The sun was out, so at the lunch break, even though it was pretty cold outside, I decided to take a short walk. I looked for the sunniest spot I could find, but you know it was the damnedest thing—it sure looked like the sun and it was bright like the sun, but there was absolutely no warmth coming from it. And this wave of sadness came over me—the sun was just like my mother.
— Susan Forward, PhD, Mothers Who Can't Love

As a child, you were ignored or neglected, criticized, smothered, or abused by your parent. Now as an adult, there’s a voice inside you that says, “If I was really worthy of respect, love, and affection, my parent would have given it to me." You've probably been trapped in the belief that you are the reason the relationship with your parent is unhealthy. And from that early misunderstanding, it's been difficult to form healthy and satisfying relationships in your adult life. 

Your parent may discount your feelings and wants, treat you as if you're incapable of making your own decisions, imply that you are the reason for their depression or lack of an unfulfilled life, try to live out their life through you, or tell you or imply that they can't manage without you. If this sounds familiar, you may be an adult of an unloving parent. You may also describe your mother or father as narcissistic, overly enmeshed, controlling, or find that your parent looks to you to parent them or struggles with substance use or mental illness. 

The effects of growing up like this are painful and wounding.  As an adult of an unloving parent you may: 

  • wonder if your parent loves you now or loved you growing up.

  • believe that you have to earn love.

  • feel responsible for everyone else's happiness except your own.

  • believe that no matter what you do for your parent, it will never be enough.

  • believe that you have to protect your parent from the knowledge that they are hurting you.

  • hide your feelings or details about your life from your parent because they will find a way to use your truths against you.

  • feel guilty or believe that you are a bad person if you don't do what others want, especially your parent.

  • find yourself chasing approval.

  • wonder if there is something wrong with you that will keep you from being able to find a partner who loves you.

  • feel afraid to have children because you may turn out like your parent or your child may turn out "messed up like me."

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Considering therapy?

Adults of unloving parents seek out therapy for a variety of reasons: depression, anxiety, relationship issues, self-esteem, or even concerns about their ability to love and be loved. Some adults of unloving mothers and fathers understand the connection between their relationship with their parents and the struggles in their lives. However, others say, "my mom drives me crazy," or "I can't talk to my dad," but they consider these secondary issues. Often these individuals hope to prove themselves wrong about the pain they carry from their childhood. They may even be afraid to acknowledge that their parent is hurting them because there's a taboo about questioning a parent's love or care. You may have been asked, "How can you talk that way about your parent?" You may have been told to "forgive and forget." But your experience is valid and you are deserving of fulfilling relationships and a fulfilling adult life.

It's time to transform your relationship with yourself and others. Together we will strive to overcome the challenges of a painful childhood and move towards a more satisfying adult life. Contact me to schedule your free 30 minute in-person consultation, and we can figure out the next step together.