On average it takes a woman seven attempts to leave an abusive man. Yes, that is the reality of the abused woman and the trauma cycle that she lives in believing that what she is experiencing from her partner is love. She may even find a feeling of coming home, security, and familiarity in this toxic relationship, but why you may wonder?
I want to clarify that the word abusive often has us think about physical abuse or sexual, however an abusive situation has many realms that we are understanding more as we study the nature of toxic relationship. For reference to this writing here, I am generalizing the term to cover all forms of abusive interactions within a relationship, and please note that even though I am speaking about the female victim, any of the items that I share here can pertain to a man that is being abused by a woman as well.
Why do some people feel familiar or even secure in some way in a toxic relationship?
One answer to this relationship dynamic is in the title of this essay. I share this today with you because I was an overprotected child and I have bounced from one type of abusive, controlling and toxic relationship to the next. It has taken me many years of deep self-work and education as well as working with hundreds of women in similar situations to become accepting of the reality that my loving parents who had all the best intent to keep me safe and out of harms ways from the evils of our world actually were at the root cause of my attraction to all the wrong men in my teen and adult years. The lessons that they taught me and the personality traits that were developed because of their desire to keep me so safe linger in every waking hour of my life and will never be fully overcome in truth, because these aspects of me are all I have ever known, they have created a familiar ground of comfort that catches me in its dangerous trap and I have to constantly be aware of it, so that I can turn away from its familiarity and comfort and push myself to step courageously into a more dynamic strong aspect of myself.
I grew up in a village you could say of maybe one hundred people in Northern California, I was homeschooled until third grade and only had one friend until that point. A little boy who lived across the field that I was allowed to play with. I would sit in my tree house everyday and watch the school kids play basketball and play on the playground. Their laughter was intoxicating to me, I wanted so badly to run and jump with them but my parents told me that they were bad influences, unruly and that the school system was nothing to be trusted. So, I grew up fearing society, the system and my peers. I had my mother and father and my one friend plus our cats and our German Shepard, Luke, who I told all my secrets to.
I still recall at age seven when my half brother came to visit. It was the first time that I met him, he lived in another state with his dad and was sixteen years older than myself. Although my parents had other children, they were from former marriages and I was raised as an only child not knowing my siblings. So there I was, seven years old and my just discovered brother walked me to the gas station at the end of the road and bought me a Sunkist Orange soda. I was so excited! It was my very first soda pop and it tasted so good. But then my father found out and was enraged that my brother had put this poison in my body. He told me about the dangers of soda and sugar and that I should not consume that stuff. And so I became frightened of such substances and yet still intrigued.
I could go on and on with all the little and yet not so little things that my parents “saved” me from, but certainly these two items illustrate how my parents chose to parent me when dealing with the outside world. When I was finally allowed to attend normal school it was first a Christian based small school that had maybe three hundred students in total covering kindergarten through 8th grade. Although my parents were not religious, they wanted the best education for me and wanted me to get the proper attention and support that I deserved , so no public school would do. Not to mention, the corruption of the system and bad behavior of students that I would have to witness. Third grade only proved my parents correct in their fear of needing to protect their little girl all the more, because it would be the year that I would also have my first sleep over at a new friends house and be molested by her older brother, it would also be the year that that same boy would retaliate at my telling on him by breaking my arm on the school playground and the year that the school secretary would run away with the principle and all the money. It would be the year that my math teacher would swat the top of my hands with a ruler for getting my times tables wrong and stand me in the corner for not wanting to participate in the spelling B. I was told that I was unmanageable because I had my own opinions about such treatment and told-on my teachers.
The lessons of third grade would linger for decades to come, establishing that I should not have a voice and that I was wrong for my feelings. It would also prove to me that my parents were right in their fear and anxiety of what the world was about. I saw its dangers and I also saw how when this “bad stuff” happened to me that my loving, protective parents would battle for me. Next to that they also love bombed me with things to make my pain and fear go away in the name of support. And they would sweep me quickly under their wings to save me. They wanted to assure me that they were there for me and that I was not alone.
