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"I love you." But do I?

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I am nineteen years old and I haven't told my parents that I love them in eleven years. I also can't call them the traditional "mom" or "dad", but rather silly nicknames I came up with as a young child. This is confusing, especially since they are good parents. I have never been abused (by them, at least). Neither has an alcohol problem. Neither fight. I essentially am living with the Brady Bunch.

 

Several of my friends have died in freak accidents over the years (my two best friends were killed within two years of each other when I was in elementary school, for one thing). I was abused in every sense of the world by my step grandfather. I've been in an and out of psychiatric institutions since the beginning of high school - yet, I was always visited. I was always cared about. Strings were pulled so that I could be transferred to better facilities, the works.

 

I don't get it and most people I've talked to say the same thing: "give them a hug, for once, Bethany. Just say it. They'll be so happy." But I can't. When is the right time to say that I love someone after not doing it for so long? Do I love them? I should. I have been so blessed. I can't say it and I can't give any logical explanation for why I stopped saying those words and why I can't go back to saying them again. It all feels foreign in my mouth. 

 

Any general insight? I know I didn't give a very detailed overview; however, I didn't want to get too wordy and start on a ramble fest, which I am famous for doing. Does anyone else have the same or a similar problem? Thoughts, please.

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Being a parent, I think actions can mean more than words. I know my kids love me even when they don't say it. When they thank me, say they're sorry, or even if they don't slam the door after an argument. It's nice to hear but not required. That's me though, your experience is probably different.

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Being a parent, I think actions can mean more than words. I know my kids love me even when they don't say it. When they thank me, say they're sorry, or even if they don't slam the door after an argument. It's nice to hear but not required. That's me though, your experience is probably different.

That's what I came to believe, but over the past year, there has been more talk of how sad they are that I am not affectionate in many ways. The fact that I don't say those words is brought up every so often. I don't hug them. Even giving high fives makes me feel uncomfortable. I remember last Easter, my mom made me this really spectacular basket because I think she tried to make me feel better about not being in a hospital because I had been that previous year. This kind of affection made me feel nauseous and the basket was left untouched for two weeks before I finally put it in the back of my closet. I don't like presents from them and cards are put in a box so that one day, I'll have the strength to read them. Some think I'm just a spoiled brat; however, I think there has to be something deeper here because I want to show that I care, but I just can't.

I've talked to my psychiatrist about it, who also duals as a therapist. I don't remember how he responded. I'll try to revisit the topic on the next visit, but right now we are working through how I place my anger, which is something I had never ever considered before. I guess I have a problem with suppression.

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I have 2 kids.  My son is very affectionate and my daughter is more withdrawn.  We don't treat her differently, that is just the way she is.  She has said I love you, but not often.  I don't take it personally.  But, it seems like it is troubling you so I would talk to your therapist about it again.

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How would you feel about writing a letter to your parents?  You could express your appreciation for their love for you just by acknowledging the things they've done over the years.  It doesn't have to long or full or explanations.  Just something simple.

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I'm the youngest of four siblings - we're all adults, and none of us is typically demonstrative with our parents or one another in the sense of actually saying "I love you" out loud.  In fact I used those words for the first time that I can recall with my mother only last year after her mother passed away, and I'm 41.  We express our feelings through teasing and intellectual debate and showing up for family occasions even though we'd rather not.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that every family has its own unique dynamic.  

 

I do agree with confused that if this is bothering you, then it's worth raising again with your pdoc, and I also like Phoenix's idea of considering putting it in writing.

Edited by miab

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I agree with the others.  Continue to discuss this with your therapist---it might be that there are underlying issues that need to be dealt with.

 

Phoenix's idea is also cool---I can be more eloquent when I write.  If you wrote a letter to your parents, thanking them for their loving care over the years and telling them how much you appreciate it, I bet they would love that.  You can write in the letter that some of these things are hard for you to verbalize.

 

I am another person who didn't say "I love you" to my parents.  I didn't care much for my father, but he and my mother did the best they could, and I know that my mom understood that I loved her.  I painted pictures for her, gave her poems that I wrote, baked treats for her, and shared my garden produce once they were too old to have a garden.  I would take her for drives to outlet stores and eat lunch out---doing things that she enjoyed.  And I stayed with her as much as I could during her last weeks.  Saying "I love you" doesn't mean much if your actions bely your words.

 

I bet they know you love them already, but a letter would be great

 

olga

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I say I love you to my parents out of a sense of duty I think.   I second maybe writing them - you don't have to tell them you love them, just tell them its something you find yourself unable to express but that you do truly appreciate them

 

sometimes just showing appreciation for what has been done   goes a long way

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Does acknowledging you love them and have dependency needs they fill somehow feel threatening?  Does their love towards you somehow feel like a threat?

 

Just a guess, probably wrong.

Edited by Stickler

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Does acknowledging you love them and have dependency needs they fill somehow feel threatening?  Does their love towards you somehow feel like a threat?

 

Just a guess, probably wrong.

No, you are actually very, very right.

 

I thank all of you for the ideas and insight. I will try to write a letter sometime today.

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Ah...

I believe it may be trauma-related then. I also fear the people I need and care about.

I have to make myself seek out connection with them consciously, because of that fear.

When I push myself past the fear, I end up feeling happier and less isolated, so there is a payoff.

Dunno if that would work for you.

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I find it hard to express affection towards my mum in certain ways too. I do not say ''I love you'', seldom hug her. I cringe when I *have to*. My mum has finally accepted.

 

I do say ''I appreciate...'' and ''Thank you for...'' a lot. Since a year, she does the same (we had quite a turbulent relationship when I was 18-24). I know she appreciates thoughtfulness, and we both know what we like. E.g., I love to have a big breakfast in the morning, so she often makes one for me, including scrambled eggs and fresh orange juice, and coffee. That is very special to me! She likes pastries and flowers, so every now and then I bring her some. When it's her birthday party and she invites her friends, I know that I will do most of the work.

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It took me years of wanting to say those words to my parents before I actually could, but once I did, it became much easier. Now, I say it without any trouble. YMMV

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