A Fox 26 viewer sent me this question:
Dear Mary Jo,
I am in my late twenties and grew up with a dad I didn’t really respect. He didn’t treat my mother very good, and was not faithful to her. He wasn’t involved with me, and I don’t remember ever feeling special. He went to work, and that was the extent of his care. I now find myself dating men exactly like him. I don’t want to; they just seem to be the ones who come into my life. What’s going on? Am I doomed to marry someone like him and repeat my mother’s mistake? Thank you, Kellie.
This is a common question, and many men and women date people like their mom and dad. After all, our moms and dads are our first mentors of what is normal. As we grow up we begin comparing our normal with other friends’ normal, and realize maybe a bit late that our normal isn’t normal at all.
When dating, feeling more comfortable around people who feel familiar to you, such as what you saw demonstrated by your parents is common and more likely. The problem comes about when you have resentment or anger from how one of your parents treated you. This unresolved anger and resentment doesn’t disappear, and often times are projected on to another person or partner.
For example, Kellie, states that her dad was never there for her. He didn’t treat her mother with respect, and emotionally wasn’t available. The anger and hurt she feels becomes projected on to the men in her life. She is actually bringing her dad and her issues with him back into her love life. The guy may or may not know what is going on, but one thing is for sure, he has a part to play and he plays it because Kellie has given it to him. This also allows Kellie to bond further with her mom, and maybe even say things such as, “All men are the same, or all men are emotionally unavailable.” Kellie watched this growing up, and it is “hardwired” into her emotionally and feels familiar. She will most likely act this out until she works through her feelings and forgives her father.
Many times you will see these dynamics acted out among your colleagues and friends. For example, if a woman grows up feeling closer to her father than her mother she may forever be unhappy with her choice of partners. The reason isn’t the partners she chooses, but rather her distance from her mother. A woman’s relationship with her mother is an indicator for how fulfilled she feels with a partner. The more distant relationship women have with their mothers is also an indicator of their trust and ability to work well with other women.