J. Peirano: The secret code of love: I was devalued and threatened with violence in my childhood. How do I express this to a partner when dating?

Dear Dr.

J. Peirano: The secret code of love: I was devalued and threatened with violence in my childhood. How do I express this to a partner when dating?

Dear Dr. Peirano,

I am almost 25 years old, grew up in a difficult home with frequent devaluation and threats of violence and have had problems with self-doubt and social fears since the beginning of my puberty. Approaching a woman was unthinkable for many years. Recently I have faced these fears and have been able to have at least my first sexual experiences.

Overall, dating is going badly. I'm tall, academic, and people tell me I'm attractive, but I'm a failure in interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, the fear is so intense that it made me vomit. I have been undergoing therapeutic treatment for months, with no improvement so far. I suffer from feelings of shame and worthlessness and doubt my masculinity.

A year ago I actively approached a woman from my studies for the first time, for whom I developed strong feelings over time. At first she even met with me. Once when she stayed overnight at my place with a friend, she wanted to sleep in my bed. I didn't dare touch her and when it became a topic of conversation, I honestly told her that I had difficulty with it at first and that I was unsure. At first she reacted understandingly, saying that she preferred that to someone who answered straight away.

However, since then I have had the impression that her interest in me has decreased. A conflict then arose: She canceled a meeting at very short notice (turned around on the way to me) on the grounds that she wasn't feeling well due to a very personal problem and that she couldn't pull herself together. I reacted with disappointment and unempathy and told her directly that I interpreted her explanation as an excuse for her lack of interest. We distanced ourselves from each other and a little later I was rejected, which still hurts me to this day.

Now my question: How should I deal with my inexperience and insecurity and the resulting self-esteem problems when getting to know someone? I want to show myself authentically. However, I repeatedly read and hear that women find such men unattractive because, from an evolutionary psychological perspective, they unconsciously suggest poor reproductive qualities. Instead, women would naturally assume sovereignty, dominance and experience.

I would be very happy to receive an answer.

Thank you in advanceRobert B.

I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. During my doctorate, I researched the connection between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.

Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.

Do you have questions, problems or heartache? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.

Dear Robert B.,

The first thing you write to me is about your difficult childhood. The fact that you were often devalued by your parents as a child and teenager and that you were threatened with violence obviously left a deep mark on you. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg. The parental home should actually be a place where a child is welcome, accepted and loved in the family and where they can feel safe. It should be a place of protection from the outside world where a child can always rest and recharge, be comforted and strengthened.

I write: Actually, it should be like this. Unfortunately, the parental home or the relationship with a parent is something where children have exactly the opposite experiences. Many patients describe their parents' home as a place where they were unwelcome and rejected, where they were told that they were wrong, where they experienced violence and abuse without anyone helping them. They experienced their home as a place where they were defenseless.

And these traumatic experiences naturally leave traces, or so-called patterns, in our thinking and behavior. You have clearly internalized the pattern that you are unlovable and that you would have to work hard to be liked by someone. And you are very bad at dealing with rejection or rejection. This causes you so much anxiety that you sometimes even vomit.

You are experiencing great suffering!

You probably won't like what I'm advising you because it's more of an approach that requires a lot of time and patience. From my experience, it would first be very important for you to heal the internal injuries that you experienced in your childhood. It would also be about you developing a good inner father yourself.

This may sound strange at first, but we can see ourselves as divided (in a healthy sense). There is a part of us that is vulnerable, feels, needs protection, but is also creative and playful and has needs. This part can be called the inner child.

And then there should be an adult who has an overview and sees where, when, with what and for how long the inner child is allowed to play. Who sets the daily structure so that the inner child doesn't play on the PC or watch TV all day. And also sets up commandments (healthy food, fresh air) and prohibitions (drugs, too much alcohol, cigarettes, etc.) and always ensures that these are adhered to. Of course, this part, which I call the good inner father in men and the good inner mother in women, should be very empathetic and loving towards the feelings of the inner child. So encourage it when it feels listless. Comforting it when it was hurt. Listen to him. Embrace it.

For many people, especially unhappy people, there is something wrong in the world of the inner child and the good inner father (or mother). Sometimes there is no parent who cares, but rather a 15-year-old inner child who is neglected, takes drugs, drinks too much, feels lonely and turns night into day.

The inner parents are often strict and judgmental (like the real parents) and force the child to perform at their best, do not allow breaks and always have something to complain about. Or they devalue the child's feelings (don't be so weak; you're doing it; others can do it too). Or they don't particularly like the child and constantly tell him how wrong he is (you're not pretty enough; you didn't graduate; you should be a dominant alpha male and not such a softie, etc.).

In your case it sounds as if there is no good inner father yet, but rather as if your real parents are sitting on your shoulder and commenting negatively on everything you do. And of course that affects your feelings: you don't feel accepted, you don't feel safe, you don't feel loved, and you don't trust yourself yet.

It usually takes at least two years to develop a good inner father/mother through good, trusting psychotherapy. And the therapist should be at your side in this process as a reliable, appreciative and loving ally and be a kind of model for how to listen to yourself, support yourself, deal with critical voices and accept yourself.

Now comes the part you probably won't like to hear: If you haven't done this work and are hoping to find a partner, it very often goes wrong. Because you subconsciously expect your partner to take on the role of your inner mother and accept, comfort and love you. But that is not the job of a partner. Just as I, as a single mother, am not allowed to hand over responsibility for my little daughter to my new partner, I am not allowed to hand over responsibility for my inner child to a new partner.

In addition, people unconsciously look for partners who remind them of their own family of origin. And because you have had bad experiences, you could unconsciously look for a partner who devalues, punishes and manipulates you.

That's why my urgent advice is: first heal your internal injuries in trusting psychotherapy. Here it depends primarily on the person: Find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and secure and who you trust. Someone who will show you the way to developing a good inner father and guide and accompany you there.

Once you have done this work and changed your inner patterns and beliefs, you will work out in therapy what kind of partner would be a good fit for you and how you can recognize that.

I wish you all the best in your healing!

Herzlich GrüßeJulia Peirano