Do we fall out of love with our children?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by ScentofCedar, Feb 7, 2008.

  1. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    I don't know whether anyone remembers my most recent post about difficult child. He had started calling out of the blue, talking about how he disliked where he was and needed to go back home. All the warning bells were ringing ~ clanging away would be more like it. With everyone's help, I managed to get myself into an emotionally stable place regarding my wayward son and battaned down the hatches for the next round.

    But it never came.

    difficult child has continued to call frequently. He is different in a way I cannot put my finger on ~ something having to do with uncertainty, or with a tentativeness that was never there before.

    I wonder whether, for the first time in so many years, I am talking to my son without the rage, or the blaming or false bravado drugs impart?

    It's the strangest thing.

    And, ashamed as I am to admit it,'s been so long. That emotional place where he lived has been empty for so long. I wish my son well...but there is so little joy there, anymore.

    I don't understand my own feelings.

    Do you suppose we ever fall out of love with our children?

    It almost feels as though I grieved my lost child and have understood him to be gone for so long that the things I always believed I would feel if there were ever the slimmest ray of hope have dried up and blown away.

    I get it that I need to be cautious about believing these changes are permanent. But I literally do not feel much of anything.

    New territory in the parent-of-an-addicted-child reality for me.


    I hardly know what to think or how to behave.

    My intention is to remain supportive, to return the calls, to continue to wish him well and to believe in him.

    Do you think this numbness could be a form of self-protection?

  2. hearts and roses

    hearts and roses Mind Reader

    {{{Barbara}}} I don't know and definitely cannot begin to guess at what this new emotion you're feeling is, but my heart just kind of broke a little reading your post. Just made me sad to think that after all the effort we put into caring for them, and then letting it all go unwillingly but for their (and our) own well-being, we may end up letting go forever.

    on the other hand, maybe because we wrap ourselves up in their lives to such a horrifying degree, when we're faced with what would be considered a 'normal' adult child/parent relationship, we don't recognize it?

    When I speak with easy child on the phone and/or she visits, I still feel love for her of course, but our relationship is on a different level now. She's not quite a peer or contemporary, but she's a co-adult in most ways, so it's just different. When she calls me with a problem, she's using me more as a sounding board rather than when she was younger and so unsure and called me for help. Now I can just let her vent and offer some tidbits of advice or nothing at all and just assure her that she can figure it out on her own. We've moved into a new dimension.

    Anyway, just kind of thinking out loud and offering some hugs~
  3. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    I'd be more worried if you welcomed him home with open arms and closed eyes. Our kids batter us in so many ways. We're forced to to wear coats of armor, not just to do battle for them but for protection from them.

    Once we get a break, whether that be through Residential Treatment Center (RTC), them moving to another family's home, moving out on their own, even kicking them out, we get a chance to breath again. We get a chance to look back and reflect. What could we have done better. How much lies on our child's shoulders. If they come home, what will be different. I think if the answers are (1) there was little more we could do, (2) our child made the choice to the road followed and (3) there is little chance that things will be different, we keep our armor up. We still love our kids. That won't die. We hate what they've done, the choices they've made, the life they're leading. That won't die, either. So, we learn detachment 101 and, sooner or later, we graduate to the point our kids can sound like they are changing but we've detached enough to be more cautious. This, I think, is where you are.

    I'm sure if you dig deep enough, all the love you held for him would come bursting out but you don't dare. Give him time. Let him prove he has truly changed, that he is becoming the man you hoped for and that the child you grieved is back in this man and you'll open up. Until then, you need to protect yourself. Even mothers can only take so much pain and disappointment.

  4. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I'm no Dr Phil, but my .02 centsis you are exactly right - you are protecting yourself. And its perfectly reasonable to do so. Heck, in my book, its the RIGHT thing to do.

    If you really have a changed adult you are dealing with here now, in time, I would imagine you and your son will build a new relationship. Probably different than that of a typical mother/son, but it will be a relationship.

