How severe neglect and abuse affect relationships

My parents did not love me. They did not hold me or care for me in even the most basic ways as a baby/toddler/child/adult.

As an adult, I know how this has affected me. I struggle to connect lovingly with other people in relationships. I don’t like to be touched. I struggle to feel anything other than numb.

There are people in my life who say they love me and care for me deeply; yet, I feel empty and nothingness and awkward to their loving gestures.

Interestingly, for me, I can feel love when it comes to my children. I genuinely love them, and I feel their love for me. I am not sure why it is so different when it comes to them.

When people other than my children say they love me, I cringe as if a dagger just went through me. I know I am supposed to give a loving reply back, but I can’t, and retreat into a state of internal awkwardness.

In case you are wondering, I am married. I don’t know why my spouse puts up with my difficulties around love, touch, sex, and oftentimes being aloof.

Sometimes, the fact that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) comes in handy as there are other self states within me who do not struggle with the attachment damage from my childhood.

I don’t always control which part of me is out, and thus I fluctuate in the level of connectedness I have with others. This can be confusing to people because they don’t know about the DID (or don’t understand in my spouse’s case).

There are times when I am home with the family and I find myself very disconnected from them. My spouse will ask me what is wrong, and there isn’t anything wrong, but a self state that has more severe problems with attachment is usually present.

Other self states may go overboard with love and intimacy with other people. These self states tend to like to drink and be social, which of course is not the best combination.

My adult self-states are mostly similar enough that even the people who know I have DID have trouble distinguishing between them. But there are subtle differences if one is paying attention. However, very few people know about the DID.

My therapist seems to think my attachment problems can be healed through therapy and working through the pain of my childhood. I disagree. Though I have much more insight into my attachment problems, it doesn’t seem to do anything to help change that this is the way I am.

She would say I am feeling hopeless again, as if depression or something is causing me to come to this conclusion. I don’t feel particularly depressed. My mind is actually fairly clear, and I see my thoughts and feelings about my attachment problems as a form of acceptance of my reality.

I don’t mean to be a Debby Downer, but I do think it is better to accept reality and try to live life as it is rather than chasing a mental health that will never come for those of us who have been severely neglected as children.

That is not to say we can’t have a different version of mental health based on acceptance, instead of forever chasing a higher level of mental health and living our lives in the therapy room instead of the real world.

Too many of my friends and myself have spent almost our entire lives in the therapy rooms chasing an elusive mental health that will never come.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do believe in therapy, and it is necessary for many of us to survive in the world. But, I believe many of us with severe trauma backgrounds are using up our entire lives waiting for the wellness to begin. It’s just something to consider.

Yes, get therapy help, but don’t get caught in the idea that you will get “cured” and then miss out on living your life because you spent it searching for answers that don’t seem to transform into wellness.

*Disclaimer, my therapist and others do not agree with my point of view.

Wrestling with the truth that my parents repeatedly reinforced into me that I am not lovable has turned off a switch in me that should be on to experience the human condition of love and care.

This leaves me like one of those futuristic robots who can show the slightest bit of emotion, but fall short of the real human experience.


6 thoughts on “How severe neglect and abuse affect relationships

    1. Karlene, I have lived with this for a very long time. I have worked hard in therapy and have had access to really good resources.
      I am not saying one has to totally give up on the hope of getting better, but figuring out how to set realistic expectations and live your life at the same time is critical.
      So far in my life, my biggest regret has been how much of my life/time I have given to my past thinking it was the way to go. Where has it gotten me? Really, not far.


  1. I really think that different things work for different people. For some, therapy might help with processing the trauma, might even lead to that elusive “integration”, and for others there are limits in how far they can get in that process. And that is alright, you know? Sometimes processing does not work, because we are not aware of all the trauma we have been through, or sometimes there are just parts that will never really learn on an emotional level that they are lovable, that there are safe people, that touch is something positve. And that is okay.
    I personally think that all professional help is about reaching an improvement in quality of life. In the now, and the possible future. And sometimes that can mean learning to accept the present and then go from there, instead of looking into the past. There are so many things that you, everyone in similar situations really, can do, just through self-awareness, acceptance and maybe coping strategies here and there. Sometimes it is not about being “normal”, or being just like everyone else. Sometimes it is about accepting who we are, with our issues, and just learning to live with it in the most positive way possible.
    I personally see some positives in the things that you wrote: you have self states that are okay with attachment, with love, with touch. And your love from your children, and for your children, is genuine. So even if some self states never get to where healthy levels of human emotions are, others are. And that is a start, and maybe something to more focus on, instead of the other side: the states that are not okay with attachment and are unable to feel.


    1. A lot of really good stuff to think about. I can focus on the positive, but sometimes I really need to sit with the truth. Maybe it is an attempt to really feel my truth.
      As for therapy, maybe it is just a US thing, but I do imagine there are some people who would be better off without it. I have worked with several trauma specialists, and none of them have helped me live a better life in the present. They take me back to the past and help me to re-enact my trauma. This is definitely not to say they don’t do me some good.
      I really like what you said about accepting our truth and living our best lives with it.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for sharing.
    I don’t really have any answers. I know I really hope that one day I won’t freeze when others touch me. That I’ll be able to handle or at least believe it when someone says they care. I found it interesting what you said about your children. I’ve no issues with touching or being touched by most kids, or even elderly – so long as I like or care about them (only 2 people, but still).
    Sending hugs…..
    Love and light.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s