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Psychology Today

The Truth About Romantic Love

How your parents shape your current relationship.

If you’re in a long-term romantic relationship of your choosing, there’s a powerful—although often unconscious—reason you chose your partner: to heal a childhood wound.

The pattern plays out like clockwork.

To understand, we must take it back to the mothership: your parents.

Even the best of parents cause, to varying degrees, pain to their children. In the broadest strokes, there are generally two forms pain that parents deliver to their kids.

  1. The pain of neglect: Parents who were too consumed with their own affairs to pay attention to you. They worked too much, drank too much, stressed too much, whatever. The point is you were left to fend for yourself far too early. You show me a ruggedly individualistic child and I will show you an adult intimate catastrophe in the making.
  2. The pain of intrusion: Parents who relied on you for too much support. Perhaps they made you take care of younger siblings, tend excessively to the house, or looked to you far too early in your development for adult advice. Maybe they consulted you about problems in their own marriage. For example, maybe your dad said to 9-year-old you, “I’m so lucky to have you. I could never talk to your mother like this.” Or, “You’re wise beyond your years. You always know how to make me feel better.” Comments like these may have even made you feel good. Special. This is natural and understandable. But you were set up, forced to deal with emotional and logistical responsibility far before your brain could really handle it. Often, people who call themselves “empaths” were asked to handle too much emotional content too early and too often.

Neither pain type is inherently better or worse. And these things certainly exist on a spectrum. Where precisely your parents stood is for you to decide. Importantly, this work is not about blame. It’s about discernment. At its best, it’s about redemption.


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