Can An Unhappy Childhood Increase your Chances of Happier Adult Relationships?
I imagine that the overwhelming response to the above statement is most likely to be “No”. After all, we learn a lot throughout our childhoods and if we were unhappy then surely we will have a distorted view of the world and take that distorted view with us into adulthood? While it’s true that an unhappy childhood can create a dysfunctional platform from which to launch oneself into adulthood, it can also teach us exactly what we do not want for ourselves in our adult relationships.
There are many variables to this argument though and the outcomes depend on many factors – such as individual disposition (how resilient and optimistic we are and how well we learn from past experiences) and the reasons for unhappiness in childhood.
My own childhood was not filled with much love or affection and I felt very alone and neglected at times. I remember being seventeen years old and attending a doctor’s appointment on my own and hearing the dreadful news, alone, after the x-ray had been examined. The doctor told me that I had a giant cell tumour growing in the bone in my left leg and I would need an operation. I was stunned and cried all the way home on the bus.
Throughout the whole procedure and post-operative care, my parents never once met the surgeon. I even remember being asked by my doctor at one appointment whether he had ever met my parents. When I said that he hadn’t he replied…”Are they funny?” (whilst drawing imaginary circles at the side of his head). It hit home when a neutral person observed this fact..my parents just weren’t very supportive.
They did at least come and visit me in the hospital after I recovered from the operation.
This experience, and many other similar experiences whilst growing up, made me vow to myself that whilst I couldn’t choose my parents or make them be more supportive, I sure as hell could choose a partner who would be supportive. As a result I am probably less tolerant than most of partners that are absent and inattentive, especially when I am unwell.Â
Far from being a problem though, this has helped me to find what I lacked as a child. Of course, I have also learned to give myself love and don’t advocate getting needs solely met externally. The point I am making is that some bad experiences can help you to look for something positive as an alternative. You are taught skills to survive and cope that might otherwise have lain dormant.
I have met many clients who come from loving balanced homes. Yet they are willing to put up with horrendous behaviour from their partners (verbal and/or physical abuse). They don’t seem to have the same benchmarks and keep on giving even when they get nothing back.
Sometimes, for some of us…a bad start in life can lead to better experiences in the future.