Understanding The Impact Of Family Background On Your Current Relationships

Maybe you’ve realized that you have a tendency to date the same “type” of person over and over again. Or perhaps, as you’ve gotten older, you’ve realized how much you sound like one of your parents when you disagree with your partner. Now, you’re wondering just how much of your family history you bring to your relationships. 

There’s no denying that everyone’s family background influences the way they behave in relationships, for better or for worse. You might set high expectations for your partner because your parents always treated each other with love and respect. Alternatively, you may have trouble communicating your needs because your parents constantly minimized each other’s needs and desires, or your own. Here’s how your family background might be affecting your current romantic relationships, friendships, and other connections in your life.

The Type of Partner You Look For

When people are seeking out new partners, they subconsciously tend to look for familiar traits. You may notice that most of your partners have looked similar. Or maybe they didn’t share many physical characteristics, but they had similar hobbies, communication styles, or other behavioral tendencies. Often, people look for partners who mirror traits they saw in their family members growing up. Unfortunately, this can lead many people to pursue partners who perpetuate toxic behavioral patterns.

Your Attachment Style

There are four different types of attachment styles. We learn our personal attachment style from our early caregivers, who are often our parents or other older family members. People who have an avoidant attachment style struggle to form healthy relationships and avoid close connections, while those with anxious styles often can’t trust that their partners truly love them, and people with anxious-avoidant attachment grapple with the long-term effects of abuse and neglect. On the other hand, people with secure attachment styles experienced unconditional love and support from their families and bring the same self-assured perspective to relationships.

Your Love Language

Many people have a particular “love language.” They might feel most loved and appreciated when they receive gifts, when their partner is physically affectionate, or when their partner tells them how much they care. You might have unconsciously adopted a love language based on the interactions you witnessed between your parents. You may also seek out partners who share your parents’ love languages.

How You Communicate

It is practically inevitable that people imitate their parents’ communication styles. You might have engaged in an argument with your partner, only to take a step back and realize that you sounded exactly like one of your parents. As a child, you soaked up their approach to communication, and as an adult, you can easily fall into the same patterns. If your parents often hurt each other with critical statements or insults, imitating their communication patterns can harm your relationships. To avoid this, it often takes a proactive approach to rewriting your communication patterns.

Gender-Based Expectations

Finally, we can also end up internalizing certain gender-based expectations from our family backgrounds. You may have certain ideas about who should handle certain domestic responsibilities and childcare, how you should plan your wedding, what your partner should look like, the kind of job they should have, and who should be the breadwinner. This can conflict with the reality of your circumstances, your partner’s desires, or your own capabilities. It can be hard to untangle what you really want from gendered expectations.

Are you concerned that your family background might be negatively affecting your current relationships? Working with a therapist can help you move forward. Reach out to us to find out more about scheduling your first session for therapy for women.