Longing for family

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My mother married my stepdad when I was 5 years old. After pretending to like me in just to marry my mom, my stepdad changed completely. There were years of emotional, physical and verbal abuse. Now, even though I’m an adult, there is still emotional abuse. My mother always defends my stepdad and explains away his behavior. I don’t feel connected to anyone in my family. I no longer live there, but the effects of my family life are with me everywhere I go.

I have 3 half-siblings that I get along with okay, but there is still a disconnect. We look completely different. I feel ALONE in my family and I’m not aligned with anyone in it. I feel like an outsider in my own family. I wish I could disappear and go with a family where I could belong and be heard.

I have trouble relating to people, especially men. I don’t have any guy friends or buddies, even though I am dying to have some. I have had many, many girlfriends but I’ve broken up with every single one because there is always something wrong with them that I can’t accept. I have been to therapy many times and I’m taking medication for depression and anxiety. It’s helped a little, but those same demons come back. I would appreciate any of your thoughts and suggestions. I need to conquer this becuase I’m afraid I’ll never be happy and I really want to be happy.

A: You certainly had a tough beginning but it doesn’t have to always be that way. Not everyone gets the family they deserve. I’m sorry you feel like that’s the case with you. But you can create the family you want. You are now in your 30s. You really can take charge of your life.

You say you’ve been in therapy a number of times. I wonder if you stayed with any one therapist long enough to do the work you need to do. It occurs to me that just maybe you treat your therapists like you do your girlfriends. Just when someone is getting really close, you get scared, find something “wrong” with them, and bail. Doing therapeutic work means talking about it when you find yourself shutting down or getting scared (which is probably a form of the same thing).

Please get back in touch with whichever of the therapists got closest to your pain and push yourself through your fears of attachment and commitment. Be as honest as you know how to be with your therapist. As much as we wish it, we can’t read minds and hearts. Once we get more pieces of information, though, we often can help people figure out how to live life more happily and successfully. I have no reason to think you can’t do it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jul 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Longing for family. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/07/30/longing-for-family/