Relationships: Your Parents and You
“Just blame it on me.” Our parents must have uttered this phrase countless times when we needed an excuse: from dodging an awkward get-together to explaining why we were late to soccer practice, parents have always been convenient scapegoats in life’s more trivial situations. But could they also be to blame when it comes to our love lives?
How much has your parents’ relationship affect your own approach to romantic relationships?
Well, consider this: Relationship coach Rinatta Paries points to the fact that the fundamentals of your personality are shaped by the time you turn four; if you lived with your parents up until that point, their relationship served as the primary point of reference on romantic relationships. She says pointedly, “How you saw your parents act in their relationship becomes the foundation of your own adult relationships.”
But how exactly does your parents’ behavior affect your relationships down the line? Experts agree that children tend to identify more with one parent during early development; that identification largely determines how they will approach their roles in romantic relationships later in life. For example, if Mom complains about Dad’s apathy during family activities but doesn’t address the problem with him directly, a child who identifies more strongly with her will assume that it is okay for your male partner to neglect you. Relationship counselor Scott Cudia explains, “It lessens the importance of their own self-worth. They learn that it’s important to keep the peace, no matter what the cost to them emotionally.” Likewise, if a child relates to Dad, apathy could seem acceptable and likely to be emulated later on.
This pattern could hold true for a myriad of behaviors in partnerships: from screaming and shouting, to digging at each other’s faults.
So, how can you use your parents’ influences for the better? Researchers suggest we “become conscious of how [our] parent’s relationship subconsciously influences how [we] behave in your own, and make a conscious decision to break any unhealthy patterns” (Love Consultants, 2008). You can actually decide what kind of partner you wan to be; evaluating parents’ behaviors- both good and bad- helps you make that decision. The person you become in life is ultimately up to you.
Written by Dr. Sam Von Reiche and Janel Abrahami