Human beings learn by observing and imitating, and parents are often your first role models. What you see them do helps you develop expectations about relationships and sets the standard for so much about your perception of life. If you think their relationship was good, you could easily have rose-coloured glasses regarding relationships. If you think their relationship is bad or unhealthy, you could find yourself fearful of or altogether opposed to relationships. Here are some ways your parents’ relationship can affect yours.
How you deal with emotions and conflict
Your parents are the first people who show you how to express emotions and affection. Were your parents openly affectionate with things like touching and kissing? If they were, that is likely normal for you, if they weren’t you may find displays of affection awkward in your relationship. How did they handle emotions like anger? If your parents were in a high-conflict marriage, you could find yourself either conflict-averse or lacking the necessary de-escalation skills.
How you communicate
Good communication is the cornerstone of any relationship. The problem is communication skills are not natural or innate, and parents are not immune from being poor communicators. If your parents modelled good communication skills, you can easily carry this to the rest of your relationships, and the same holds if they modelled poor communication skills.
Your standards for a partner
People whose parents had a good relationship are likely to look for partners who match what was modelled for them. For people whose parents had a bad relationship, it could go either way. They could settle for what’s familiar to them, which is a bad partner, or they could purposefully look for a partner who is the opposite of what they saw modelled for them.
Whether you want a relationship at all
Whether you want a relationship or not can be linked to the type of relationship your parents had. For people whose parents had a good relationship, they may eagerly look forward to having their own relationship. People whose parents had an unhealthy relationship may be ambivalent to relationships or they may greatly desire one with the hope that they’ll do better.
Your willingness to accept abusive behaviour
Being exposed to abusive behaviour as a child has a significant impact on your future relationships. One study found that children who were exposed to domestic violence are more likely to be victims of domestic violence than adults. Your willingness to accept abusive behaviour is linked in part to whether or not you deal with such childhood trauma. An abusive home environment normalizes abusive behaviour, making it familiar to you, so it’s no hardship for you to put up with it from other people.
How much independence do you crave
If you grew up with a parent who was wholly dependent on the other parent, you may guard your independence fiercely. If your parents on the other hand barely had any involvement in each other’s lives, you may desire someone to share your life with. Conversely, if they were too clingy with each other, you may crave independence even in the relationship.
How trusting you are
The nature of your parent’s relationship affects how trusting you are in your relationships. If their relationship is unhealthy with incidents like unfaithfulness and abuse, you are unlikely to be open and trusting. If their relationship was healthy, you could be more open to trusting your partner.
Begin by openly and vulnerably examining your parents’ relationship. Think about how it may have affected you not just in your romantic relationships but also in others, like friendships too. Once you identify the commonalities, it’s time to do the work.
All the best.
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