    I joke that if I were given a typical child to raise, I would fail miserably. I would ignore so many things that are just not worth the hassle with a difficult child that I would, in turn, create a difficult child. While I joke about it, there's a lot of truth in it. difficult child's have an impact on every tiny bit of our existence.

    Don't be hard on yourself. In fact, pat yourself on the back for seeing a little hope without throwing your heart on the line.
  5. Marcie Mac

    Marcie Mac Just Plain Ole Tired

    Its an interesting dilema, if nothing else.

    As "the mom", I think I will forever more be on guard with my eldest. I examine everything that is said, look twice at any action, and wouldn't believe anything that came out of her mouth. I refused to see the signs of gfgness - didn't want to believe that she was even close - the past year and a half that all changed- there was no avoiding it - it was in my face and I was devistated - and our relationship has been perhaps damaged beyond repair. I never thought I would ever say that. I call her once a week or so to see how the gkids are, cause she would never ever call just to say hi, but I am so not emotionally there. Not that I don't love her, but I don't love the toxicity she brings to the table.

    As a former difficult child, my relationship with my mother will always be strained. I left home in full difficult child glory at an early age, and over the years turned pretty much easy child after some starts, stops and stalls in the middle. The whole thrust of our problems now is that I moved on, changed my life, and she is stuck exactly where I was when I left home. Our relationship never matured into a "next level"- She obviously still has unresolved issues and hurts (I am only one of a few of those but the only living target left) but you can't even HAVE a conversation with her without those things seeping into it - I have tried to hear her out but the more she goes on the angrier she gets, and I end up losin it. Besides "I" am certainly not the one to tell her at 85 she needs some serious therapy.

    I think what is missing is a gradual progression of a relationship between a parent and a child - there is a big old gap in the middle when one person has been missing in action, and it is sooo hard to bridge that gap and now you have one person who is moving on, and the other one is stuck, not believing that anything has changed.

    Its a difficult place to be in Barb (even more when you are in both situations LOL)

  6. Star*

    Star* call 911

    SOS -

    Every time someone whom we love abuses us whether it's verbal, emotional, physical or spiritually - even if we forgive that person, while we are unaware of this - we start to build walls. Each transgression is a brick in that wall. We try to reason with the person, and we forgive them, but once a brick is set in mortar - not much will budge it.

    Each time the abuser comes back to us we feel a little safer with our wall around us to protect us. Early on in building our brick wall when an abuser does something nice - we tend to remove a brick or two, until we're abused again. Then we add a brick. Eventually this two bricks on the wall, one brick off labor catches up with the abuser and we wall them out completely. We have to - it's survival.

    For a while - I think we are very content to just stay behind our wall - and out of sight out of mind takes over. And then one day - the abusive person comes back to us for whatever reason (maybe they found themselves and needed to make amends, or maybe they thought enough time had passed that we'd forget and remove a brick or two so they could get 'in' again)

    When you're hurt as bad as you are - you're not so willing to take the brick out of the wall and at this point - passing notes is safe. In otherwords communication okay - but I'm not taking a single brick out for you - too much work to build it - and I'm not so easily fooled now - I've had safety and security and I like it. So we see them as playing the same two on one off brick game - and no one should blame us for that.

    Do I think it's possible you've fallen out of love with your son? ((shrug)) who am I to say?? Do I think that these children put us in such a traumatic perpetual state of bricklaying we're ultra sensitive about letting our guard down? Sure - we didn't do anything to be abused or treated like we were treated, and most people would steer clear of anyone as toxic as an older difficult child - ESPECIALLY when you pour your heart and sole into their lives and the preservation of their lives and they just constantly pound themselves into the dirt and try to take us down with them. Who wants that every day again?

    You know - you can fall out of love with peoples behaviors - and then they can be consistently trustworthy for years and years - and then we fall back in love with the people we fell out of love with - but only because they changed. Their behaviors change and we feel we can live with that.

