Children of Alcoholics Have Intimacy Issues

Real Stories From Children Affected by Parental Alcoholism

Man Alone by Window
Do You Have Trouble Keeping Relationships?. © Getty Images

Many children who experience early life in a home with at least one alcoholic have difficulty forming intimate relationships. Because of trust issues and a lack of self-esteem, it is difficult for them to allow someone to get close enough to have a trusting, close relationship.

An intimate relationship—be it romantic, platonic, spiritual, or other close relationship—can seem like an impossibility to adult children of alcoholics. They find it difficult to allow themselves to look to others for interdependence, emotional attachment, or fulfillment of their needs.

Visitors to our Alcoholism site in answering the question, "How Do You Feel Growing Up With an Alcoholic Parent Has Changed You?" discuss the difficulty they have with intimate relationships, one of the common characteristics that children of alcoholics can develop. Keep in mind that these experiences, although common in adult children of alcoholics, can represent the outcome of a variety of developmental issues.

I Seek Out Men Who Are Cruel and Cold
I seek out relationships with men that make me feel inadequate, that leave me lonely, that are cruel and cold. I am currently leaving a man that I have been with over a year who has OCD and spent the last year telling me he would rather be alone, that I talk too much, he cheated on me during the holidays, he refused to introduce me to friends or family, he refused affection, he controlled everything we did. — Jenna

I Want to Stop Running
My biggest frustration, agony, is knowing that I will lose the partners and friends that I love. I will run away eventually. I know it, but I can't stop it. The loss hurts as much as if they had ditched me on the side of the street, and the relationships are irreparable. I desperately want to stop running and being scared -- I do not want anything but a normal, permanent family. — McKluver

Afraid of Being Close
It has contributed greatly to problems I'm having in my own relationships, with both friends and my fear of being intimate with anyone else. I'm 22 and have yet to really have a serious relationship with anyone. I think I'm so afraid of being close to someone out of fear of having a relationship like that of my parents. — Cam

Never Had a Normal Relationship
I hate being alone and just want to find a lovely man I can feel safe with and trust, have a normal relationship and maybe even a home (something I have never had). I marvel at other's ability to just go out and grab what they want, or even to know in the first place and be able to say what they want. This is beyond me and does make me feel useless and pointless, feeling like I've never achieved anything while friends go on and have a life. — JoJo

Just Want to Be Normal
I just wanted to just be normal. I was not able to have a family and feel very uncomfortable in groups or intimate settings with close family or friends (unless I know them and trust them). I am very rebellious against authority. — Mad

I Seek Impossible Relationships
Today I seek out impossible relationships with men who are passive-aggressive, have excessive amounts of anger or repressed anger, and are narcissistic and women who are disapproving and cold. I constantly feel alone and unloved, like something is wrong with me. — Trying

Finding Those Who Need 'Saving'
All the intimate relationships that I've had with men have been with someone who is addicted or needs "saving." I believe that I have viewed this as my only sense of worth in a relationship and that if I am successful at "saving" someone then I will feel vindicated and prove to myself that I am lovable after all. — Kalo

My Trust Is No More
I still struggle with fear and abandonment. All of this causes me to get into relationships with men who have abandoned me and my trust is no more. I don't feel that I could ever be in a lasting relationship for fear of the abandonment and trust issues of another person. — Donna

Have You Been Affected?

Do any of these descriptions sound familiar? Have you found it difficult to form intimate relationships? You may want to take this quiz to see if you have been affected by having an alcoholic parent.

If you are a heavy drinker and have young children in the home, please seek help to quit or cut back on your drinking before your children are affected in ways that will change their entire lives.

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  1. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Children of Alcoholics. 2011. 

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