I Have A Messy Dating Life & It’s All Because Of My Toxic Parents

Growing up, I was the kid who was never allowed to do ANYTHING because my parents were so strict and insisted on keeping me sheltered. I couldn’t go to sleepovers, eat junk food, or stay out late — and I definitely couldn’t date. In fact, my parents didn’t want me to do anything at all and did everything they could to ensure I lacked the confidence and courage to get out in the world. Unfortunately, now that I’m in my mid-20s, my love life is really suffering because of it.

  1. I never think I’m enough. Thanks to Mom and Dad, I second guess myself constantly, which has really affected my relationships. Sometimes something will happen, like my boyfriend asking me to move in with him or to meet his family, and I’ll always say that I’m not ready for it. Little does he know it’s really because I don’t think I’m good enough.
  2. I get defensive very easily. I don’t take criticism very well, especially when it comes from my boyfriend. Thanks to my parents who always had something negative to say about me, the second my partner merely suggests that I change something about myself, my guard immediately goes up. It makes honest communication in my relationships really difficult.
  3. I have trouble communicating my true feelings. I always feel like I need to lie in order to make my partner happy. When I was a little kid and I got upset or angry, my parents would explain all the reasons why I shouldn’t be feeling that way. Now when I feel those “bad” emotions, I immediately cover them up. It makes it hard to freely express myself to my boyfriend when I have that feeling of shame pretty much ingrained in me.
  4. I was a late bloomer because I wasn’t allowed to date. I didn’t start dating until I was about 21. Even when I was in college and could freely date, I still felt like I couldn’t. It was almost as if I would get in trouble if my parents found out (even though they weren’t even around). Not being allowed to date made for a very awkward high school experience and once I got to college, I just plain and simply didn’t think I was desirable. I mean, who would want to date a square with pretty much zero sexual experience? I’d never even kissed a boy at that point. I felt like a total and utter loser, and sometimes those feelings of not being enough still creep in.
  5. I have a hard time accepting nice gestures. When my boyfriend offers to pay for me, compliments me, or gives me a gift, I have a really hard time accepting it. I’ll think of all the ways I can return the favor or pay him back because it’s only a matter of time before he’s going to start resenting me. My parents only gave me things or praised me conditionally. They would always hold things over my head, like, “Remember that time I bought you a Gameboy? Now clean your room.” I always get suspicious when my boyfriend treats me extra nice, like he’s doing it to manipulate me even if it’s coming from a totally innocent and loving place.
  6. Part of me doesn’t believe it when someone has a crush on me. I remember in 4th grade, there was a boy in my class who had a crush on me. When I found out, I didn’t do the normal thing most 10-year-old girls would do and jump up and down in excitement — I bowed my head in embarrassment, afraid that everyone would know and judge me for it. I get suspicious when people like me because my parents treated me like I wasn’t worthy of love. Even to this day, I have a hard time believing that anyone could love me without a catch.
  7. I find a way to sabotage all of my relationships. Whenever a relationship gets too good I ALWAYS find an excuse to end it. I think it’s because a part of me thinks that I don’t deserve something THAT amazing. I’ll think that my parents will find out that I’m happy and will find a way to tear me down anyway, so what’s the point? That sounds so crazy when I type it out… but that’s literally the thought that goes through my head.
  8. I have a hard time trusting new lovers. My parents never trusted me to do anything, so why should I trust myself, let alone, my partner? I get so weirdespecially in the beginning of relationships. I always need to know where my partner is, who they’re with, how long they’ll be gone. Wow, I sound like my mom right now. You would think that after being controlled for all those years, I’d try my best NOT to control my partner, but I can’t help it — it’s all driven by the fear of not being good enough that my parents have instilled in me since birth.
  9. I don’t believe in happy endings. I have this expectation that any relationship I get into will end badly because, as my parents like to say, “That’s just the way life is.” I wasn’t raised to think that I can have whatever I wanted in life — I was raised to assume that everyone is out to get me and to not get too comfortable because it’s all just going to end anyway.
  10. I believe that if I’m not perfect, I don’t deserve to be in a relationship at all. Growing up, I was always told to not even try if you’re not the best. This heavily affects my relationships today. If I don’t feel like I’m at my best, then I don’t believe that anyone would want me or want to be around me. I have this weird need to be perfect like all the time and if I show any signs of weakness, I have this fear that my boyfriend’s going to drop me in a snap. I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea that there are people out there who will love me no matter what. My parents just always taught me otherwise.
Jennifer is a playwright, dancer, and theatre nerd living in the big city of Toronto, Canada. She studied Creative Writing at Concordia University and works as a lifestyle writer who focuses on Health, B2B, Tech, Psychology, Science, Food Trends and Millennial Life. She's also a coreographer, playwright, and lyricist, with choreography credits for McMaster University’s “Spring Awakening,” “Roxanne” for the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival, and “The Beaver Den” for The LOT, among others.

You can see more of her work on her Contently page and follow her on Instagram @jenniferenchin.