How Your Parents’ Parenting Style Affects Your Relationships

July 13, 2017  |  
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When people think about how their parents may have affected their romantic relationships as adults, they usually think of how their parent’s romantic relationship was. Were they divorced? Were they together, but unhappy? Were they super loving (perhaps so much so that they ignored their kids?) If your parents truly had a happy, healthy marriage then you might think they don’t play a big role in how you conduct your own relationships. But it’s not just the romantic relationship between your parents that could affect you; how your parents raised, disciplined and—well—parented you could affect your relationships, too. Many of us don’t realize that, after our parents, our romantic partner is the next big role model and guide in our lives. While your partner is, of course, your equal and not an authority figure, you still care about what he thinks and try to make him happy (not unlike your parents). Here is how your parent’s parenting style affects your romantic relationships.

Perfectionist parents

Did you grow up in a household where your parents only saw the minus sign in an A- grade? If you cleaned your room for hours, would they pick out the photo hanging on the wall that was slightly uneven? They probably did this for (what they believed to be) your own good. They wanted to give you an edge in a competitive world. They want you always to be the best so you can succeed.







How it affects your relationships

You aim to please and you apologize often. Rather than being excited when you’ve completed something nice—like making a wonderful dinner for your partner—you worry you forgot something, or start inspecting your work for flaws. This could also make it hard for your partner to even give you small notes in the relationship because it triggers the enormous fear and self-loathing you used to feel around your parents. So, for example, your partner may feel he needs to walk on eggshells and cannot so much as tell you you’ve left the bathroom a little dirty. The worry it will cause you isn’t worth the tidy bathroom.





The needy parents

This is a safe space: did you parent your parents? Were your parents sort of still children themselves when they had children? Perhaps they were incredibly needy of your attention and affection because their own lives—from work to friendships—weren’t going well. Were you, perhaps, meant to be a band-aid for their broken life? Did you worry that if you went to a friend’s house for a sleepover that your parents would feel depressed or lost? Were your parents rather jealous when you started making your own friends and venturing off as a teenager?







How it affects your relationships

You may require a lot of space in relationships, and like to take things very slowly. Even a healthy amount of emotional dependence from a partner may feel like too much for you. You could spook at the hint that someone needs you, even a little bit, or that their happiness depends on you at all. You don’t necessarily want to feel needed, nor do you let others know when you need them.








No-guidelines parents

Maybe you had parents who didn’t set rules. You could eat cereal for dinner and didn’t have a bedtime. You could wear a skirt on your head to school. They were of the “Let kids learn their own lessons and be themselves” school of thought. At the time, it felt fun, but later in life you found yourself wanting guidance from your parents that your parents wouldn’t give you. In fact, you felt a little less-than-secure.







How it affects your relationships

People respond to this parenting style in one of two drastically different ways. You may crave guidance in a partner that you didn’t get from your parents. So, you might end up dating a lot of controlling men—men who want to mold you to be their perfect partner, from telling you what to wear to advising you on your career. You may, however, go the other way and resist someone who in any way tries to possess you or tell you what to do. If a partner so much as asks that you text him if you’re going to be later for dinner, you react as if he is being a tyrant.






The absent parents

Were you raised by nannies? Did your parents pretty much schedule time with you when it was convenient for them? Between work, the gym, and their own romantic time together did your parents really only spend an hour or so a day with you? And maybe weekends (if they didn’t leave you with a nanny so they could travel?)










How it affects your relationships

You might have a healthy but adverse reaction to your parents’ parenting style (or lack of one) in that you could work hard to create intimate, loving and connected relationships. Unlike what you had with your parents, you want to know what’s happening in your partner’s life. You want the two of you to be deeply involved in every aspect of one another’s life, rather than just meeting for the “fun times” like travel or the weekends. You want to be in the trenches with him, as your parents were not with you. You may, however, take after your parents and only want to see your partner for light, fun times. You may refuse to let him see you after a long day of work when you’ll be stressed out and exhausted. You may only let him see the fun, carefree side of you.



The adoring parents

Perhaps in your parents’ eyes, everything you did was perfect. They often described you as “the best.” They would tell you that you were smarter, funnier, prettier and more unique than anybody in the world. You could do no wrong. If you got a B on a paper, rather than get angry with you, your parents went down to the school and got angry at the teacher for failing to see your genius.







How it affects your relationships

You might be the person in the relationship who A) Never apologizes and B) Thinks she knows what’s best for everyone. So even if your partner says he really doesn’t want to socialize Friday night, you invite friends over and say it’s for his own good. You plan an elaborate party (that you’re very proud of) and don’t understand why your partner can’t appreciate it. (Even though he told you he really needed a quiet night that night). What you want to do may always over-shine the needs of others because you weren’t taught to question yourself.






The withholding parents

Perhaps you grew up in a household where people didn’t often say, “I love you,” where you were rarely cuddled and where your parents spoke to you more like their pupil than their offspring. You rarely knew what your parents were feeling about you, and you were rarely praised.








How it affects your relationships

This may leave you a bit uncomfortable with expressing your emotions, and being with emotionally expressive people. This may be difficult for some of your partners, who want the type of relationship where you tell one another you love each other a dozen times a day, just because. You might have to work a little harder and overcome some discomfort to tell someone you really care about him, but make sure you put in that work so you don’t lose someone you really love.







The verbally abusive parents

It can be hard for some people to admit that they come from an abusive home. It can also be hard for some people to see that, since not all abuse is obvious. But if your parents yelled and cursed at you daily, I’m very sorry to tell you this but, you did suffer some verbal abuse as a child. It’s not normal or healthy to yell and swear at children. They’re just children—they don’t know what’s right from wrong yet. Your parents should have approached you (most of the time) with patience and tenderness.






How it affects your relationships

If you grow up around yelling and swearing you become used to it. Turbulence becomes the soundtrack to your life. You may not even notice if people yell anymore—to you, that’s just how people talk. Be very careful, because you could be more prone to fall into abusive relationships than people who don’t come from abusive homes. Pay close attention to how partners talk to you, and if anyone seems to yell, swear or lose their temper quickly.








The overly proud and protective parents

The overly proud and protective parents are similar to the adoring ones but they go beyond telling you you’re perfect to telling you the rest of the world is dumb, flawed and unworthy of your attention. If one of your friends gets the tiniest bit annoyed with you, your parents tell you that you don’t need her. If your friend gets the doll you wanted, your parents get you the better doll. They essentially spoiled you.







How it affects your relationships

You could end up rather picky in the dating world. You might require men to treat you like a princess. You may think it’s normal for a man to use part of his rent money to buy you a $100 dinner. In fact, you may only date men willing to do this. In other words, you could be due for a reality check. If there is a couple you really admire, ask the woman about their relationship—about what sorts of sacrifices they make for each other. You may be surprised to find her partner treats her well but doesn’t spoil her in the way you’d expect.

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