Granted what I experienced in third grade was completely unacceptable, and I would react much the same way as what my parents did if any one of my own children experienced the same. The point I want to make here, is that they in all their love, support and protection of me
“over saved me” from the real world. My tale of being over-saved does not end in third grade, I grew to learn how to mask when something was wrong in my world because I started to become fearful of upsetting my parents. It pained me to see that when things happened to me, or I got something wrong that my parents would struggle and worry so deeply. I wanted to have some freedom and so it required me to hide what my true feelings, thoughts or even needs were in order to keep my parents’ anxiety at bay and make life more peaceful.
My father by his own definition would proudly say, “I am protective just the way a father should be.” As true as his statement is, his pride in being overprotective taught me:
- That love was being controlled, even smothered in some ways.
- Love required me to get things right and not let him down.
- If I get hurt, it hurts him, so don’t get hurt. Or don’t tell if you get hurt.
- It’s not safe in the world so fear everything. Stay aware and do not drop your armor for anyone.
- If you don’t want to be rejected, reinvent yourself to fit what is required to be accepted.
- Love is keeping your head down and always being understanding to the other person’s feelings and emotions, because chances are you are responsible for them anyway.
- Know how much those who love you do for you. What have you done for them?
My father was a deeply reactive man as well. If he did not like the direction of something, felt disrespected or threatened, then his inner warrior nature was in full force in less than a second. This is fantastic for actual moments of combat or danger, however when parenting your daughter this nature often teaches your child to tread lightly. Unfortunately, the result is a daughter in this case, who learns how to mimic, repress and act. My vigilance center from the youngest of ages quickly developed into noticing the slightest little changes in personality, action or even micro expressions that could signal that he was not happy about something.
Ninety-eight percent of the time, he was not upset with me even, he was upset about some wrongdoing that happened in the world, our home, or to me. Nonetheless I learned that if I loved him, which I did, that I needed to not inflict such pain on him that created this state of being and so I started to swallow my troubles and just be good with things. I was a good student as I wanted to please my parents, I wanted their attention and adoration. I loved to have the spotlight on me with my parents boasting about my good doings, however I also learned that if things did go bad that after my parents had done what they needed too, to save me that it would be followed up with gifts and treats.
Teaching me that love bombing was a positive thing that was based in love and care and was fully acceptable after a threat had passed and a high emotional outburst or protective action had been done. Love bombing equated to care and support.
I struggled with anxiety in school. Social, test taking, around any change or anything that pushed me into feeling uncomfortable about the event or new experience. I learned to survive by being sweet, a people pleaser, helpful and not to speak up about too much. I stayed clear of boys, parties, drugs and booze until I graduated for the most part and even then I only became interested in one boy who I quickly gave my heart to and closed my eyes to any other options. The reality was that guys scared me. My mom had forewarned me of their nature and how dangerous they were, she told me horror stories and I certainly did not want anything of the sort. However, as I matured into my late teens I desired to be loved differently. My parents had separated, and my father was out of my life for the most part, only seeing him here and there and realizing that every time I did see him, I felt like a disappointment to him. I wanted someone who would love me the way he used to, who saw me and smiled, wanted to spend time with me, take care of me, “save me”, protect me and tell me how much they adored me.
We All Got Daddy Issues but Mom Is Not Off the Hook
As is the story of many women, we are attracted to the dynamic of our father. We all got “daddy issues” whether we want to admit it or not and our primary intimate relationship reveals to us the good and bad aspects of those issues. For the purpose of this discussion here, we are focusing on the protectiveness that fathers should and do have of their daughters, however, do not be fooled. The overprotective mother of a daughter teaches a multitude of programs as well and sets in play other things. Depending on the mother-daughter relationship and the boundaries that are there, being healthy or not, we women can learn unhealthy conditioning around what it means to be a woman. More importantly an emotionally mature and healthy woman.
If our mothers are overbearing, needy and not able to act from an emotionally healthy state then chances are relationship boundaries will get crossed and they will not be noticed as toxic for years to come. What do I mean by this you may wonder.
- As women we want to be our daughters’ friends as well. However, the issue can come when our daughters are our “person” or bestie. It’s wonderful that she can tell us anything, and we want it that way in many cases, however it becomes toxic when mom is confiding everything to her daughter like a dear friend or therapist. This can sabotage the greater relationship dynamic and create a co-dependency on both sides.
