Am I doomed to a life of difficult relationships due to my past?
I was raised by parents who were emotionally neglectful. My father, while physically around, was never involved in my life. My mother was somewhat more involved, but we never connected, and I never felt safe with her or anyone else in my home — or in life for that matter. I had many insecurities growing up, and I never felt good enough.
Baruch Hashem, I’m working on myself, with the support of a therapist, and have reached a good place. However, it’s a slow, painful, difficult process. Did I mention slow?
Despite what I’ve achieved through therapy, I’m still scared for the future. Now I’m in my twenties, and I’m still single. As life progresses, I’m scared of replaying the unresolved issues I have from the past. My question is, can I ever get to a point where life is just easy, when I don’t have to struggle? I always struggled and never had childhood innocence. Does it ever get easier? Can I ever experience happiness, loving relationships, or am I doomed to a life of difficult relationships due to my past?
I’ve got good news for you: Life can get better and better, every day. We’re here to learn, and as we learn, we become happier, more successful, healthier, and stronger in every way. There are those who seem defeated by life, stuck, miserable and bitter. If we’re not striving to improve, it’s true we may end up in a bad way. But it’s not life events that break our spirit; it’s our reaction to them that causes our growth or our downfall.
You’re already on the right path, seeking therapy, developing self-awareness, asking the right questions. Hashem has provided you with resources and will do so on every step of your journey.
Of course, Hashem has also sent you many struggles and — spoiler alert — will continue to do that as well. There is no easy path in life. Those pictures of smiling happy couples that look out at you from fundraising posters and wedding albums are just photographs — a snap of an orchestrated moment in time. Every marriage is complicated and challenging, as Hashem designed it to be. Every parent-child relationship is blessed with joy and worry and stress and difficulty. Every home and every life is multifaceted and complex — nothing is ever black and white.
So no, you won’t get to a point where life will become easy, blissful, and struggle-free — at least not until Mashiach comes.
Nonetheless, as I said originally, you can expect your life to constantly improve because you’re a growing person. You’ll figure out, sooner than others, that no one’s perfect and that’s okay. You’ll learn to be compassionate and forgiving toward yourself and toward your loved ones, which will go a long way toward reducing conflict and maintaining harmony. You’ll learn about the importance and validity of your own emotions, which will guide you on the path that’s right for you and will protect you from depression, anxiety and physical illness.
I know this because you’re involved in a therapeutic process, and these are all expected outcomes from that “slow, painful, and difficult” journey inward. But this is only your starting point. Therapy ends, but the tools you’ll acquire will always be yours to use as future challenges arise. Knowing how to process feelings, make decisions, reach out for help, reach inward for support — all of this will help you to land on your feet again and again.
I’m guessing your parents weren’t blessed with the opportunity you’ve had to do this work and gain its benefits. Your own home and relationships can look very different from theirs as you continue to keep your eye on your goals, draw on the experiences Hashem wanted you to have, and absorb the treasures pulled out of the ruins of a painful childhood.
It’s not psychological savvy that will save the day. Our true strength comes from Hashem — our Teacher, Helper, Shield, and Guide. Many of our greatest sages had extremely difficult childhoods! The notion that we’re victims isn’t a Jewish idea. We’re learners, growers, fighters, leaders, and more. With Hashem at your side, everything is possible, including living a life of purpose, fulfillment, and joy. May Hashem bless you with strength and wisdom for the journey ahead.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 830)
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