However, Tom is acutely aware of the intimacy differential and in the contrast in the amount of time spent with his mother as opposed to his father. He finds himself consciously seeking to engage his dad in conversation whenever he can (dependent on whether he has sufficient emotional energy). It is quite evident that his father is very aware of this differential as well.
This mutual but unspoken awareness lends to their dialogues an undercurrent of strained awkward artificiality. When speaking they usually conspire to confine their conversation to fairly safe neutral topics such as sport or current affairs.
It is likely that if Tom is home for a few days (eg Christmas/New Year), the unresolved issues and tensions between father and son will erupt into a brisk, fiery confrontation which, when terminated, will be swept from view never to be discussed or reflected upon.
Improving the Relationship with your Parent
Visit over, Tom is usually moderately emotionally exhausted, somewhat depressed, and consequently eager and relieved to be leaving. Depressed because he loves his father, and once again has failed to achieve the sort of warm and friendly relationship for which he is longing.
In therapy with me Tom expressed his disappointment and frustration that whenever he “goes home” to his parents, he feels cramped and claustrophobic. He finds it almost impossible to be the person that he experiences himself to be with his friends and colleagues; it is as if he regresses back to being a child when visiting the parental home.
This experience is a very common one, although perhaps not on as dramatic a scale as Tom’s. The great majority of adult children struggle, often unsuccessfully, to establish an adult relationship with their parents.
The reasons for this are complex, but essentially it is because within each of us there is still a small child that feels subject to our parents’ authority and opinions – and whenever we encounter our adult parents, this child state is triggered. This is especially so if we have suffered significant abuse at the hands of one or both parents.
If the brief description above connects with your own experience, I would be very happy to assist you to explore the emotional terrain of your relationship with your parents.
This will usually involve coming in on your own to talk about the difficulties you experience in relating to one or both parents; identifying that inner child; discussing ways of reassuring that child; helping that child to “grow up” to establish an adult relationship with their parents; and finally, if it seems appropriate, to invite your parent(s) in to counselling to assist both you and your parent(s) to establish a new sort of relationship satisfactory to both.
Author: Matthew Ryan, B Psych (Hons), MA (Marriage & Family Therapy).
Matt Ryan is a psychologist with over 25 years of experience, and has seen great success in helping adult children to work through the complexities of their relationship with their parents.
To book an appointment with Matthew Ryan call 1800 877 924 or book online today!
*Not real name