One of the most interesting things about romantic relationships is their ability to help us heal childhood wounds. Men and women alike are deeply, and often repeatedly, attracted to a romantic partner who has many of the same traits as their parents or primary care-givers. A new lover may not immediately remind you of your mother, and may even appear to be the opposite of your father. But rest assured, their key qualities will be a perfect match to one or both of your parents.
I have long suspected this to be true, and have theorized that the reason is to give us the opportunity to heal the ways in which our parents wounded us as children. Think of it as a "do-over." For example, if as a child your parents put unrealistic expectations on you, you might become an over-achiever. You'll be really hard on yourself and not believe that you're good enough just as you are. This dynamic will inevitably play out in your romantic relationships, giving you the chance to change your beliefs, become gentler with yourself, and learn how to love yourself more even if you're 20 pounds overweight or can't make a perfect pot roast. Or not, in which case your attempts at perfection will drive both you and your partner out of your minds.
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I recently read a book by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. called Getting the Love You Want. It was originally published in 1988 and re-released recently. Hendrix has pioneered Imago Relationship Therapy. Imago Relationship Therapy is a model that says we do, in fact, marry our parents in the form of our partner, in hopes of healing these childhood wounds. An Imago, which is a term Hendrix coined, is an inner image of the opposite sex that guides us in mate selection. It is a blend of all the positive and negative traits that most impacted you from both of your parents. It's an image created by your subconscious mind.