- Moms who are overly needy can also show up with an overbearing nature that can be revealed in control, having to know every detail of their daughters lives and can also come out in a form of jealousy. This reveals itself often when the daughter starts to date and introduces a new personality of herself to the mother/family. You see this in mother-daughter relationships where the mother has an issue with the daughter choosing her partner over her mother or the family. Unfortunately, this will create a pull away from the daughter and also increase the possibility of not getting truthful communication as the daughter will fear upsetting her mother.
- As women, the majority of us have fallen victim to some bad intimate relationship in our history book. One of the main issues that we may struggle with as mothers to daughters is not allowing our own trauma to leak into our concerns of what our daughter may experience. News flash moms of the world, our daughters more than likely will experience some crappy situations and we cannot save them from these events. However, we can hold space, share appropriately about things and be there to help guide them to helpful resources. All the storytelling in the world of our bad experiences will not prevent their life stories from unfolding, after all the young think themselves wiser than their elders even when they do not say it aloud. If we let our trauma ripple into their life stories, we only relive the triggers and stories ourselves and create a state of victim consciousness that our daughters cannot respect nor listen to but will feel at home within a strange way. Opening the door to possible toxic intimate relationships dynamics for our daughters.
Overprotective Parenting Outcomes for Our Daughters in Adult Years
“Parental overprotection is associated with prescription medication use for depression and the recreational consumption of pain pills in college students.” — LeMayne T, Buchanan (Does Hovering Matter? Helicopter parenting and Its Effect on Wellbeing”
What can you gain from this mini essay?
What should be your takeaway in simple bullet points so that you can work on the skills of healthy parent relationships with your daughter?
Or if you are a daughter, what do you need to look further in on when doing your healing work around why you keep being attracted to toxic relationships?
The psychological effects of overprotective parenting can be significant and as you can see can and will impact a person for their lifetime. The biggest area that you see the impact that ripples out into almost every other area of adult life for sure is in the personal growth and development of the young woman.
The 9 key points to understand about overprotective parentings impact on a daughter:
- Worry & Anxiety — Studies have consistently shown that children that are overprotected are more prone to recurrent, dysfunctional and rigid forms of negative thinking which are signs of generalized anxiety. This is often created because the overprotective parenting style is more than likely biased to the parents view on threats, perceived danger and even sensitivity to their child’s distress. The overprotective parents elevated consistent high stress levels, keeping in the forefront of the child’s mind the recurring thought of danger and creating anxiety, fear and worry in the child.
- Lack of Coping Skills — How do we learn anything? By being faced with the situation and problem solving our way out of it. However overprotective parents prevent their child from developing such independent coping skills by putting their child into a bubble and shielded from the real world. Some exposure to risks and challenges allows the child’s coping mechanisms to mature so that in the future they can handle such things as heartbreak, adversities, failures and even unhappiness with resilience. Such is not the story for an overprotected child. Overprotected children are used to having the parents deal with everything and so they are not prepared for what life may bring to them, these are skills that must be developed over the course of childhood and into adult years, however many overprotective parents try to stagger out such “challenges” for their children and only present what they deem “age appropriate” challenges, creating an adult who will crumble under minor or major obstacles alike.
- Social Anxiety & Phobia — Overprotective parenting tends to create an individual that has less competent social skills. They are also more likely to suffer from social anxiety or social phobia, which is characterized by fear and avoidance of social situations. This condition is usually accompanied by an excessive preoccupation with fears of rejection, criticism, or embarrassment which stems from the overprotective parenting style that enforces that the world is dangerous.
- Fearful of Failure — Overprotective parents will do almost anything to ensure that their child does not fail. They often go out of their way to protect their child even when not asked. Many overprotected children are afraid to make mistakes. They are reluctant to get out of their comfort zones fearing rejection, failure or pain. Often turning away from many opportunities because of this fear. Instead of solving problems on their own and dealing with different hardships and challenges they become dependent on their parents, in later years they become dependent on their mates.
- Low Self- Esteem and Self-Motivation– Outside of the increased occurrence of anxiety and depression in overprotected children it is also shown that these individuals struggle with high risks of developing low self-esteem and self-motivation. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in its publication on “Self-Esteem as an interpersonal monitor: The sociometer hypothesis,” it is shown that we as people develop our sense of self-esteem based largely on how others treat us in our interactions with them. What we see with overprotected children is that they are not given the opportunity to develop autonomy and a sense of competence around their accomplishments and experiences or problem solving because they have constantly been monitored and protected. This creates the belief that they are not good enough or capable to manage their life by themselves.
