t able to reassure you that you’re just being irrational and you have nothing to worry about. If you experience an immediate (and overwhelming sense) of panic when you perceive your partner is shutting down, moving away and/or leaving you, this may be due to your attachment style. If you experienced any abandonment growing up, this innate trigger can become extreme in your adult relationships. You may find yourself feeling immediately upset and needing to repair an issue immediately in order to soothe the panic and fear. This may ultimately push your partner away if they are needing space, and/or are afraid of conflict and the two of you may find yourselves in a difficult dance.
#5 Your Biggest Coping Strategy is to Shut Down
If you find yourself shutting down a lot and needing time to process or “get away” from your partner, it may be because you are struggling with conflict. Maybe you have a sensitivity to conflict because you grew up with a lot of it. Maybe you have a sensitivity to conflict because you grew up without any of it. Either way, you were not taught how to effectively argue and repair conflict. We may become subconsciously triggered by any perceived attack, threat, form of rejection and/or criticism that we shut down to protect ourselves. Shutting down isn’t always a “bad” thing, but it can be misunderstood by your partner if they are assuming you are shutting down because you “don’t care about them.”