    I can tell you this much - my x abused me for so long that my wall was heaven high and ends of the earth long. The day I put the last brick in that wall -I had to stand on tip toe. Apparently it didn't stick and came tumbling down and hit me in the head - and when it did it knocked some sense into me - and I left. I have always said - that last brick was a wakeup call.

    I have told this story to my son. And when he does something outrageous - I merely have to say "well there's another brick between us" and he gets my point. I told him too - it takes ONE bad deed to get a brick - the older I get the more good deeds it takes to remove one.

    Currently he's in the process of removing them - and I can tell you they aren't coming off as fast as they went up.

  7. standswithcourage

    standswithcourage New Member

    I dont think we fall out of love with them. For me it is fear. I feel like I have given so much and to get just the same that I dont know what else to do but to let go more than I have. When you let go(and it is easier since my son is in jail) you go on with your life and it relieves you of their life which is what you have been living. You dont want to go back there to that life. I believe that is the part you feel like you dont love - it is not that you dont love your son but you dont love that part. Everytime I think about my son coming home - and I used to want him to so much - it almost makes me sick. I feel a fear that I cant describe and dont want to go back to that horror anymore. It is like ahorror movie that you have been in over and over and finally you say no more.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Oh, I so know what you mean. I never ever stopped loving my daughter when she took drugs, but my son who has disowned us for no reason that we know of and who won't tell us why--I feel very detached from him. It's like he's not the child I raised and loved, but a stranger. One day I'm sure we'll see each other again, but it will be strained. He's not a cuddly person and will likely make us see him on his terms, which, in of itself, isn't endearing. We've grown apart. I will always love him, but I feel the light fading--that intense Mother Love--because I have to protect myself and I have four other kids (plus a grandson-to-be) who will WANT my love.
  9. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat


    I think it means that you did what you were supposed to do.

    You detached! yippee!!
  10. totoro

    totoro Mom? What's a GFG?

    As a Detached daughter! I had to over a long time, much like the parents here and maybe myself one day (I truly hope not) fill the space, the void with other things. I learned become less angry, fearful.
    It started for me as an infant... he was in prison when I was born, for heroin. He was a drug addict and dealer most of my life. He was mentally abusive to me from the time I new him up to 5 yo... he disappeared. I met him again, he was supposed to "save" me from the physical abuse from my adopted Dad. At 13 yo. He did not this went on again for a few more years until I was able to really walk away.
    But it took until around 21. I was able to say goodbye for good.

    So since then I have seen him a handful of times. It is hard. I saw him the last time when I was pregnant with K, I made promises again... a let down.

    Now this past year.... much like your story, he is coming back into my life, He promises he has changed.
    He says he wants to be a part of my life and my children's.
    He says he wants nothing more. I am making him do all of the work I am offering nothing, I am not offering my heart, I am remaining detached. It is some how so much easier this time.
    I don't know if it is the same as with kids? This is my Father, that is your child. I don't have this feeling like I need him... I have a cautious guard. I will not let him in too far. I will not let him know too much. I will not let him meet my children. He will have to sit with me first and my husband will have to OK this first. He can not send them presents.

    I think what you are doing is great!!! Others may not agree, others who have never walked in our shoes... people have said to me how can you turn your own Father away... how could I not???

    Detach!!!! Way to go!!!!
  11. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    This is true. These are the words that describe the underlying feelings ~ or the seeming lack of feelings. The time between loving him the way we all love our children and now has been filled with desperate pain and unending self-reflection. For me, and for all of us, trying so hard to figure out where we went wrong or how to help, how to undo whatever it was before we finally learned to hold ourselves separate, that imagery of the other person in the relationship "missing in action" is good imagery to hold on to.

    If I can look at it that way, I can understand what sorts of feelings to expect, and have a clue as to how to cope with them.

    Thank you, Marcie.


