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wundayatta's avatar

What are the things about relationships you remember not understanding as a child?

Asked by wundayatta (58714points) January 19th, 2011

The whys and wherefores—things like divorcing parents or mom’s new boyfriend, or whatever.

When did you start to get more understanding of that childhood picture?

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24 Answers

Coloma's avatar

I never gave relationship stuff a thought as a child. I was too busy being a child. haha

I have come to understand my family dynamics and dysfunctions doing my ‘work’ over the years, but…relationship stuff, hmmm…about all I can say is I realize the ‘programming’ of the 50’s & 60’s Hollywood, ‘Leave it to Beaver’ crap and how it has impacted so many of us in our relationship expectations, or, should I say, delusions. lol

Rhodentette's avatar

When I was really little I didn’t understand the need for romantic relationships. Other relationships I took for granted and didn’t think too much about them.

I used to think that finding a partner was like choosing a toy – you’d look at a bunch of them and then decide which one you wanted and then you got it. It wasn’t till I was a bit older (maybe 8 or so) that I realised there was a give-and-take aspect to the choosing, that you didn’t just pick someone you liked and that meant they would automatically like you back.

I also didn’t understand how people I considered physically unattractive then could get partners. I thought you had to be stunningly beautiful to be “picked” by someone else.

So, yes, there was clearly a whole world of relationship stuff that I didn’t understand. Most of it stemming from, as I mentioned, my puzzlement about the need to be partnered up with someone in the first place.

auntydeb's avatar

Never understood why my Dad shouted at my Mum, then she had a go at me. She was also an absolute expert at biting back tears; tight lips, eyes pink… Nah, as a kid it was all a mystery and painful. Only in the last 4 years have the deepest, darkest reasons become apparent; I’m 51, she’s 85, glad to have some understanding ‘In The Living Years’, so to speak.

Listen to the song here with video, but it’s the lyric that cooks.

auntydeb's avatar

just listening to the damned thing now, has me in tears every time. That and ‘Two little boys’ by Rolf Harris… Thanks for the Q @wundayatta, a good one ;o)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I didn’t spend alot of time thinking about relationships.I had a good childhood. :)

Rhodentette's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille Why do you consider the two mutually exclusive? Just curious, not fractious.

wundayatta's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille I used those examples because I couldn’t think of anything else off the top of my head (I had just been reading the divorce question). But surely you weren’t born understanding everything about relationships? Wasn’t there anything that baffled you as a child, but you came to understand later?

Or are you be facetious? Sigh!

janbb's avatar

I didn’t understand how you could find enough things to talk to somebody about for your whole life.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I didn’t understand why my mom was subservient to my dad. Ever.

Coloma's avatar

@Simone….. It was the ‘programming.’

The biggest thing I have come to realize as a woman who came of age on the cusp of the feminist movement, is that women of my generation got FUCKED, bigtime! lol

We were expected to bring home the ‘bacon’ but still take the lions share of child raising and catering to our men like mommies. The vast majority of men paid ‘lip service’ to ‘equality’ but still acted like they were all that when it came to changing a diaper or pushing the broom around the kitchen. Needing massive amounts of praise because they were such awesome guy’s for their contributions.

One of the biggest reasons I divorced my ex who never let me forget he was ‘superior’ all the while being the biggest closet chauvinist to ever walk the planet.

No matter how hard I worked, in or outside of our home, he was ‘better’ because he earned more money, blah, blah, blah…ad nauseum.

Funny, but he has now remarried a woman who doesn’t work outside the home at all, so he can still be taken care of while retaining his ‘superior’ stance. Gah!


I have NEVER been happier being single! After all, what did I really have to lose except a 180 lb. baby. lol

CaptainHarley's avatar

My mother left my father and me right after I was born. I was raised by my father’s parents. Until I was about 18, I thought that I was the cause of their divorce. It took me a long time to understand that a newborn is totally innocent of “causing” anything.

Seelix's avatar

I didn’t understand why anyone would ever have sex unless they wanted a baby. I had no idea why it would be fun.

flutherother's avatar

I didn’t think about them at all. They were just there, as solid as mountains, the landscape of a happy childhood.

Rhodentette's avatar

I find it rather odd that thinking about relationships as a child is being equated with a less-than-happy childhood.

bobbinhood's avatar

I never understood why my sister kept dating abusive douchebags. I also didn’t understand why she was willing to put all of her money into paying their child support to keep them out of jail when it caused her to lose everything she had, destroyed her credit, and they never gave anything to the relationship. I still don’t really get it, but I understand that people are willing to do a lot for love and hope, even when the situation is clearly hopeless.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Why parents would stay together “for the kids” when most kids I knew with troubled parents wished their parents would divorce and get on with it. The tension caused by parents trying to alleviate guilt and hurt done by sticking around “for the kids” is huge and I don’t see where it’s worth it but people still give it a good try.

