Love lessons from my mum: “My mother taught me how not to love"

·3-min read

From Cosmopolitan

On the day my world was ripped out from under my feet, the sun was shining. I was just eight years old, but two memories replay in my mind from the moment I left my house for the last time: putting on my bright-pink coat, and the ice-cold look in my mother’s eyes.

My parents divorced when I was young, and it was a given that I would live with my mother. But from the start, it was clear that she wasn’t maternal, and I was a burden. My life with her was scarred by physical and verbal abuse, and she was often neglectful.

On that sunny day, Mum and I walked up the path to my dad’s house, where he was waiting on the doorstep. There wasn’t a goodbye, a hug or an “I love you”. She just walked away, without looking back. And I haven’t seen her since.

I’m now 26, and Mum’s abandonment has reverberated throughout my life. On my darkest days, I’ve felt it would have been easier to cope if she had died. There’s something so unsettling about knowing she’s out in the world somewhere – and the impact of her sudden disappearance is never more apparent than when I’m navigating romantic relationships.

I’ve loved people dearly, but thrown them away out of fear because I never wanted to feel a rejection similar to what I felt on the day Mum left. I’ve forced kind people away without realising I was sabotaging my own happiness. I thought shouting would make my partners hear me – little did I know that this isn’t how “normal” people communicate with those they love.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

At one point, I was with a man who wanted nothing except to love me – little did he know it was a battle he’d lost before he’d even had the chance to try. We’d argue, and I’d say awful things in an attempt to end the relationship. He would calmly explain that it was OK to talk out our disagreement, but I couldn’t accept it. Towards the end, he would wrap me up in a warm hug, but I never hugged him back. He was everything most people look for in a partner, but I pushed him away by playing out a narrative that wasn’t real. I wish I could have pressed pause for long enough to see that he wasn’t trying to neglect me or my feelings, but to explore them with me.

My abandonment issues made me treat good partners badly, but cling on to those who weren’t so kind. A different partner disappeared for a week and ignored my calls. When he finally reappeared, I felt grateful he hadn’t abandoned me and brushed his unreasonable behaviour aside.

At 21, I was diagnosed with PTSD and began therapy. I now know that love and pain don’t have to be entwined. Love can be fleeting and ever-changing, but that’s fine. I need to let my guard down in order for relationships to work. Loving others doesn’t mean that their demons are automatically yours – and Mum’s demons are no longer mine.

Sara* is the founder of Run2YaMama, a blog that provides advice and support for girls and women with absent mothers.

*Name has been changed

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