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Dating Your Parents

In Relationships on August 11, 2010 at 9:42 am

Whether we like it or not, the relationships we have with our parents play a heavy role in our own intimate lives. This is perfectly and completely normal. Every girl I have ever dated has, in some way, been compared to my mom and I continuosly compare myself to my father. It doesn’t mean that I have a weird fetish or unresolved issues. It means that I am quite stable and mature. Here’s why:

First off, you usually only have two parents, so let’s assume there are only two types of parents.

Your Identified Parent: This is the parent you identify with the most. They are usually of the same sex and to find out which parent it is, complete this sentence: When I grow up, I want to be like my <mother or father>.
Your Related Parent: This is the parent you do not identify with directly. Instead you identify with the relationship you have with them. They are usually of the opposite sex and to distinguish, complete this sentence: When I grow up, I want to marry someone like my <mother or father>.

The basic premise is that you want to be like one parent while wanting to be with someone who is like the other parent. Now, I can already see the gears turning for folks. Some are like he’s right, while other’s are saying I know which one is which, but I definitely don’t want to marry anyone like my related parent. This makes sense because we can be influenced by our parents in two basic ways.

Avoidant Influence: We attempt to avoid parental behavior.
Imitation Influence: We attempt to imitate parental behavior.

As we grow up, we witness the best and worst parts of our parents and despite our love for them, we still judge them on how well they raised us. Some of us consciously state how we will or will not do something simply because we saw our parents do it, while others aren’t so aware of how influential their parents are. Depending on which parent we are avoiding or imitating, our own relationship patterns are fairly easy to understand

Avoiding our Identified Parent: When we seek to overcome the behavior we dislike in our identified parent, then we are being influenced in an avoidant manner. Usually, we either experienced first hand, the negative effects of our parents behavior or we are empathetic to the distress of our other parent. Deciding to avoid our identified parent’s behavior patterns means we hope to never have our significant other or our children deal with the pain we felt.

Avoiding our Related Parent: This happens when we seek out partners that display characteristics and behave in ways anithetical or opposite to our related parents. We know full well the consequences of being in a relationship with someone like our related parent, because we saw what our identified parent had to go through. We won’t subject ourselves or our children to the same treatment.

Imitating our Identified Parent: We tend to be very proud of our identified parent’s good qualities and positive accomplishments so of course we would want to emulate them. It’s only natural. But there are times when we imitate our identified parent’s bad behavior as well. This usually happens without an explicit decision on our part since it’s just learned behavior. Bear in mind, we all continue some portion of our identified parent’s behavior, be it constructive or deconstructive.

Imitating our Related Parents: Here we search for partners similar to our related parent. Sometimes we search for people who can cook like our mother, or a strong man who can make us feel safe like our father. Sometimes we search for someone with a great sense of humor because our related parent always made us laugh. We would like to recreate those same experiences for ourselves and our children. Unfortunately, if we imitate the deconstructive behavior of our identified parent, chances are, we will unconsciously search for people who are as accomodating of that behavior as our related parent was. If my father was abusive and my mother provoking, then I have a high likelihood of being abusive and will subconsciously desire someone just as confrontational.

The point is that we are our parents. Not completely, because we have our own experiences and thoughts, but a good portion of behavior is passed down from them (I call them hand-me-down habits). What we should focus on is being the upgraded version of our identified parent, meaning we avoid their bad behavior and imitate their good. We should also focus on finding the upgraded version of our related parent, but take care to upgrade yourself first before searching for someone else. If you don’t, you really will be dating you parents.



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