It’s a well-known theory that someone might have trouble in their current relationship because of unresolved issues with parents, especially their moms. Now, it’s never a good idea to blame other people for your current life situation. Instead, it’s up to us to take control of life and make your own decisions.
Nonetheless, is it possible that unresolved mom-issues can complicate current relationships? Keep reading to find out.
Can early experiences with mothers influence romantic relationships down the road?
In a 2011 study, entitled The Impact of Early Interpersonal Experience on Adult Romantic Relationship Functioning, researchers set out to answer that question. They explored whether early life experiences could predict how an individual would resolve and recover from relationship conflicts and whether it would prevent them from having stable, romantic relationships as adults.
What researchers found is that successful adult romantic relationships “are systematically related to relationship experiences that occur very early in life, well before individuals can form conscious memories.”
But why do such early experience – even those that we can’t remember – impact future relationships so much?
How childhood experiences with mothers can impact romantic adult relationships
According to Carole-Anne Vatcher, a therapist and relationship coach, your relationship with your mother can determine who you will be attracted to. In fact, you look for someone who is psychologically similar to your parent. And depending on your parent, this can be either good or bad.
That’s because if you and your chief caregiver – usually your mother – experienced a dysfunctional, dependent relationship, you can repeat these old patterns with a future partner.
You do this unconsciously since these behaviors are so deeply rooted. For example, if you had a needy mother, that means you could look for a similar, needy partner.
Adults often end up with a partner who is “remarkably similar” to a parent with whom they have unresolved issues.
Mark Goulston, M.D. and author of Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior, has helped many clients. And one thing he notes, again and again, is that adults often end up with a partner who is “remarkably similar” to a parent with whom they have unresolved issues.
His explanation is that parents fail to give their children unconditional love and acceptance, and so the child grows up without enough self-esteem and self-worth. Instead, the child grows up believing that they are never enough and that they always need someone else to complete them.
What’s more, these individuals tend to bend to the needs of others because they’ve learned early on that their needs are unimportant.
So, when they find a partner, what they’re actually finding is someone similar to that early relationship with their parent.
Can unresolved issues with your mom impact your current romantic relationship?
Vatcher believes that if people are living out an unhealthy pattern with their mother, it will have a negative impact on your romantic relationship – a relationship that could otherwise thrive and succeed.
That’s because old wounds from your mother relationship can be reopened unknowingly and cause unfair stress, conflict, and distress. And since you’ve learned to close yourself off emotionally to your mother to prevent further pain, this can make it difficult to open yourself up to your current partner, and to be vulnerable and trusting.
What to do if unresolved issues with your mom are interfering with your romantic relationships
If your adult relationships – especially your romantic relationships – are suffering thanks to unresolved issues and early experiences with your mom, you might want to point the finger and blame her for everything you’re going through.
And in a way, you are justified in feeling this way. However, this approach probably won’t help you heal and create better relationships. Instead, consider some of the following ideas to help you.
Speaking to a professional therapist or counselor can be a wonderful way to unload, process, and cope with the emotional baggage you carry around with you. It can also help you develop coping skills and healthier ways to deal with old pains and hurts.
You may think self-work isn’t necessary. After all, it’s your mom’s fault. But as an adult, it’s time to realize that you can’t change anyone else. You can only change yourself.
So, take time to meditate, journal or any other self-reflective practice that helps you develop love, compassion, and patience for yourself. This will help you approach your difficult relationships with greater balance and equanimity.
Goulston offers two ideas that can help you overcome the unresolved issues with your parent.
Here they are:
- “You are worthy of being loved unconditionally”
- “Your parent was and is incapable of loving you in that way”
The first idea may be difficult for you to accept at first, but the more you believe it to be true, the better off you will be. When you believe that you are worthy of being loved unconditionally, you can start to give yourself that love.
The wonderful thing about this self-love is that then, you will stop searching for it from other people.
The second idea might feel harsh, but it actually can help you take big steps forward. For one thing, it might help you forgive your mom for not loving you enough. For another thing, it takes the pressure off your parents to be the ones to give you the love you want.
Again, if you work to cultivate this love within yourself, it may be easier to move on. And if you can truly believe and integrate these two ideas into your current mindset, you can move on from one dysfunctional relationship and open doors for healthier relationships.
If you have a negative relationship with your parent and struggle to have a good relationship with your current partner, it’s easy to beat yourself for this. But now is the perfect time to build yourself up, rather than beat yourself up.
Take time to eat a healthy diet, groom yourself, exercise your body, nourish your social life, and respect your boundaries. When you develop a healthy relationship with yourself, it’s easier to develop healthier relationships with others.
Research does show that early experiences with parents do impact future relationships. If this is something you experience in your own life, what are some of the ideas and tips from this article that you think could help you?