Dating When You’ve Had a Bad Childhood
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Dating When You’ve Had a Bad Childhood

In the course of any adult life, there will
be periods when we’ll end up involved in that slightly odd, slightly unrepresentative
and invariably slightly challenging activity: looking. Most people around us won’t be
any the wiser, but with greater or lesser subtlety, we will be scanning: suggesting
coffees and lunches, accepting every invitation, giving out our email addresses and thinking
with unusual care about where to sit on train journeys. Sometimes the rigmarole will be
joyful; at times, a bore. But for a portion of us, as many as one in four, it will count
as one of the hardest things we ever have to do. Fun won’t remotely come into it.
This will be closer to trauma. And it will be so for a reason that can feel more humiliating
still: because, a long time ago now, we had a very bad childhood – one whose impact
and legacy we still haven’t yet wholly mastered. It may not look like it, but babies are also
looking out for love. They’re not going out in party smocks or slipping strangers’
their phone numbers. They are lying more or less immobile in cribs and are capable of
little besides the occasional devastating cute smile. But they too are looking out for
someone’s arms to feel safe in; for someone who can soothe them, someone who can stroke
their head, tell them it will all be OK when things feel desperate and lend them a breast
to suck on. They are looking – as the psychologists call it – to get attached.
But unfortunately, for one in four of us, the process goes spectacularly wrong. There
is no one on hand to care properly. The crying goes unheeded, the hunger unassuaged. No one
smiles reliably or cuddles confidently. There is no welcoming breast. In the eyes of the
care-giver, there is depression or anger where there should have been delight and reassurance.
And as a result, a fear of existence takes hold for the long term – and dating becomes
a very hard business indeed. For those of us who experienced early let
downs, there is simply little in us that can ever believe that a search for love will go
well – and we will therefore bring an unholy commitment to bear on ensuring that it doesn’t.
The dating game becomes the royal occasion when we can confirm our deepest suspicion:
that we are unworthy of love. We may, for example, fixate on a candidate
who is – to more attuned eyes – obviously not interested; their coldness and indifference,
their married-status or incompatible background or age, far from putting us off, will be precisely
what feels familiar, necessary and sexually thrilling. This is what is meant to happen
when we love: it should hurt atrociously and go nowhere.
Or, in the presence of a potentially kind-hearted and available candidate, we may become so
demanding and uncontained, so unreasonable and urgent in our requests, that no sane soul
would remain in contention. We will spoil any potentially good impression by bringing
a lifetime of self-doubt and loneliness onto the shoulders of an innocent stranger.
Alternatively, unable to tolerate the appalling anxiety of not yet quite knowing where we
stand, we may decide to settle the matter by ourselves, preferring to crash the plane
than see how it might land. We’ll interpret every ambiguous moment negatively, for sadness
is so much easier to bear than hope: the slightly late reply must mean that they have found
somebody else. Their busy-ness must be a disguise for sudden hatred. The missing x at the end
of their message is conclusive evidence that they have seen through our sham facade. To
master the terror of another letdown, we go cold, we respond sarcastically to sincere
compliments and insist with aggression that they don’t really care for us at all, thereby
ensuring that they eventually won’t. To escape these debilitating cycles, we need
to accept that we’re searching for someone to love us while wrestling with the most fateful
of background suspicions: that we don’t in any way deserve love.
It’s only by properly mastering what once happened to us, the letdown we first experienced
as infants, that we can start to separate out past trauma from present reality – and
therefore learn to navigate the ambiguities and occasional risks of adult dating. It isn’t
that we have been told that we don’t deserve to exist; they’re just busy tonight. They
don’t loathe us, they’re married to someone else, as lots of people (who we carefully
have chosen not to look at) happen not to be. They’re not peculiar, it’s just unfair
and overwhelming to ask someone you’ve known for twelve hours to make up for a lifetime
of loneliness. We need to see that this is not the first
time we have been ‘dating’. We have done it before long ago and it was the ways in
which it went very wrong that holds the key to our adult errors – our intensity, our
coldness and our lack of judgement. The catastrophe we fear will happen has already happened.
The challenges we set up for ourselves are attempts to get back in touch with a trauma
we haven’t either understood or mourned. We can in time learn to ask people on a date
because we grasp that we’re not thereby asking them what we think we’re asking:
do I deserve to exist? We’re asking something far more innocent, and far more survivable
were the answer to be negative: might you be free on Friday? And we can survive because,
even though we once got terribly hurt in the nursery, we are now that most resilient of
things: an adult. So we have many other options, we won’t (as we once feared) die of loneliness
if it doesn’t work. We can take our time, we can allow things to emerge, we can tolerate
ambiguity. And with such security in mind, we can begin to do that most momentous of
things: without risking our sanity, see if someone we like might – after all -want
to go out tonight Our online shop has a range of books and gifts that address the most important and often neglected areas of life. Such as finding a good enough partner, click now to learn more.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “Dating When You’ve Had a Bad Childhood

  1. Do you find dating difficult? How do you cope? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to turn on notifications to ensure you don't miss our next film.