    Jo, your comment about how the intensity and chaos of our relationships with our children makes the "normal" relationship with them (or with a father, as in totoro's case) impossible was very insightful. It was my expectation that I should know how to do this, that I should be instinctively happy, or find myself as emotionally invested as I would be if much of this had never happened, that was throwing me off track.

    That is a good thing to know. The other side of it is that, just like when these things first began happening, I began questioning my responses rather than allowing myself to feel what I was feeling and trust that, for now, those feelings are legitimate, and are enough.

    And like you, totoro, I too can claim the right to protect my core self until I decide to allow what might have been.

    It seems wrong to feel that sense of reluctance regarding your own child, and I am surprised to find that I feel this way.

    But I am more comfortable with those feelings now than I was before I posted.

    MWM, I loved the way you said you feel the light of that intense mother-love fading ~ that is just what this feels like. There is a part of me which still grieves my lost child fiercely. There is another part though, which went on living, and has continued creating her life.

    It's like there is a gap between those two parts of who I am.

    Stands, it IS like a horror movie in a way, isn't it. I want to be there and be wise and helpful and loving, but I just know something awful may be waiting right around the corner and I am safe here, where I know the rules and have the barriers between myself and the pain fully erected.

    Star, you are right. There is fear at the base of this seeming numbness on my part. Fear of being hurt and fear of being made a fool of and fear of going back to that place where difficult child consumed all my thoughts and energy.

    It was way hard to pull myself away from there.

    BBK...I think I see what you are saying. The detachment I practiced had mostly to do with detaching from the pain and the attending depression. I simply refused to allow the feelings. (And interestingly enough, ladies, I have recently developed asthma. Not that there could not be physical reasons why this should be so, but I have been wondering about the possible psychological underpinnings of an illness whose symptoms include anxiety and feelings of suffocation and loss of control ~ alot.) What you are saying, BBK, is that I need to focus on detaching from the outcome.

    Good or bad, warm and loving or manipulative, I need to establish boundaries between my expectations of myself as a mother and whatever actions my son chooses to take next.

    Because that seems to be where the battle is ~ between my expectations of myself and my real feelings ~ or seeming lack thereof.

    Sorry for sounding like a textbook again guys ~ just thinking out loud, here.

    Shari ~ I do need to give myself credit for responding in a measured manner after all we have been through with this kid. Strange, isn't it, how our first response continues to be to condemn ourselves because it ~ whatever it is, isn't perfect.

    Meowbunny, I believe I will post what you said about needing coats of armor not only to fight for our kids but to protect ourselves from them near the phone. This time needs to be a time of balance for me, and for husband.

    Like BBK said, we need to begin practicing detachment at another level.

    No judgment, no hope, no pretending the elephant in the living room isn't there.

    Thank you all so much for your responses.

    I am moving through this in a way I don't think I would have been able to accomplish on my own.

    Okay, then.

    Looks like I am upright, again.


  12. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Yes, love can die. Sometimes the committment we made is the only thing that keeps us going. It is a very sad place to be.

    I clearly have PTSD from dealing with Kanga. I cringe when I see her. I threw up repeatedly at the hospital when we had to pick her up.

    Not the mother-daughter relationship of my dreams.
  13. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    I don't feel particularly/specifically abused by my difficult perhaps I see it slightly differently. I have been tired/conflicted/worn out. I do not think I will ever fall out of love. However, I am learning to put on a suit of armour. I am learning two things in particular about life in general perahaps 1) It's not appropriate to waste energy on things that I have no control over 2) It is my choice how I am going to think/react to any given situation...even ones that are unfair/distressing/depressing.
  14. Mikey

    Mikey Psycho Gorilla Dad

    There's a curious phenomenon that I believe is called "survivor's syndrome". It occurs when people who have terminal cancer don't die. They go into remission, or the cancer actually goes away.

    The problem is that by that time, they've already said their goodbyes, made whatever arrangements they were going to make, etc. But, they never left.