- Indecisive — Women already have an issue with being overly agreeable by our nature and have a difficult time making decisions often as we are based in emotion. An overprotected child as well suffers from this and if that child is a female, then it is tenfold on the ability to make a clear decision. Overprotected children are rarely given the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, so as they grow, they are either uncomfortable with making a decision or fearful of making the wrong choice, which can impact self-motivation, clarity or trust in self.
- Entitlement and/or Narcissism — I prefer to look at this as emotional immaturity. As life manages to teach us that we are not the center of the universe, however the issue with overprotective parenting is that the child knows that they are the center of their parents’ universe and can learn that it is okay to demand for things in the ways that they have learned that works best. All children certainly attempt this; however the overprotective parent has trouble witnessing their child in any sort of pain or issue so are more likely to cave to their child’s requests and may not see the manipulation game that the child is playing to get their way. In adult years this translates to an adult that has trouble in their relationships when their friends or partners have a difference of opinion with them or do not show up in the relationship putting the overprotected child at center stage in their life.
- Functional Somatic Symptoms — Overprotective children are more likely to develop FSS such as pain, fatigue and gastrointestinal issues.
- OCD Issues — Overprotective children are more prone to developing OCD as a result of their fear of not being good enough, being embarrassed or getting it wrong. This can even stem into eating disorders where their focus becomes about their physical presentation not ever being good enough.
So here we have nine key points on overprotective parenting and what it can and does do to our child. If we look at what the common grounds for a woman who is attracted to toxic intimate relationships, then what we discover is that the majority of women suffer from:
- Worry & Anxiety
- Ignoring warning signs — not listening to their intuition or gut.
- Moving quickly into a relationship
- Weak boundaries around time, space, emotions, sex, money
- Making excuses for others — taking too much personal blame
- Issues with guilt or shame
- Struggles with worthiness
- Are people pleasers
- Tendency to be avoidant of problems
- Good at masking, hiding emotions or using drugs, pharmaceuticals or alcohol to cope.
- Relies on your partner or others for happiness or confidence, not meeting your own needs.
- Deep fear of being alone.
- Many women suffer from depression and/or functional somatic symptoms
Many more things make certain women targets for the abusive relationship partner; however these are among some of the most common and the majority of them can stem from childhood upbringing as you can see. Our parents did the best they could out of love for us. However, there is no such thing as the perfect parent or parenting style. We are all victims born and nurtured by victims. It is up to us as grown individuals who are no longer accepting of these programs and triggers to take the self-responsibility to let go of our past programs and to dive deep into our core programs with assistance from coaches, therapists and many incredible practices available to heal our inner children that are drawn home to these unhealthy relationship formats. Blaming our parents, elders or even our past toxic relationships will do us no good, it will only keep us entrapped in the vicious cycle of trauma creation where we remain a victim to life and unloving to ourselves.
Having the courage to unearth where the threads of attraction to toxicity got started, seeing these threads for what they are and understanding the good and bad aspects of them provided us the ability to know ourselves with greater clarity and acceptance. From there we can rewrite our life scripts and create a brighter today as well as tomorrow where we become the author of our lives instead of the victim.
For all the daughters out there, who have wondered “why” and have looked at your parents and said, “I don’t understand, I am from a good and loving home. I have been supported and cared for all my life. Why do I allow myself to get caught in these abusive relationships?” Perhaps it is time to explore your past and I hope that this mini essay is insightful on your healing path.
To all the parents out there of daughters who are in toxic situations in their love life, know that your love is enough for her. That is the support that she needs as a grown woman. Stand strong, you have done your best and forgive yourself for not knowing what you did not know. Our intent as parents is to protect and nurture our babies, as it should be and is designed. We are not born nor taught openly the impact of our choices or ways. All you can do today for your daughter is to be there and learn from your past with her. See where you can grow and make the alterations needed in your adult relationship with her that will be supportive and not overprotective.
Loving you from here always.
Stop Existing & Start Living
Rene’ Schooler, Relationship Expert Coach and Mentor
Want to dive deeper into healing your relationship woes or understanding the programs and triggers that create the life and love that you have today? Reach out to me for a discovery call to discuss this and see how coaching can benefit your life story.