7 Ways Your Parents' Relationship Can Affect Yours
When you're a kid, you look to your parents as a model for everything, from what you eat to what you wear to the way you brush your teeth. But even after you're all grown up, your parents and your upbringing still have an influence on you — and that's especially true when it comes to how your parents' relationship affects your love life as an adult. Of course, there are all kinds of factors that shape the way we view love, sex, and relationships, but the example we are given by our parents plays a huge part in how we'll conduct our own love lives as adults.
"Parents are our first example of how to communicate, develop, and maintain relationships, especially with another gender," Noni Ayana M.Ed., sexologist and relationship expert, E.R.I.S. Consulting LLC, tells Bustle. "Many of us have come to develop a set of expectations, using our parents relationship as a blueprint. Whether parents know it or not, their children are watching, and developing their own ideas. I find that parents don't often discuss the process of what it means to be in a relationship, and children draw conclusions based on what they see, as opposed to what they know."
Whether we realize it or not, the relationship (or lack thereof) between our parents subconsciously informs how we navigate dating and relationships as adults. Here are seven ways our own relationship habits can be influenced by our parents'.
1. Our Willingness To Accept Abusive Behavior
Growing up in a toxic or abusive household affects you in a lot of ways — including in how you view your own relationships. As awful as it, being a victim of or witness to abuse between your parents can cause you to normalize abuse in your own relationships.
"Individuals who had parents fight in front of them and who used abusive language may be more prone to follow in this pattern or even accept this from a partner because they are used to it," Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle.
2. How Comfortable We Are With Intimacy
If you grew up with parents who were super affectionate and lovey-dovey, it might be second nature for you to shower your partner with affection, too. On the flip side, having parents who were cold or distant to each other might make you less open to receiving physical affection from a partner.
"Our parents' relationship shapes how we are in a relationship in EVERY facet," Kelley Kitley, LCSW and Owner Of Serendipitous Psychotherapy, LLC tells Bustle. "We observed their communication style, their approach to physical touch, [and if they were] comfortable with their own sexuality... it's the first modeling we are exposed to."
3. The Way We Handle Conflict Resolution
One of the most important components of a successful relationship is the ability to resolve conflict in a healthy way. But if the example of "conflict resolution" you grew up with included a lot of yelling, you might be prone to following in your parents' footsteps.
"Our parents (or guardians) serve as the main role model of how to conduct a relationship," Christene Lozano, LMFT and founder of Meraki Counseling, tells Bustle. "For instance, if our parents resolve conflict by having yelling matches, we may learn that yelling is necessary in order to solve conflict."
4. How We Express Our Emotions
Being able to effectively communicate how you feel is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy relationship — because how can you work through problems if you can't articulate how you feel and why?
"If our parents didn't express their emotions, we may have difficulty learning how to identify and express our own emotions," Lozano says. "Considering that the ability to recognize and express our emotions is essential for a healthy relationship, our parents not modeling this will inevitably affect how we relate to and manage conflict with our own partner."
5. Whether We Exhibit Controlling Behaviors
Although there is such a thing as healthy jealousy, it's absolutely *not* healthy for a partner to be so jealous that they resort to controlling behavior. But if you grew up with a parent who exhibited these kinds of behaviors, it might cause you to assume that's the norm and then repeat the same mistakes in your own love life.
"If we witnessed our parents treating each other disrespectfully or being treated disrespectfully, we may learn that this is acceptable and 'normal' behavior," Lozano says. "For instance, if one parent is highly controlling and critical of the other parent, we may identify with the controlling parent by being more controlling in our own relationships, or we may identify with the parent being controlled by accepting this from our own partner."
6. How Much Independence We Crave
Having a partner to experience life with is awesome, but the healthiest couples are those that understand that it's good to have some degree of independence in a relationship. If you grew up with parents who were *never* apart, that might make you desire a similar closeness with your partner — or it might make you wary of being too clingy.
"If your parents were very independent and did most things separately you may want the same for your relationship," Hershenson says. "On the flip side, many people tend to want the complete opposite of what they observed growing up. Having independent parents may lead to a person being extra clingy. Having parents who spoke down to each other may lead to an individual being extra cautious with how they say things and expect the same in return."
7. How Trusting We Are
Being able to trust your partner is essential to building a healthy, long-lasting relationship — but unfortunately, not everyone grows up with an example of what genuine trust in your partner looks like.
"A loving, supportive parent encourages a trusting view of others, whereas a hostile, rejecting, or unavailable parent erodes trust and safety and contributes to the belief that others cannot be counted on for love and support," Michele Cascardi, PhD, associate professor of psychology at William Paterson University, tells Bustle. "These formative ideas about trust and safety often carry forward into romantic relationships and affect the quality of the bond that develops between romantic partners."
Whether we realize it or not, the relationship between our parents impacts us, even long into adulthood. Maybe your parents have an amazing relationship that you want to emulate, or maybe you want to avoid making the same mistakes your parents made in their marriage. Although you're by no means doomed to turn out exactly like your parents, it's worth examining your own relationship, and figuring out if there are any unhealthy behaviors that you exhibit that you might have picked up from them — then taking the time to work on your own relationship.