    People in this situation say that they have a hard time "reconnecting" with people, especially loved ones who had already accepted their impending demise.

    That said, I DON'T believe we ever stop loving people. I do believe, however, that it's natural human psychology to grieve, and then to learn to go on with life despite whatever loss you've endured. Unfortunately for these cancer patients, their loved ones have already moved on - emotionally, and it's hard to go back to the relationship they had. Losing someone - or accepting their pending departure - is hard for loved ones, and there's a fear of reconnecting, only to have to go through the pain again.

    With our difficult children, I believe that we go through a similar process. I don't believe it means we love them less; by that I mean that I don't love my Mom any less now that she's gone. I miss her terribly, but I've accepted her passing and the hole it left in my life.

    I'm getting to the same point with my son as well. He is departing from me, and there's nothing I can do about it. I can try, but ultimately it's out of my hands, and trying is probably of more benefit to my own psyche than it is to McWeedy. Barring a miracle, the day will come - soon - that I finally accept the finality of McWeedy's chosen path, and I will detach.

    When that finally happens, I won't love him any less than I did the day he came home from the hospital as a baby. But I don't know if I could ever go back to the type of relationship I tried to have, and wanted to have.

    But for me, at least, the story doesn't have to end badly, either. As a kid, my Father was never around. Dad was always someone who visited, but never lived with us. I tried and tried to have a "father/son" relationship with him, but it never happened. As i got older, I went through all the grieving stages and finally accepted that I would never have a "daddy". We became estranged when I was a young teen, after I'd finally detached from chasing the ghost of something I could never have.

    That could be the end of the story, but it isn't. As a young adult, I found out that my Dad had taken a job in a nearby town. Many years had gone by, and I wasn't the same frightened, lonely kid I was when I let go of him years before. I decided to give him a call. One thing lead to another, and I discovered that I could have a relationship with him. Was it father/son? Not really. Did he finally become "daddy"? Not hardly. But I was able to forge a meaningful relationship with him that I still value to this day.

    It wasn't what I wanted, but it's a far sight better than anything I'd hoped to have when I gave up on him in my teens.

    So, I guess that's a long way of saying that I don't believe we ever truly stop loving, but we may get to a point where our relationships change with those we love; out of necessity, because it's forced on us by the other person, whatever.

    Just my thoughts on the subject. Sorry for the long diatribe, but it's a hard thing for me to put into words. I hope it makes sense.

  15. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member

    It does make sense, Mikey.

    I found the imagery comforting. There is a little booklet given out to those involved in Hospice. In it, the impending loss of the loved one is viewed as a beautiful ship with its sails set, slowly disappearing over the horizon. Maybe I can learn to understand what I am feeling regarding my son if I envision the tiny ship on the horizon returning.

    The story about the relationship you developed with your father was helpful to me, too. Though the relationship was not as you had envisioned it, you WERE able to form a relationship you cherished.

    Nomad, I agree that we need to defend ourselves when we are in relationship with an abusing child ~ whether that be drugs or emotional abuse or whatever. You are doing the right things, the things you must do to survive and to help your daughter come through all this intact.

    JJJ, I am certain we all hear those echoes of PTSD for years and years and years. I can hear a phone ring now, or see a police car in the neighborhood, without having my heart stop ~ but I can be thrown into a tailspin when I see another parent with her healthy son.

    To this day, that happens to me.

  16. Mikey

    Mikey Psycho Gorilla Dad

    The key to that was we were both at a point where we were ready to reconnect. We didn't have any history to build/rebuild, so we had to find common ground on who we were at that time. That's why the relationship didn't turn out to be "father/son". It could never be that, because the necessary history wasn't there for that type of relationship. Nevertheless, we still formed a worthwhile bond between adults.

