I was institutionalized from birth to age 10, when I bolted from the orphanage to where my mother lived.
Until then, my exposure to her had only been a bi-weekly visit to the orphanage. Now she had to provide permanent sanctuary.
From age 10 to 19, our living conditions were very sparse. I always felt distant from her. I was the one who was supposed to initiate affection while, as the mother, the beginnings of a relationship should’ve started with her.
Throughout my life, I’ve been emotionally warped although I’ve had a desire to do good. I attribute this to my early years in the orphanage’s Catholic faith. From it, I have a very strong belief in God.
My question: Would I have been able to love with all love’s requirements of sacrifice and devotion?
In my two serious relationships, both women were passionately in love with me. My first love passed away and I now wish I’d been more responsive to her emotional needs!
My present love is extremely passionate about our relationship. But I sometimes worry that my awkwardness seeps through and she might be aware that all isn’t right.
Is it my selfishness, or a throwback from my first three years of life (the crucial years) that prevents me from loving?
Call Me Joe
A cold, deprived childhood in the formative years, is a sad beginning for any child.
But, as adults, many such people find circumstances or supports that help them overcome. In your case, the Catholic Church gave you faith.
Then, two separate women have loved you deeply and passionately. So you know what love is from both the soul and the heart.
Your question is a brave outreach. It’s not too late to follow this quest to its natural requirement.
If anyone would benefit from counselling about the effect of their past on their present, it’s you - now long past your childhood, and with a deep inner need/desire to give love.
Too selfish? No, more likely too scared, instead.
But this is a conversation, not the necessary therapy with someone trained to help you heal from the past and love in the present and future.
Go for it. You can get pastoral counselling through your faith, a community agency’s counselling help, or search online for a psychotherapist experienced with adults affected by early institutionalization.
You’ll know pretty quickly if you’ve found the right “fit” for the counselling or need to try someone else.
The journey will be worth it.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding dating a caring and loving, but not very good–looking guy:
“There’s nothing wrong with not being attracted to a date, even if he's a wonderful person.
“I dated a guy with many qualities that I was looking for but I felt little attraction for him. When it was just the two of us on a date, it was fine and interesting, but when we were around other people, I kept looking at other men, with him obviously hurt.
“We dated for a long time, with me hoping that maybe a spark will eventually appear but it never did.
“Sensing my lack of enthusiasm, he dropped me first.
“A couple of years later, he seriously wanted to get back together, but I refused. Luckily, I did manage to find the right person eventually!
“Also, my former boyfriend eventually found the woman who was more right for him and able to appreciate him more fully.”
What I expect for Christmas: My brother, 26, will talk throughout our family dinner, about his great job, dates, travels, etc.
I’m 23, getting my Master’s degree in Health Sciences, with great marks and opportunities in the lab. But no one wants to hear about it by comparison.
I love my brother but he always steals the spotlight. How can I inform my family of the exciting projects I’m working on that’ll one day improve their health and longevity?
Try using humour. Create a Christmas Letter to the family, name some general highlights of the past year - e.g. a winning sports team in your city (easy for Toronto - the Raptors!), plus upbeat/amusing facts about some other family interests.
Then, list your own successes. Leave a large space at the bottom, titled, “Now for my Favourite Brother’s Christmas Message!”
Circulate this before dinner (but only if your bro has a sense of humour).
Tip of the day:
When you feel blocked from the ability to feel love, get professional help to deal with the reasons.