guilt

Do parents of only children tend to be more passive-aggressive and/or narcissistic?

I thought this was an interesting question put to me in the following email: “Is passive-aggressive and narcissistic behaviour usually common among parents of onlies? Because my parents have been that way all through my marriage, and since I’ve stood up to them they’ve been worse, almost to the point of manipulation. I find myself angry a lot because they just won’t be adults and have the emotional maturity to recognize things could be a lot better. I find myself wondering what I should be thinking and doing- I have trouble thinking for myself, and question if I’m right. It’s tough. Any help or advice would be great.” Tom I considered that it might be useful to respond to these questions. However I would also like to open it to others to give their experience.I suppose my first reaction is no I don’t think this statement “Do parents of only [...]

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Daniel: Breaking the ties of enmeshment (part 3)

In my previous post I looked at how Dawn was able to separate emotionally, physically and financially from her mother. I will now explore Daniel’s experience. He also had problems with psychological separation from both his parents, but in a different way with each, as he fought to retain a sense of self and not be caught in the middle of his parents’ relationship.  Daniel: Caught in the web of enmeshment Daniel is in his forties but has never left home and works for his father in the family business. His father relies on him quite heavily and it is difficult for Daniel to have an adult-to-adult relationship with him as his son. This has made their relationship problematic over the years, particularly after his parents’ divorce. Daniel lives with his mother who is very dependent on him for all sorts of support, and in many ways Daniel has become [...]

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Parent or Spouse? : Dealing with Conflict and Anger

In my previous post to C, I outlined the consequences that an enmeshed parental relationship can have on both parties. I will continue with this theme and explore the conflict and anger that these types of relationships can lead to and how this can be challenged in a constructive way. Conflict is a normal part of a relationship because we are individuals with different experiences, expectations, hopes and fears. When we are in a close relationship with anyone there will be times when conflict emerges through difference. This is perfectly healthy. It is how it is managed that can create problems. If we take the enmeshed relationship, where both parties feel responsible for the other and no sense of a separate identity has been encouraged, conflict can feel devastating. It is almost as if you are at war with your self. This is because in a sense you are, having [...]

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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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A perspective from the 1970′s

Hi Bernice, I am 32 years old, an only child born in Poland and now living in the UK. Happily married to a man much older than me and enjoying bringing up my two young children. My parents still live in Poland. I text my mum everyday and we speak on the phone once a week. Part of me is happy with the decision I made while another part cannot shake off the feeling of guilt. Back in Poland, over 10 years ago, I felt I was just a ‘background’, an attachment to their life, a bit of a nuisance – they were pursuing their careers and filled their spare time with gardening and other ‘useful’ things. Things had to have their purpose, not much room for fun. They chose not to have a second child – and perhaps they still think it was a good choice, or maybe they regret it now, as they are on their own. I’m a [...]

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Only child of the 80′s

Here is another post of an only child, Lucy, describes growing up in the 80′s and some of the good and bad aspects of that experience. The significance of ageing parents is notable, especially as the relationship has at times been difficult, perhaps in part because of the older nature of the parents. I think this is a case of over-protective parenting. Whilst over-protective parenting may be seen as love it can also be detrimental to the separation process of a child from their parent. This shows itself in Lucy’s guilty feelings and difficulties in feeling okay about saying no to the pressure of being continually in contact and the sense of not being seen as an adult/grown-up either by them or by herself. Still there are lots of good things too – so have a read! Lucy: I’m a nearly 40 something only child which has had some good [...]

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Are only child adults difficult partners? (Parents)

Only child adult challenges in relationships: 1.   Introdcution 2.   Dealing with the need for space and intimacy 3.  Dealing with conflict 4.  Dealing with one’s own parents Continuing with the theme of only child adults as partners, and having looked at the first three of the above four issues, I will now look at the often thorny problem of relationships with parents and how they can impinge on the partnership with the only child adult. Why can parents of onlies be such a problem in a relationship? Well of course like many other situations it is not always the case that parents are a problem! I don’t think my own parents were at all problematic in my relationships. However from the emails I receive and the couples and individuals I have worked with, it is clear that some people do experience problems with what I would describe as the intrusiveness of their parents. A recent post “What do I do?” gives [...]

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What do I do?

Hello, I’m 28 and an only – my father passed away when I was just shy of 9 years old and to be quite honest he was an abusive drunk. My mom and I have always been a “team”, we’ve always had one another but with age and time I’m finding that I just want a sense of freedom, but suffer tremendous guilt with the thought of “being free” and just enjoying life to the fullest. Every decision I make, I have my mother in mind and feel guilty planning a vacation, shopping for myself, or even having social gatherings without a level of guilt from my mom. Every apartment complex I’ve moved to she generally follows living either within the same building or perhaps a building over. Do you know how sabotaging that is? To not have a guest over when you want, because your parent shows up without [...]

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Only-Child Research: the therapist as only-child

Over the last ten years, of my own only-child adult research, I have also encouraged other people with theirs. Here is a piece of research Carla Preston is undertaking for her Psychotherapy MA. It is particularly specific to people in the profession of counselling and psychotherapy, so I hope anyone in that position will feel able to take part in this useful research so that we can continue to expand the knowledge of the only child experience. Bernice Research Question Being Everything:  An exploration into the relational impact on the therapy when a therapist is an only-child.   Carla Preston I am a Humanistic counsellor studying for my Masters in Integrative Psychotherapy and I am in the process of starting to write my thesis about the experience of therapists who are only-children.  My interest stems from my own work in therapy and discussion about my relating patterns which might be a result of my upbringing as an only child. As a child I felt and still as an [...]

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