KhiaKarma's avatar

I had a pretty turbulent (less than happy) childhood and I don’t remember thinking so much about relationships. I was really in my own world….

Smashley's avatar

I didn’t think too much about it until I started getting horny at around 12. Sex, girlfriends, marriage, they were all just things that old people did, and I could figure them out when I came to it. That said, I certainly recognized dysfunctional families, and what it was about them that made it so toxic.

auntydeb's avatar

@Rhodentette – re ‘relationships as a child being equated with a less than happy…’ Two things: one is in being asked the question as an adult, so to recall the most important relationships from childhood, is likely to be with parents (or guardians). If that relationship was coloured, tainted, or even just tinted, by fury or abuse, it will still reside in one’s memory as difficult. Of course, these were not the only relationships, but the question (forgive me @wundayatta !) is leading.

The other thing is that if one’s childhood was not consistently ‘happy’ (I love @flutherother‘s ‘mountains’ analogy, beautiful and enviable), but fraught with real fear, or terrifying emotional wastes, it can take a good deal of hard work as an adult to fish out the bits that were happy, or ‘good’. So an answer to @wundayatta‘s Q would still have some darker content. This draws attention, providing the obvious or noteable answer.

It is not by choice, but circumstance. After all, do we choose the context of our birth? It does not necessarily mean there is no forgiveness, or love, but that was not the question!

wundayatta's avatar

@auntydeb I sometimes find it very hard to avoid writing a leading question. I like to give examples of what I mean, because I’ve found that things tend not to be helpful if I don’t explain what I’m looking for, and the easiest way to explain is by example. Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to be well-rounded in my examples, and thus it becomes a leading question.

Here’s another example (but I hope not a leading one) of what I find useful: @Seelix comment that she didn’t understand why anyone would have sex except for a baby. I wondered the exact same thing when I was eight years old, right after my parents had taken me and my siblings to see a movie about where babies come from. To this day, the answer my father gave me kind of creeps me out. He said, “Because it’s pleasurable.”

Pleasurable. The word feels slimy on my tongue whenever I say it. Even thinking it makes me shiver. Sometimes I find myself using the word without really thinking about it, and then, when I notice, all those feelings of weirdness come back.

He was right, of course. And yet, it’s so much more than that. I think that word sounds so dry compared to what is really going on in a relationship where people also love each other. Maybe it’s that separation of pleasure from love that makes me feel icky. It’s a very strong feeling, and it makes it hard for me to understand how people can enjoy purely recreational sex.

There is always a relationship, and that is something I didn’t understand, probably until now when I just wrote it. It may be a very diaphanous relationship, but it is still there and it is what enables people to have their “recreation,” even if most of it is a fantasy they don’t share with their partner.

Complex stuff. Stuff I had no clue about, even five years ago. I mean, I knew it was there, but I really didn’t feel like I could understand it at all.

What is frustrating to me, though, is that so many of my explanations do not require the person to be aware of what is going on. So they can deny the utility of my explanation and yet it can still be useful to me, and sometimes to them, after they give it due consideration (or I browbeat them with it, lol).

Anyway, that’s one (or some) of the things I’ve learned about relationships that I didn’t understand as a child. It is another example, too, of what I was hoping for. Even so, it is also a leading example. I usually refrain from putting my own take on one of my questions for a while, to see what develops, because I don’t want to unduly influence the responses. But here it is. It’s my take. Anyone else’s take is equally valid, although not all are equally useful to me. That’s par for the course, here.

auntydeb's avatar

absolutely no judgement intended on your Q @wundayatta, only included the line to explain my own. The Q is clear, the answers never will be. We each have our own experience, our own truth – and memories that make us feel ‘icky’ too!

genkan's avatar

I didn’t understand how my mum could talk on the phone for so long. Or talk to another adult for so long. It was so boring! I never had the attention span to listen to her conversations. I’d just get restless and squirm.

Sayd_Whater's avatar

I was really young, maybe 3, and I still remember the shock in everybody’s faces when I asked if my older brother and sister were married… LoOoL… I remembering having to explain my question and saying that if my mother was in a relationship with my father, my older brother should also be in a relationship with my older sister, just like Donald Duck and Miss Daisy… But yeah… Everyone made sure I wouldn’t fall in that stupid conclusion again… lolol

Inspired_2write's avatar

Because of our language differences we misunderstoond our Granfather’s comments ‘that we are all Bastards”! ( he spoke French and we spoke English only).

I always thought that he was a very rude person when I met him ( once and last time as he passed away soon after).
I now know that he was trying to tell us that we descended from an ‘illegitimate” line.
( the female had an illegitimate child out of wedlock in the year 1707 and from that son , our family descended).
Thinking on it now, it is quite funny, as we thought that he was yelling at us?

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