Does Your Parents’ Relationship Affect Yours? Experts Say It Can Have A Huge Impact
I wouldn't say that my parents are the ideal model of what a marriage should be. But then, marriage is hard and complicated, and I know they do their best. I’ve learned some good lessons from them, like the value of sticking things out through hard times, but also, some not-so-great ones that I won’t put them on blast for here. The point is, there is no question that witnessing their relationship has had an effect on my own over the years. But is that the norm? Is it inevitable? If you’ve ever wondered, “Does your parents’ relationship affect yours?" Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples therapist in Los Angeles, tells Elite Daily that it, in fact, very much can.
“How your parents interacted with each other can and does have an impact on your own relationship — consciously and unconsciously,” Dr. Brown says. This, he explains, is because it becomes a template for what you think relationships look like. “That, however, does not mean that you are permanently bound to having the same experiences that your parents have," he adds. "You are in charge of your own life and you can decide what good qualities from your parents' marriage you would like to emulate, and the negative aspects of their marriage that you don't want to repeat in your own relationship.”
Before you can decide what to hold onto and what to let go of, it's important to have an idea of how it could be affecting your current relationship. Here's how the experts describe some of the main ways your parents' relationship dynamics could be showing up in your own.
1. How you deal with anger.
All couples have to deal with some level of conflict, but how you deal with it, Dr. Brown says, could be impacted by what you witnessed between your parents during you upbringing, particularly if they had a tumultuous relationship. “Some grow up with parents who are in high-conflict marriages," he says. "This can be a particularly difficult challenge in your own relationship if you did not learn how to de-escalate anger."
2. How you communicate.
Good communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, so seeing a positive example of how partners communicate in your home, or vice-versa, can have a huge impact on your future relationships. “If your parents had/have good communication skills — [like] they validated each other, made sure their partner felt heard, were able to identify and communicate their core needs — then this would be the best of worlds to have modeled for their children,” says Dr. Brown.
3. Your standards for your partner.
There's an old saying that we tend to date people who remind us of our parents, but according to Lisa Concepcion, certified dating and relationship expert and founder of LoveQuest Coaching, it can actually be true in a sense. “If your parents are happy together, it will lead you to have high standards and will want to marry and recreate the wonderful life they had,” she tells Elite Daily.
4. Whether you want a relationship at all.
If your parents' relationship didn't end up working out and you were seriously affected by their split, Concepcion says you may find yourself uncomfortable with intimacy and resistant to entering a committed relationship at all. “This manifests in relationships with a lack of full commitment, one foot out the door,” she says.
While the experts agree that the kind of relationship your parents had can influence your current and future relationships, it's not always a bad thing. “Seeing parents who are generally loving, kind, and grateful for each other and who know each other's love languages is certainly the ideal as this type of marriage can provide many positive qualities to emulate in your own relationship,” says Dr. Brown. "Like it or not, some of their negative qualities may have been passed on to you as well," he adds. "You may find yourself acting and behaving in some of the ways they did. That's why it is vital for your own happiness to understand that this happens, to know that it is absolutely not your fault, and that you can choose to not be a prisoner of your childhood conditioning."
The first step for breaking out of any learned negative cycle, Dr. Brown says, is to accept that this doesn't have to be your destiny. “The good news is that you get to decide what you want and don't want. If you're not sure, this might be a productive time to find out what your own vision of a loving relationship would look like for you," he suggests.
Concepcion agrees. "The more we look at the beliefs that we have about our parent's relationship, the more we can choose if those beliefs serve us or not. Awareness is everything," she concludes.
The ultimate takeaway here is that, yes, your parents' relationship, for better or worse, can have an impact on how you operate in and feel about relationships — but nothing is set in stone. You can take the good and reject the bad, and just knowing that is the first step in the process of finding happier and healthier relationships.