    Kind of goes back to the post by Ant'sMom about parents grieving over the "child that was never there". Dad and I had to get to a point where those ghosts in BOTH our pasts didn't overshadow our ability to see each other in a more realistic light. It took time and distance, but it did happen. I also had to realize that he had his own reasons for his actions; some I understand, some I don't, but I accept that they're valid to him, and that's all that's needed.

    I truly hope that if McWeedy departs into the wild blue yonder, and if he survives it long enough, that one day we'll meet again when cooler heads can prevail and form some kind of meaningful bond. Right now, though, given the state of the cold war in our household, I don't see that happening any time soon - not till he moves out, finds his own path, and then decides that there's something worth coming back to.

    If/when that happens, I'll do with him what I did with my Dad; see what's there (in both of us), and see if there's anything to either salvage or build on that we can both agree on. My love for him will always be there, but when that time comes, there will have to be something more than one-sided affection for a relationship to blossom.

    That's my hope, anyway. It happened once, maybe lightening will strike in the same place again (just not anytime soon :sad-very:).

  17. ScentofCedar

    ScentofCedar New Member



  18. Mikey

    Mikey Psycho Gorilla Dad

    The bane of all humankind, Chaos and Entropy incarnate, the black hole of empathy, and soon to be revealed as the AntiChrist.

    Otherwise known as my pothead difficult child.

    Hey, I had to come up with SOME kind of moniker, and all the cool ones were taken. Just kind of evolved into that name over time, and it stuck.

  19. rejectedmom

    rejectedmom New Member

    Barbara, I have little hope left for my difficult child and I honestly don't trust him one bit. I protect myself consciously. I answer the phone with trepidation when I know it is from or about him... and yet I can honestly say I have learned to love without being able to trust.

    My difficult child is in trouble again. He has been thrown out of the program that I thought might acutally keep him out of prison and help get his mental issues under control. (see post is SA) I greeted the news with calm and felt almost emotionless. but since I have learned to seperate his mental health issues from my ability to love himI immediately thought " I am so glad we made a point of spending time with him and maybe we can squeek in one more outing and enjoy being with him one last time before he goes back to prison.

    So in answer to your question, I do not think that what you describe is a lack of love but rather a protective measure. Once you look deeper though, I think you will find you have the the ability to see your love for him and his addiction abuse issues as two completly different things and them you will allow yourself to feel again. -RM
  20. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    Hello to all! I have been in Arkansas visiting my grandchildren. We have a healthy new grandson :) and I had a wonderful time.

    I wanted to thank you all for the honesty of your responses. These kinds of feelings are so difficult to acknowledge ~ for me they are, anyway. As has been true for so much of this journey with my son, responding from a position of weakness or guilt has just made everything worse for both of us. Making sense of my own feelings has has enabled me to respond to him during this time with both compassion and honesty.

    In addition, your comments and insights have helped me walk through this part without judging either my son or myself too harshly.

    :) to Mikey for having become healthy enough to poke a little fun at the situation with your child. I remember how long it took me to even call my son a difficult child when I first started visiting the site. I remember how ashamed I was at what had happened to him, and how responsible I felt.

    It is good to let those things go.

    Humor will ease the way for this child to come back so much better than sadness, resentment or regret.

    So, once again, thanks so much to all who have responded.

    Just as an FYI kind of thing, difficult child has continued to make more frequent contact, both with us and with his sister.

    Once, he even called his grandma.

    I have been able to interact with him on a much different level, addressing issues of self-sabotage and defeatism almost without a second thought.

    Maybe I am making it sound too easy. It has been difficult. In many ways, it is easier not to know how things are for them. I can make myself believe he is happy and conducting his affairs as he wishes when I am not confronted with the pain in his voice, with his loneliness, or with the reality of his current situation.

    However this works out, he is worth the effort.

    You all have helped me understand how to get us through this part ~ it was especially helpful to me to be reminded of the importance of maintaining our senses, both of humor and of separate self, when we are interacting with, or thinking about, our wayward kids.