Affection – something I thought adults stopped needing once settled. My parents never held hands, let alone kiss, cuddle or enjoy time together. Their separation when I reached 13, ought to have seemed normal. Then again, what’s normal? Only when my dad met my stepmother, did I realise his marriage to my mum wasn’t happy. How are your parents affecting how you date? Can we blame them for relationship patterns?
Parents as individuals
Publication Hello Giggles produced a piece on how dads affect love lives, speaking to psychotherapist Shirani M. Pathak. While some people grow up with non-supportive fathers and then date the most-loving boyfriends, statistics suggest they’re a rare exception. The article explains how most unintentionally date men similar to their dads, bringing childhood issues to adulthood. Pathak says they try to “win” from their partners, what their fathers couldn’t give. Perhaps “love” or “affection”.
Although icky to think about dating someone resembling your father, it makes sense that the man who raised us, plays a role in our relationship expectations. Wehavekids.com reported on “fatherless daughters” and suggests women without their dads more-likely suffer “depression” and low “self-esteem”. An article on lifeloveleadership.com meanwhile, shares how men treat women based on their mother-son bonds. For example, the site implies a “mother’s boy” (a boy who struggled to develop towards the world of men after initial mother attachment) may view their partner as an “intrusion” and react to their mother’s first.
Considering the similarities between mine and my father’s personalities, the guys I fancy bear miniscule traits. I find confident, out-going; somewhat ‘geeky’ attractive. Men who can impress crowds in any room and wisely discuss any subject. Though my dad’s intelligent and a maths pro, we’re both quiet and need time to openly talk in social settings. Learning to embrace my introvert characteristics took years – plenty of self-hatred and analysis to accept.
Parents affect how you date – relationships themselves
Gwendolyn Purdom writing for Well and Good, details how parents shape our relationships. From their fights becoming our framework, to divorce editing our expectations. Another site wealthygorilla.com, mentions a study which affirms “The More Emotionally-Reserved Parents, The More Reserved You Might Be In Relationships”. From personal investigation, I believe adults try to follow or fix the behaviours they recognised as children. Our small eyes notice more than we knew capable at the time.
I use to tell people – I’m not emotional. I don’t cry and I don’t like hugs. Throughout my teenage years, I bottled pain, laughter and joy; thoughts buried deeper than a rabbit hole. Today I still conceal things as a safety blanket. People can’t hurt you with what they don’t know. I felt uncomfortable when my first love started holding my hands and wanting to wrap his arms around me. I didn’t reciprocate feelings – loving me was difficult. When chemistry heated, I bolted and pushed men away. My first love taught me expose my vulnerability and display adoration.
My next partner taught me to cuddle and touch – a light hand stroking his face. Since researching, I’ve realised my lack of affection links itself to how my parents interacted. They too, both had parents who held back on displaying love. My mum lost her father a week before she met my dad; she had to quickly become strong and help support raising her younger brothers. I developed thinking I needed a man to rescue me. To bestow success, happiness and acceptance. Everything I didn’t like in myself, I hunted in a man to possess. Hoping they’d act as a cure to make me feel good.
Parents affecting how you date – how to change
I think it’s important to analyse your upbringing and notice both comparisons and differences. That’s how we begin to heal and develop, by initially acknowledging problems. Despite statistics confirming the connection between parents and how we date, bad relationships don’t have to define us. My parents’ divorce helped me in many ways. I better balance romanticism with practicality and I’m less eager to settle down based on love alone. Because of them, I understand how crucial spending habits, attitudes on socialising and career prioritise are. I won’t rush commitment without factoring both big and small issues.
To change parents affecting how you date, it’s advisable from the articles I’ve read, to spend time with a therapist. Helpful as well, to talk to your parents and gain their perspective. Kids can overlook memories and what may have appeared blissful to a child, in reality could have been stressful.
Do you think your parents have affected your relationships – if so, negatively or positively? Read: How Much Does a Father-Figure – Figure? (copied the title from Carrie Bradshaw)