I grew up in a very affluent part of Connecticut with a prominent family name. Both my biological father and step-father were well known throughout the community and both had meticulous reputations to the outside world. Unfortunately, my biological father never acknowledged my existence unless it was for bragging rights, and my step-father was both verbally and physically abusive toward me for about three to four years while my mother stood by in silence.
Now, as a 28 year old, far away from CT, I loathe men who approach me, which happens at least 10 times a day, no matter where I am. I even got pulled over at 4AM by a cop who thought I "looked familiar." The men I have dated in the past were always approached by me, not vice versa. I make sure I'm the controlling one in the relationship but at the same time, I want the man I'm dating to stand up to me or help me. I don't look at men in ways of monetary standings; I have a terrific job making 6 figures a year and don't want or need financial support. Though I'm living with someone (he moved in with me) whom I feel I'm in love with right now, at the same time, I feel that if he left tomorrow, I wouldn't have problems "turning off" and moving on. Do you think it's because of my childhood experiences that I can be warm and loving one second and cold and detached the next second? Why do I always have to be in control? How can I rectify this/these problem[s]?
Does child emotional/physical abuse have effects on future adult relationships, which may include the tendency to be more in control in all areas and aspects of the relationship?
The short answer is, "Yes."
The long answer is...It might be best for you to begin an ongoing therapeutic relationship - with a qualified counselor, as well as with yourself. Because your wounds are deep. Humans develop in stages, and there is really only one stage in life when feelings of being valued and loved can be optimally internalized so that those feelings become a part of who one is. That time is during infancy and childhood.
This is very important. The facts of your financial success and apparent attractiveness may mask some of the insecurities you feel inside, but even your accomplishments reveal something about the way you have likely compensated for this lack of love and protection in your childhood. So, you have work to do! The amazing thing is that you have enough insight and awareness to know what you have been missing! Now, you have to become responsible to yourself to give yourself the love and respect you did not receive during your childhood. It will be tremendously difficult, but rewarding, work.
And, you won't do it alone. I'd recommend that you search carefully for a therapist. The person you choose will, ultimately get bombarded with all of your rage and hurt, (Because, uh... that will be his or her job, in this case.) Basically, you'll need someone who has had pretty extensive experience, and will be available to you for a long time. (By that, I mean someone who is established and will not, say, be moving or completing an internship. You need - in this therapist - what you did not have in your childhood, i.e., safety, security, consistency, stability, acceptance, warmth, etc.)
The payoff for this work will be nothing less than re-claiming your own childhood and giving to that sweet little girl you were (and still are) all the love, protection and care she still needs and wants.
P.S. I expect that this response may anger or upset you, in that I'm telling you what you must do. That would be normal, in this case. Now, take your anger to a therapist and begin to deal with all of this.
Good Luck (to you and your therapist)
Margaret "Peg" Burr
This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/