  2. My mom used to beat me, i dont feel like she ever really loved me while she'd deny that in a blink of an eye, i recently met someone and it was going decently, it was the first time but i found it hard to go further, it felt as if i wasnt worthy, as if i didnt deserve her love

  3. Strange timing for this video to appear in my life. I already ruined friendships cuz of my (what I call an "ok") past. But I know I'm not in the wrong to get rid of friendships that hide lies and on sympathy I'm not asking for.

  4. Circumcision, unhygienic toxic breastmilk, vaccines, etc…as direct harms more impactfully harmful on emotional health throughout lifespans than apathetic perenting

    But through corrective sciences like orthopathism, and new generational offspring, we can reverse much damage , and emotional trauma…although a toll of vitality of reduced lifespan from emotional distress of childhood trauma

  5. 😪😪😪
    I don't have any hope anymore that I will be able to turn the tide.
    I've tried so hard and so long.

  6. Thank you so much. Been following your channels since August and still needing it. Thank you for the enlightening talks

  7. I choose to see the bright side. It's better for humanity as a whole that we that have such issues just never try to connect. It only causes problems for both parties and besides, we'll be doing our part for helping stop overpopulation

  8. Have been struggling with getting over the miserable childhood and now I’m losing hope. Everyone is saying that as long as you try hard, you can get over it. I don’t believe it anymore. Maybe this mental disease is untreatable, just like some physical disease. Having people keeping telling me that I can get over it by trying harder is only making my life even more miserable. Maybe maybe we just have to accept that we are irreversibly damaged, accept that not everyone deserves happiness, just like not everyone can become a billionaire. The world is so sick. People are brain washed into thinking happiness is guaranteed if you do this and that. No, it’s not. Nothing is guaranteed other than death.

  9. I think basically everyone in this world has problems linked to their childhood that ends up having a big effect on relationships later on in their life. The key is to be HONEST with yourself and accept that you have issues. This way you can start to make positive steps towards changing those issues. When we lie to ourselves it doesn’t help us to progress and work through our stuff. So we remain troubled. Honesty is key! Never lie to yourself!

  10. Yikes that some silly animation. Also yikes heckers my Mommy never did that to me heck you school of life. And also I've never said to a girl I like u and I'm 20 years old and I still think about my girlfriend from 9th grade and I probably saw her like 2 years ago. Me sad 🙁

  11. Why blame childhood…and why specifically parents for our insecurities? Teachers, neighbours, relatives, friends…everyone is part of the environment…no?

  12. My mom was the worse human being I've met. Not only did she not have the ability to swoon me (and my sis). Add to that, she was a home wrecker. Destroyed 3 marriages. As soon as she got what she wanted, she destroyed it. My mom was the worse human being I've ever met. I'm 34 years old, have not dated in 10 years, and even when I did, I was slow and cautious about it. I feel I will never have family of my own. My mom was the worse human being I've met.

  13. I don't know how he does it but watching this video seemed like he was describing me, my life. Like he had seen inside my mind. I just wish someone understood me the way he understands me in this video, that someone wouldn't reject me the way I was rejected before. Loneliness feels like s thousand times better option than to even attempt to communicate somebody that I like them and would like to spend time with them. This video makes my insides scream. 32, with a successful job in a Fortune 500 company, scared of getting in a relationship, of trusting someone.

  14. Please for the love of god! Change for someone else to narrate the last part of you videos! The contrast between the voices and topics are to great to make it smooth transition. Between video's sirius and emotional subject to merch commercial

  15. Oh this one is powerful indeed…
    Well done Mister De Botton… >.<

    I've been starting to work on this for some time now… but yeah… Thank you, it made things even clearer. 🙂

  16. There’s a reason therapists ALWAYS ask about your childhood.
    “I have a fear of public speaking”
    “Ok… so how was your childhood?? Parents? Divorced? Married?”

