It took me about 15 years to realize that I was carrying emotional baggage. It likely came to my attention when I realized that my family relationships were pretty rocky, and that I was, in all seriousness, a terrible dater and couldn't get any guy to stay in a relationship with me.
A lack of being able to open up and freely express how I felt plagued me. I didn't understand how some people weren't afraid to open up and express themselves.
My mom encouraged me to seek a counselor to work through my feelings to help me progress.
After seeing a counselor, I realized that my parents' divorce had affected me in ways I didn't even recognize. For example, it affected the way I interacted with people and the way I saw myself.
My counselor helped me realize that although these were things to work through, it wasn't my fault that I had these fears.
Here's some of what I learned about myself:
1. I have a hard time trusting men
I wish I didn't, but I always feel like they have an ulterior motive. Try always having this feeling in the back of your mind and then date someone — it doesn't work.
2. I avoid confrontation
Because my parents didn't get along, I didn't know that it was healthy to talk about things; because whatever they talked about always ended in a fight. I didn't realize that different opinions are OK to have, and don't have to strain a healthy relationship.
3. I fear everyone is going to leave me
This has been one of the hardest consequences I have had to deal with. I have this irrational fear that all the people I hold close are going to disappear. When I start to feel some distance between myself and a friend, I go into a panic that they are going to leave. I feel the need to constantly check in with them that things are OK between us.
4. Words of affirmation and gifts mean a lot to me
Because my dad wasn't home a lot, he showed his love to me through gifts. And because my mom worked so hard to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, she showed her love to us through words; because at the end of the day, that's usually all she had to give.
5. I have a hard time believing in myself and am scared to try new things
A father's support plays an important role in a child's self-esteem. Without my dad encouraging me to try new things, I was terrified to do so. For example, I never learned how to play sports, and now sports activities give me anxiety.
6. I worry about dynamics at big events
I stress about things like, "How are Mom and Dad going to act together? Are things going to be awkward? How much time do I spend with each of them?"
7. I live in an unhealthy panic that things are going to fail
My parents' marriage failed; what if mine does too?
8. Money is very important to me, and is a way I show people that I love them
We didn't have a lot of money growing up. My mom taught piano lessons and paid the mortgage from child support. I learned the value of earning money and being responsible in order to pay for things like extracurricular activities and school lunch.
9. For a long time the word "dad" had a very negative connotation to it
The word "dad" would make me cringe. I associated it with the dark feelings I felt inside as a little girl.
Having received help and looking at this list now, I have been able to overcome a lot of these misconceptions, and feel much more secure in my relationships. It took meeting with a counselor, reading books and spending a lot of time with people who loved me to overcome these things.
As you read them, you may realize that you struggle with some of these same things. The first step in overcoming them is to recognize them in yourself. Don't give up and keep pressing forward; you can be happy in a relationship.