We get a lot of characteristics from our parents: our looks, our manners, our accents…and, apparently, our dating lives. As much as each and every young woman doesn’t want to acknowledge it, the fact of the matter is that psychologists have found strong evidence that we date people like our parents.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and wouldn’t trade them for the world; however, the idea of my dating life being dictated by some sort of slumbering Electra complex is more than a little horrifying. Thankfully, psychologists have done a ton of research on the topic, looking into just how far this phenomenon goes and what to do to come to terms with the idea that maybe you didn’t just choose your partner because they’re easy on the eyes.
In an article for Marie Claire, relationship therapist Dr. Judith Wright explains how this parental preference occurs: kids, because they had to explore communication and human nature with the help of parents or guardians, develop a mindset called “pre-sexual programming” that informs us from a young age as to what love, respect, and happiness look like. This emotional intelligence informs our later lives as we develop a sense what feels comfortable or not in a relationship: if the theory goes, you were raised by a parent who was emotionally distant, you’d look for an equally distant partner because that’s what you view as normal. The same goes for happy emotions as well; if you’ve got joyful childhood memories that involve your parents, you’re likely to seek out that same glee later in life in a partner.
It is at this point where the demeaning ideas of “daddy issues” usually come into play, but Dr. Wright says that parent-child relationships don’t define the entirety of your romantic future: being aware of your comfort zone and of what your partner brings to the table can help you debunk any daddy issues, and being open about any feelings you have on the topic with your bae is must for furthering a healthy relationship. In the meantime, just remember that all of these tendencies are seen in every relationship; you aren’t the only one!
So, don’t stress: just because we date people who bring back our joyful inner kid doesn’t mean that we’re the next Oedipus. Feel free to kick Freud to the curb!