My Personal Story Part I: How My Childhood Shaped My Relationship Choices

In my previous blog, I discussed How Defining Your Personal Story Can Lead to Relationship Success. As a quick recap, over the summer I attended a workshop at the Gary Marshall Theatre to learn how to tell my own personal story in order to better address the needs of my clients and help them explore their own stories.

Onstage during the workshop, I had this Aha! moment where I realized what had been holding me back in life and in my relationships were actually two different emotions – and how those emotions were deeply rooted in the two defining moments of my life.

We each have a defining moment in our lives that has impacted who we are and shaped our decisions in ways we don’t even realize. It is not until we dive deeper into those defining moments that we can identify patterns of behavior that are a result of what we’ve been through and can open up opportunities for us.

Opening up and being vulnerable enough to share the rawest – and at times most difficult – moments of your life is not an easy task. It is one that even I struggle with. While they were asking me to tell my own personal story, I found it difficult to really dive in and give details – about my dating journey in particular. It was only when they pushed me and asked me to dig deeper that I realized why I found it so difficult. I was embarrassed about my struggles in who I dated. And that embarrassment wasn’t just because I didn’t want to talk about myself or relay my most personal moments to strangers. What I thought was embarrassment over the dating decisions I’ve made was actually stemming from my childhood. I realized that this embarrassment was tied to the first defining moment of my life – the death of my mother – and my shame and embarrassment surrounding that event.

The Defining Moment of My Childhood

I am the youngest of six kids and I grew up in a big, loud Catholic Italian family. When I was thirteen, my father pulled me aside and out of the blue said, “your mother is dead.” I was living with him at the time, as they’d gotten divorced when I was five, and I was completely blindsided by it. I hadn’t even known she was in the hospital. Looking back on it now, there were a lot of emotions attached to that moment, but the underlying one was this feeling of not being good enough. I felt as though I didn’t matter and I was insignificant. After all, he hadn’t even bothered to tell me she was in the hospital. I was overwhelmed by the feelings of “I don’t matter, nothing matters.”

That was definitely the defining moment of my childhood and shaped me in many ways. That feeling of not being good enough and feeling like I don’t matter stayed with me well into adulthood – 25 years later when I was a divorced single mother. After 13 years of marriage I was out in the dating world again, once again feeling overwhelmed and like I didn’t matter. And I took those underlying feelings with me as I dove back into dating.

Identifying the Underlying Emotions That Were Holding Me Back

I knew that I felt like I didn’t matter often in life and in intimate relationships, but what I didn’t realize was how embarrassed and shamed I was as a child because my mother died at 46 of alcoholism. When I was on stage I had this feeling of embarrassment, but more than that, I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.

This became even more evident as I dove into my second defining moment – meeting my current husband. In my next blog, I’ll tell that story and explore the emotions associated with meeting him – and what that helped me realize about myself.

It wasn’t until I was talking about my journey diving back into the dating world and telling the story of meeting my husband (and deciding whether or not to date him) that I realized these feelings of embarrassment weren’t just about what people would think if I was dating a “dorky” guy, but actually ran deeper. While talking about the embarrassment tied to my dating and relationship history I realized I was actually embarrassed about my mother’s death and how it would reflect on me.

While I was on stage speaking about my personal story, with those in the workshop pushing me, I realized the reason I had been so afraid to get up there was because my biggest fears are 1). to embarrass myself and 2). for others to feel sorry for me. And these emotions showed up in my struggle over whether to date this “dorky” guy or not.

I share this story to show you that you are not alone. We all have things we have gone through that are holding us back from what we want most in life – to find someone that has our backs no matter what and loves us unconditionally! I have been doing self-discovery work for over 20 years and continue to see how these issues keep unfolding and offering more growth and awareness. It isn’t until we explore these things that can be painful or hard to think about, let alone talk about out loud, that we are able to see how they have been holding us back. By learning to define and talk about your personal story and the moments that have shaped who you are, you will be able to identify what has been keeping you from finding the relationship you want.

That’s why I’m putting together a group for singles who value personal growth and may know their patterns, but still find themselves being stuck. They can’t let go of the feelings that keep them out of the dating world and keep repeating the same patterns over and over again. Does this sound like you? Together we can clear these patterns once and for all to help you free yourself from the walls you’ve been hiding behind.  Keep an eye out for more information on this group – coming in the New Year!

If you’re interested in exploring your personal story and diving deeper into the defining moment of your life, consider my relationship coaching program. I’ll be there every step of the way to help you work through these emotions and identify ways you can overcome these triggers in order to find the healthy, loving relationship you’ve been seeking.

Give me a call at (312) 213-2395 or fill out my contact form, and I’ll be in touch. If I can do it, you can do it. In fact, we can do it together.


A Relationship Coach in Southern California,
Sue De Santo works with men and women who are struggling to find that
long-lasting, fulfilling relationship.

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