When Too Much Love Makes You Feel Unloved
“I love you, Mom,” one of my kids often says to me.
It should be something that warms a mother’s heart; something that makes you want to go “Aw,” pull your child close, and tell them that you love them too.
But for me, I have the opposite reaction. It annoys me.
I interpret it as a ploy for attention, a way to get me to reciprocate the sentiment, an expression of insecurity. I feel manipulated by his words.
Often, I barely respond to him with a half-hearted smile.
My poor child.
My other son loves to shower me with physical affection.
He’ll sometimes surprise me with a kiss or hug. He’ll snuggle up with me, or sit on my lap. He’ll get excited when warm weather comes and he has access to my bare arms—kissing them, stroking them, squeezing and “chubbying” them.
I suppose I should appreciate the affection.
But I don’t. It irritates me.
I experience his kiss like a vampire’s bite, sucking and bleeding me dry with his neediness. I feel both smothered and drained by his loving touches.
Often, I recoil when he tries to embrace me.
My poor children.
I wonder why I feel so allergic to their expressions of love.
Perhaps it’s because I was starved of loving words and touches as a child. Maybe the lack of exposure when I was younger has made me hypersensitive, unable to endure verbal and physical affection except in the smallest of doses.
My senses are simply overstimulated by my children’s exuberant love due to long disuse.
Or maybe it’s some trauma that I’ve suppressed that keeps me from receiving tenderness like a normal person.
Or maybe it’s just my unsentimental personality.
Whatever the reason, it seems a strange problem to have—wanting less love, not more.
What is a mother to do when the love of her children depletes her instead of nourishes her?
I already tried politely swallowing down their affection, distasteful as it often was to me. It only left me feeling more resentful.
I tried accepting their actions and words as gifts instead of demands. Their good intentions still haven’t gone from my head to my heart.
I’m getting tired of playing the part of a good mom—
one who stays strong, stays hidden, and ignores her own feelings for fear of hurting her children’s.
I think I’m ready to be an honest mom—
one who admits her vulnerability, allows herself to be seen, and entrusts her children as partners in the relationship.
Our kids don’t need us to fake it. They need us to tell the truth.
It’s time to finally admit to myself and my kids that in order for me to feel more loved, I need less loving.
I need to say,
When I’m in the middle of something and you say “I love you,” I don’t feel ready to receive it. Could you wait until I have a moment to give you my full attention and connection?
I don’t like it when you just grab my arm and go to town on it. I feel like you’re using my body. Please ask me first if you can kiss me.
It may seem harsh and selfish, like I’m rejecting my children’s love for the sake of my own comfort.
But by telling the truth, I’ll be teaching them about bodily autonomy, consent, and respecting people’s boundaries. I’ll be modeling the need for communication in relationships. I’ll be empowering them to respond to the needs of others.
My honesty about my needs and preferences will hopefully show them that they can be honest with theirs as well.
Maybe that makes me a good mom after all.