How Your Childhood Affects Your Relationships

November 9, 2011  |  
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Most people hate to admit that their childhood affected how they behave in relationships today. They will admit that the time they were cheated on affected them. Or that their first heart break affected them. They can probably tell you something they learned from every past breakup, and how it has shaped the way they behave in relationships today, and even the partners they seek out. Why is that? Because it’s the past. And, whether you like it or not, you don’t go through life unscathed by your past experiences. Your childhood is a part of your past too. And, although it may not be as apparent how it affects your love life as an adult, it has a huge impact.

If you had divorced parents…

You were very closely linked to a relationship that was meant to last forever, but ended. It was supposed to be the whole book, and turned out to be just a chapter in each of your parent’s lives. You become ultra aware at a young age that some people just don’t stick. Even people who felt so certain at one point that they would stick forever.


You might…

With every guy you date, already be able to see the end. You think of him as just a chapter in your life, and you can already see the other men you’ll date after him. You don’t necessarily fear commitment, but you fear melding your life with someone else’s. The only couple who you were supposed to see as a unit, rather than two separate entities, split up into separate entities. And so, you struggle to see yourself as part of a unit. Especially since you saw how much your parents struggled to find themselves as individuals again after their divorce, you do fear ever giving up that sense of independence, because you don’t feel certain that whoever you give it up for will be around forever.


If you had parents who were unhappily married…

You rarely saw them look each other in the eye and say a warm, complementing word. They bickered constantly. They were passive aggressive and sarcastic with each other. Their relationship was more of a battle of who could make the other one look and feel more like a dumb*A$$, than a loving, supportive partnership. But, they stayed together.

You might…

Accept arguing as a natural part of a relationship. Not just the occasional disagreement—but a constant state of tension. Making yourself vulnerable to your partner by giving them a genuine, self-less compliment might seem awkward to you. Some people simply don’t tolerate yelling or cursing in their relationship. The second it happens, they end that relationship. But you might believe that no relationship exists without it. If it did, then your parents wouldn’t have stuck together…right?

If your parents were seemingly happy…

You didn’t hear them argue. They had cheery dispositions. They both had their own activities that made them happy—but separately. Your mom was the head of every charity organization in town, was married to her work, or had an overly active social life. Your dad did any and all of the above, as well. And this made them happy enough to not totally realize that there wasn’t much closeness between them. That they didn’t communicate very deeply or connect entirely.

You might…

Accept the concept that not everything is appropriate to talk about with your partner. That your feelings and fears should be reserved for your friends and family, and that your partner’s should be reserved for his friends and family, but when the two of you meet in the same room, you are meant to bring your cheeriest disposition. This is a partnership in the sense that you help one another function. You take comfort in a stable relationship. The routine you have with your partner makes you feel safe to take on other things in life, like promotions at work or long backpacking trips with your friends. But, you don’t feel that invigorating sense of being in sync and in love.

Your parents were madly in love…

They did everything together. They were extremely communicative. They complimented each other all of the time. They couldn’t keep their hands of each other. They were best friends and obviously still very interested lovers throughout their marriage. No fight lasted more than a day, and was handled with an open conversation and compromise on both parts.

You might…

Think marriage is the ultimate goal. That life will be infinitely better with it—that you will be a better person if you are married and will be capable of bigger and better things. You might feel incomplete if you don’t have a partner and you might prioritize finding a partner over everything else, like social life or a career. You might be the type who never wants to leave your boyfriend’s side, even from a young age, because you think that the male and female partnership is the most important relationship. You might make a wonderful, committed girlfriend and wife. But you might sacrifice having a life and adventures of your own.

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  • superfly78

    My parents after 38yares are still madly in love. I myself have not had such luck in the relationship department,s o I don’t know what’s the deal…Great article though

  • Abenijapera

    Definitely on point. Saw myself in a couple of these, and wasn’t even aware until I read this. Kudos!!!!

  • SoTrue

    Wow, one of the best articles I have read on MN for a long time! Great job!