The other night I could not sleep as I was so full of anger and frustration. I wondered if it was anything to do with being an only child and I looked on the internet to see if there was anything about it there. I found your site, amongst others, and was amazed at the similar experiences of only children and their partners, especially the dealing with conflict part.
I am an only child, now in my seventies
My parents married young and parted when I was born, not at that time because they did not get on but because of my father joining the RAF. Apparently he was in a reserved occupation and only joined up when there was an announcement for volunteers by young men (even if they were in reserved occupations) to join the Air Force if they were in reserved occupations. My father immediately volunteered and became a pilot. My mother was apparently not impressed with being left with a young baby, especially as it was my father who was the one keen to start a family as he was an only child.
My mother and I lived with my father’s family for a time but then moved to live with my mother’s family. I remember being a fairly ordinary child at that time except that I was shy and apt to wander off a lot on my own. My mother used to overwhelm me a lot though as if anyone asked me a question she would always answer for me. When the war ended my mother’s siblings returned from the war and my mother, being a married woman, was expected to leave. My father then got a flat for my mother and myself but did not leave the Air Force as he’d enjoyed the flying and travel so much, so was reluctant to leave it all. I was 7 at the time but, as far as I am concerned, that is when the trouble started. My mother was always a control freak and I was then completely under her authority. She worked and I spent a lot of my time on my own. She would leave me with jobs to do and also get started on my homework, but I hated being alone in the flat (and was also lazy!) so I would rush home just before she was due back and try to get things done in time for her return. Usually I would not manage it and would then be shouted at and often given “a good sound thrashing” and sent to bed, which I would accept as I had “been naughty”. However, she would sometimes accuse me of things I had not done and I would then fight back, kicking and screaming and would then be in more trouble. I would very rarely see my father as he was mostly posted abroad and I think had then lost interest in us. My mother would also tease me and make fun of me and often accuse me of being just like my father. Once I was upset about the teasing and she said “I got a lot more than that from my brothers (she was the youngest in the family) and I remember saying “but you’re not my brother, you’re my mother”.
When I was fourteen my mother told me she was divorcing my father and marrying a man she used to play golf with him. I was very upset and cried a lot and she was very angry with me saying “after all your
father’s done to me” and I did not go to school for a few days as I was so upset as I had always imagined he would leave the Air Force and come home some day and we’d be a normal family. I had no idea at
the time what my father had done so wrong but I learnt when I was about 30 that he had started another family with another woman and had two sons by her. My mother married my stepfather when I was away on holiday with a friend and her parents and it was left up to them to tell me. My new stepfather was a very nice man and very good to me but he would say “can’t you just agree with your mother, does it really matter if she’s right or not” I left home at 20 with my mother’s encouragement. I built up quite a bit of confidence then but did return home regularly and my mother would always let me stay when I had problems with money, health or to lick my wounds when I had emotional problems with a man.
I was amazed to find how much I empathised with people who had written to you or with what partners of only children say about them. I hated people saying I was spoiled as I was an only child. I used to be teased at school as being spoiled as I had no brothers and sisters. I so much longed to be part of a “normal” family. I would have loved going home to a loving mother, to have siblings to play with, to have a father come home from work and cuddle me (although I know every family is not like that). I have also found sharing very difficult, if not impossible. I think I am quite caring and considerate and will usually lend money and possessions to any friend who needs them but they are still my possessions and I expect them to be returned! I will always respect other people’s belongings and would never take or borrow anything without their permission and would take very good care of them.
However, the biggest similarity is the “conflict” part. I cannot handle conflict or confrontation at all. I, too, “freeze” when confronted and usually walk away to avoid any conflict as I had never really experienced it except with my mother who was and still is a much stronger person. When pressed too hard I am apt to lose my temper and do not want anything more to do with that person. My late partner’s daughter (who has always been very outgoing) tells me just to “let it all out” when I am angry. However, we have recently had a big row as she kept on and on trying to persuade me to do something and I felt very, very trapped and frightened and could not escape as we had gone out in her car and were in a restaurant. Eventually I could not help but shout and swear at her and push past people and go out and sit in the rain wondering how to get home (my car and house keys had been left at her house). She also had her young son with her and, although we had been very close, he did not want to see me any more. He is now friends with me again but I still resent her carrying on pushing me until I lost my temper, especially in front of me, in public and with nowhere to run to. I also expect my own space and privacy and cannot cope with too much intimacy as I have found people often either make fun of me or try to persuade me to do things I cannot cope with.
I enjoy sex but have always had a problem with sleeping with anyone, even in the same room. I eventually got used to sleeping with my late partner but it was always a bit of a struggle and often longed to creep off and have my own space. A lot of people thing I am very confident and brave, which is not true. I have travelled alone quite a bit, travelling Europe on a motorbike or in a van and slept rough. But that is not confidence nor bravery, I am okay when alone and have no-one to confront me except strangers whom I can just “get on my bike” and leave!I am very addicted to pubs as I feel happier with strangers with whom
I can talk but not get involved.
My problem at the moment is that I live close to my mother who is in her mid 90’s now and her memory is fading rapidly but she is still very controlling. I find it extremely difficult as she keeps accusing me of all sorts and I am supposed to just agree and apologize for things like breaking into her house and going through her files, ringing her solicitors and demanding a copy of her Will and all sorts of other things which I have never done nor would ever dream of doing. I find it very hurtful and upsetting. She will ring me any time, night or day, and accuse me but at other times she is really sweet and charming and sometimes very depressed. She also likes to threaten me with changing her Will – I do not want this as she is quite well off and I am not. However, there is no way I can simply agree with everything she says just to keep her on my side. I also love my mother, although I do not particularly like her because of her selfishness and obsession that she is always right. I do not lose my temper with her but usually put down the phone or walk out when she starts on her accusations. However, one day when she kept ringing and telling me I had to apologize for criticising her gardener for not cleaning the bin (which I had not) I did get very angry, rush round to her house and keep denying it and, when she just kept repeating that I had I eventually shouted at her, swore and kicked the back door out of sheer frustration. Unfortunately the glass broke. My mother said she would ring the Police but rang her doctor instead. The doctor went round to see her and said I needed “anger management” and said she would speak to her partner, who is my doctor, and get him to arrange it. Apparently my doctor told her that he didn’t think I needed it as I had always struck him as a gentle person and not angry and I had twice been for counselling about my mother’s control issues and lack of affection and he was sure I would never be violent (which I have not).
I am at my wit’s end as I never know how she will be. My stepfather had Alzheimer’s and had not done a Power of Attorney so she wanted me to have a Power of Attorney over her if she had problems. Many
years ago she asked me to take it up and I refused as she was both physically and mentally fine and I said I would be happy to if and when she needed it. I was then still working and she had plenty of time, energy and money to still look after her affairs. When I did say I thought it was time to take it up she said “You wouldn’t when I asked you so I most certainly won’t let you now.” She also admitted she wanted me to when she asked because she wanted to spend more time in the garden! She now keeps nagging me to take it up but I can’t unless I can get her certified as mentally incapable but she can get it arranged any time she likes.