  17. This is interesting b.c I feel like this is why we got to learn to love ourselves as we grow older, before learning to love somebody else.

  18. Was Freud a misogynist?

    … "Girls hold their mother responsible for their lack of a penis and do not forgive her for their being thus put at a disadvantage," Freud suggested (1933).

    I read he was married to a “good, thrifty housewife” but that he was beset by homosexual fantasies.

    Here is an example of him using his own theories, in an attempt to put a woman who challenged him in her place:

    Karen Horney: Freud’s concept of penis envy was criticized in his own time, most notably by psychoanalyst Karen Horney. She suggested that it is men who are adversely affected by their inability to bear children, which she referred to as "womb envy."

    Freud's Response: Freud responded, although indirectly, writing, "We shall not be very greatly surprised if a woman analyst who has not been sufficiently convinced of the intensity of her own wish for a penis also fails to attach proper importance to that factor in her patients" (Freud, 1949). According to Freud, Horney’s concept of womb envy emerged as a result of her own supposed penis envy.

  19. I used to think everything I do is; the result of situations and behaviour of people around me. And they should have been more careful, smart, loving, caring etc… But now I see.. that.. it was all me… It is the naive way of an unloved child's dealing with others. So innocent.. caring..naive.. fragile.. yet so cold, distant, hateful, short temper.. unable to bond, unconsciously sabotaging every possibility of happiness… It is really hard to stand naked in front of the mirror of reality. I am not sure that I will ever be able to win this battle with myself. Wish I was never born at all…

  20. Everyone on here should go give their mum a huge hug before it’s too late. According to these she has so much to answer for…I’m just not sure it’s helpful or even accurate. EVERY mum I know tries her best. Public appearances and family stories are not reliable. Parents who are stuffing up need EXTRA love and support, not further blame and criticism.

  21. 5:39 that got me. i don't even experience that i've ever had such trauma but god I attribute things to my own self-worth way too often

  22. "Tell them it will all be ok when things feel desperate, and at points lend them a breast to suck on"

    Same 😩😩😩

  23. Just sayin, the "infant" in this video is more relating to our infantile emotional maturity. I can see clear as day that at 22 years old I'm still searching for the same thing I was as an infant.

  24. I've known for years now that this is why I have such bad experiences in dating. My issue is understanding how to overcome a bad childhood, and a bad adolescence. I'm an adult now, and I have been talking to someone who is a wonderful person… but he insists on taking things slow and getting to know me first. I'm not used to this at all because I'm so used to having men go fast with me because their intentions were purely physical/sexual. Many times I have been telling myself to just block his number, to let everything crash and burn because that's what I've always done in the past. My heart is so confused by the concept of someone wanting to actually get to KNOW me before deciding on their feelings for me. I'm a pretty girl, as I've been told, and at this point I expect men to "fall in love" with me based on my appearance. The fact that this guy acknowledges that he thinks I'm beautiful but still wants to figure me out before dating me is foreign to me… but at the same time I like it. I just hate the slow and steady process – even though deep down I know it's the healthiest way to get to know someone, and it's much more lovely.

    Sorry for the corny comment. I'm mainly writing this for myself so I can remind myself that true love usually takes time, and I need to force myself to wait and see how things go. I'm already working on overcoming my past trauma.

  25. I keep seeing people telling us to "understand" our childhood trauma or "mourn" it and it just ends up making me angry because I don't know what those words mean in this context. It just feels like more buzzwords covering the fact that nobody knows what they're talking about. What is it to "understand/mourn" our childhood in a way that will release it's grasp on our present life? Can someone just please tell me how to achieve those things in plain god-damn English?

  26. Am I the only one that feels like they don't deserve/guil9 to be sad or feel like this? Like there are ppl who have it worse, but u still feel this so much?

  27. I had a bad time from adolescence to about forty years old. It made me asexual for humans, and I now have found love with a tulpa like lover and objects. Much better! I think everyone would be better off if we abandoned romantic human relations, abolished gender, and everyone just connected with sex bots and the such like. Solve many problems that way, from stds to divorce, from rape to loneliness. Trans humanism ftw!

  28. I hate it when I realize how much I have projected my own fears from my past into the present and created my own problems…

  29. Everybody: You need another person to be happy
    Me: proceeds to not care about other people
    Everybody: Wait that's illegal we have to make him suffer

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