difficulty in relationships

Bernice responds to “Parent or Spouse” concerning enmeshment and guilt

Dear C,   Thank you for your email, it raises a lot of issues which I will attempt to answer. The four main issues I see are:  Enmeshment, Guilt, Conflict, Anger. However all of the last three are linked specifically to enmeshment so I will look at this first. From your email I think the biggest problem you face is the fact that neither you nor your mother have been able to form an identity separate from each other. This is always more difficult when a ‘family’ consists of only two members. Even in a so called average family of two parents and 2-3 children this can be difficult especially when a parent has not separated emotionally from their own parent or seeks their identity through merging with their child or children. I have written about what I describe as enmeshment between an only child and one or more of [...]

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How can you support your daughter as an only child?

Hi Bernice I am the mother of a teenage (14 year old) only daughter. Her father and I have always encouraged her to be independent and courageous. She is talented at sports, excels at her school work and is respected by her peers and teachers. Despite all this, she has few close friends and often seems lonely. She is more serious and mature than many of her peers and she is not afraid to speak her mind – which often alienates her from others. She does not ‘suffer fools gladly’. I am starting to feel guilty for her being an only child as she seems unable to form close bonds with others. I don’t know what to do or how to support her in this. Any advice? Bernice replies: My first response is please do not feel guilty there are a lot worse experiences than being an only child! Clearly [...]

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I have 5 children and worry about their relationships’….and wish I had a sibling

Bernice: I received this email which resonated very much with me because ‘watching’ people was something I did from a very young age. I also used to have imaginary conversation with them whilst they were talking to someone else. I was very shy as a child so found it hard just to speak to peers so this was a way of observing conversation with out the necessity of actually taking the risk to enter into it! I was fascinated by large families and yes envied them to some extent mostly the fact they could all play board games together and not like me, playing  on my own. However I am also aware tht as I grew older having a sibling seemed less interesting possibility as I became more ware of some of the advantages, mostly economic, that I benefited from. However when I finally did my research on adult only [...]

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Does anyone else find Christmas difficult?

It’s Boxing Day and, as I’ve done for many years now, I have just managed to ‘get through’ another Christmas. All around everyone seems to be moaning about being stuck with the family having no idea what it’s like to be, as it were, standing outside in the snow and cold looking through the window at family life. I was born just after the war at a time when women obtained their only status by becoming a wife and mother. My mother had to wait six years before I came along and, whilst I now appreciate how difficult that must have been for her, I have always felt that my only reason for being alive is to give my mother the status of ‘mother’. She rarely praised me (though she was never unkind) because she was so scared I’d be seen as a ‘spoilt only’. This was all about her [...]

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I read ‘Spoilt or Spoiled’ and was moved to share my story

I’ve just read the article ‘Spoilt or spoiled’ in Therapy Today (April 2006) and felt moved to relate my own story. My only-child experience came about through being an illegitimate child born in the 1950’s. Placed in children’s home for the next 9 months or so certainly destroyed any hopes of a secure attachment. Eventually I was adopted, but remained an only child, as my adoptive parents were not able to take on any more children, as I was decreed by the social worker ‘quite a handful.’ Quite a damning label to have. Sadly, both for my adoptive parents and the resultant knock-on effect on myself that the realisation of being unable to have your own children had never been resolved. In fact it remains unresolved to this day and my ‘mother’ refers to the fact that she couldn’t have her own children nearly every time I see her. So, [...]

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