6 signs you felt lonely as a child and it’s affected your adult relationships

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Although we weren’t aware of it then, our childhood has long-term effects that can influence us throughout adulthood.

From the way we perceive ourselves, and the world, and how we manage relationships – these behaviors are largely impacted by our experiences growing up.

Experiencing loneliness while you were a child would therefore have long-lasting impacts that can manifest in different areas of your life – such as relationships.

Today, we’ll explore 6 signs your childhood has affected the relationships you’ve had during adulthood. 

If you feel that you fall into this category of people, I hope this article will give you a better understanding of yourself!

1) You’re needy and clingy

This is one of the surest signs that you felt lonely or neglected as a child. You never seemed to let go of the trauma of being left out or abandoned by your friends, family, or people that you trusted.

Perhaps you were excluded from activities at school, your parents didn’t bother playing with you or you generally weren’t invited to many social gatherings. You remember the feeling of having to entertain yourself or convince yourself that everything’s okay.

Therefore, you try to avoid experiencing this again. When you’re in a relationship, you try your best to make them stay, as you’re afraid they may leave any day.

You constantly make your presence known to them by repeatedly texting or calling when they’re not there and will find yourself feeling upset if they’re gone for too long.

You may even confront them when you’re separated for too long, as you find that you’re a lot more comfortable when they’re physically near you.

As such, this may have driven people away (the one thing you didn’t want to do) and it’s got everything to do with your insecurity.

2) You have difficulty trusting others

Another clear sign would be your inability to trust others easily. You’re afraid that opening up and allowing yourself to trust others will only lead to disappointment. 

You’re afraid of being betrayed, because you may have experienced something similar when you were younger.

I know of friends whose childhood was characterized by a lot of empty promises, betrayal, and at times, abandonment. 

And when you’re a child, it’s the little things that matter the most. The missed football practice or ballet recital, even though your parents promised you they’d be there. Or the times when you told them something in confidence and they’d share it with others. 

These add up and result in walls that you build around yourself for protection. You don’t want to be in that position again, where your trust is betrayed.

This is why you may push people away because you don’t want to be vulnerable. In relationships, you second guess everything your partner says, check their phones repeatedly, and are always suspecting that something’s up with them.

It’s no surprise that your partners may end up leaving or feeling unhappy because trust is the foundation of every relationship. If you’re unable to trust your partner, and show them that you trust them, you can bid goodbye to a steady relationship.

But this sign could also contribute to this…

3) You fear abandonment

The thing is, your abandonment issues may be largely the cause of the abovementioned behaviors. You’re scared to be rejected and left to fend for yourself, after enjoying what you thought was something good.

This may even have happened multiple times until you enter every relationship with the expectation of it ending.

But one shouldn’t go into a relationship expecting to break up eventually, because what’s the point of getting together then? Entering a relationship with that mindset will do more harm than good.

Instead of enjoying every moment with your partner, you’re never assured and spend hours stressing over everything they say, because to you, they may just decide to leave one day.

Bringing this mindset to relationships is dangerous because before the journey is undertaken, you’re already setting yourself up for disappointment. 

Sure, this is a way to protect yourself by preparing for the worst, but it will rob you of enjoying the present and making memories with the person you love. 

4) You have difficulty setting boundaries

Because you’re wary that your partner may leave, you have difficulty setting boundaries and generally agree to everything they say.

If they make an unreasonable request, you’ll find that you end up agreeing to whatever they want. You find it hard to say ‘no’, even to activities that you don’t want to do.

Your justification may sound like this – I want my partner to see that I’m willing to do anything with them, so that it would convince them to stay. 

Going into a relationship with this mindset is only going to cause burnout, pent-up frustrations, and unmet needs. You’re setting yourself up for failure.

It also invites manipulation, gaslighting, and toxic relationships if you’re not careful. The other party will be emboldened to do things that you don’t like to do because he sees that you’re willing to do anything they want.

And this will take a toll on your mental health and overall wellbeing.

5) You’re conflict-avoidant

A lack of assertiveness is another sign that you were lonely as a child. Because people in your life never seem to stay, you try your best to go out of your way to appease them and avoid conflict.

When it comes to relationships, rather than instigate a problem or trigger that you feel may push them away, you ignore red flags, give in to disagreements, and avoid talking about difficult topics. 

As such, underlying issues that you avoid will fester over time, until it becomes difficult to address. You may even leave relationships because you’re afraid of coming face to face with difficult situations, or the moment there’s a problem.


6) You struggle to maintain relationships

The irony of it all is that you may be the one who’s struggling to stay in relationships.

You may have been traumatized by being rejected and left out when you were younger, to the point that you feel safer if you just left first, rather than have the other person do it.

Because of your unwillingness to communicate your expectations, feelings, and boundaries, relationships tend to break down – especially without trust.

Concluding thoughts

If you find that you can relate to the above points in the article, know that you’re not alone in this. Now that you’ve identified the issue, it’s time to take steps to address your past, so that you can move on to a happier, more fulfilling future.

Show yourself some compassion and give others a chance. By doing so, you’ll be on your way to healthier relationships and forging stronger connections with the people around you.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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