Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
When I tell this story to other people, they say, “oh, grow up!” But I am hoping you can give me perspective on it.
When I was a kid, I was in love with the little girl next door. We played together nearly every day.
We both just assumed we’d get married when we grew up. Of course we were too young to understand any of it, but it felt very real to us.
When I was 12, the girl’s mother decided she needed to play with girls not boys and cut off our friendship because she thought it wasn’t good for us.
I never knew this; I just thought my friend stopped caring. I’ve carried the pain like a piece of shrapnel in me all these years. When I saw her at a school reunion, I was still so angry I couldn’t speak to her. Of course I found out later that my anger was misplaced.
I guess that what I want to know is WHY? It makes no sense. We couldn’t have maintained our fantasy, I know, but the loss of our plans, the dollhouse we decorated every day planning out our life together.
Life is life but I can’t help ponder how it affected me. It feels as real now as it did then. Are children really capable of this type of emotional reaction?
And can it affect my relationships now? I know that I am very self-protective and have been reluctant to get close to anyone in my adult life.
Kids absolutely do feel love, but not as adults experience it. It seems that, for you, this girl was like your left arm; she was an unquestionable given. Losing her would be an experience similar to losing a parent or a sibling. It would leave an empty void in the world as you knew it.
Kids have no mechanism to process this type of loss because they have no understanding of it. You dealt with it by simply avoiding it. But you have to realize that love takes many forms. How you felt love as a child isn’t what you will experience as an adult. If you compare the two, that will just confuse the issue.
Feeling like someone is your left arm is like seeing them as an extension of you. As an adult, this is often an immature kind of love which will take you on a roller coaster. It is not the sort of love that is amenable to longevity or healthy stability. To answer your question- yes, your loss as a child affects you as an adult. It might cause you to live in your head and avoid direct experience.
In the movies, lovers meet after 20 years and pick up where they left off. This isn’t amenable to real life. It is fantasy.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: We all drag our childhood into our current relationships. I’m surprised you even have to ask! Every expectation we have is from the past; they certainly aren’t from the future.
As far as how vivid your childhood experience was- I’m sure that it was probably more deeply felt than anything you’ve experienced since. Once we begin padding ourselves against anticipated pain, we diminish sensation on many levels. This is not entirely a bad thing, as some people are such raw, open nerves that they need to develop some padding or they will sizzle and burn out quickly in the barrage of energy throw at them from life.
You, however, seem to have done a bit of unnecessary padding. What I find interesting is that you formed your ideas and expectations about relationships from a misconception, not a reality- your friend didn’t abandon you, her mother meddled. And you did the rest by running away and assuming the worst.
If you are going to allow a set of expectations to affect your life, make sure they come from something that really happened. Right now, you are letting an outright lie color your expectations, and probably any relationship you’ve ever had. That just doesn’t make sense.
So, now that I’ve told you it makes no sense, you’ll just stop it, right? NO! Of course not. It has become a reflex, an unseen knee-jerk reaction that happens before you know what’s happening. I’d just like to make a note here- these knee-jerk reactions run most people’s lives and they never stop to question them.
I’m glad you did. Keep asking questions and you’ll figure this out.