Have you married your father

Have you ever wondered what attracts you to some people and not others?

Put you in a room with 100 people, male or female, and no matter how good looking some of them are, you will still click more with some than others. Why is this the case?

This Father’s Day prompted me to think about this. I was close with my own father, who died 24 years ago.

Harville Hendrix who has written several books about couple relationships, including Finding The Love You Want, has a theory about attractions. He thinks that each of us has an unconscious blueprint, which influences who we find attractive. And where does this come from? He says it comes from our parents

Some of you reading this may say, “No way. I would never want to marry my father, or my mother for that matter!”

I understand, but we are talking about the power of the unconscious here, not your conscious mind.

Hendrix says we have an image of our parents deep in our unconscious, which includes our positive and negative experiences with them. He calls this template our “imago.” He says when we meet someone who fits this inner template, we feel attracted and feel right at home with them.

That could be your first clue!

On the surface you may not see any resemblance at all to your parents.

In fact, they may seem very different, even opposite.

In any case, you find them very attractive and the next thing you know, you fall in love.

After a while however, when you get to know this new person more, you may be surprised that the very things that attracted you most to begin with, now start to grate on you.

Then at a later stage as the relationship deepens, you may be horrified at times to notice some of the same behaviour patterns as your parents.

My experience as a counsellor bears this out.

In general, most of us tend to favour what is familiar whether it’s good or bad.

This is because our brains feel safest and least threatened when things stay the same. Where this gets tricky is if your childhood was unhappy and you were abused or neglected.

You might think in this case that the last person you would be attracted to is someone who treats you badly. Of course I am not saying you set out to find people like this. It is a lot more subtle than that. The new person may be charming at first, but later on they may start to put you down, or let you down or cheat on you, in a very similar way to how you were treated as a child.

That is one scenario.

But what if you had a great relationship with your father?

What if he was a great guy, and you were his favourite? Assuming you are female and heterosexual, shouldn’t this almost guarantee that your relationships with other men will be easy? Yes but sometimes no.

You may be close to your dad, but still find yourself attracted to men who are not available.

Why is this?

The explanation may lie more with your mom not your dad.

Was your mother depressed when she had you, or overwhelmed or had health challenges? If so, this may have affected how she bonded with you.

If when you turned to her for instance, she seemed distant and non-responsive, you might have concluded unconsciously that this is how close relationships are, and attracted partners who behave in this same familiar way. As a result your relationships may cause you a lot of grief and heartbreak, because your dates don’t seem willing to commit to the relationship.

What patterns do you see in your close relationships?

Have you noticed a similarity in the types of men or women you are attracted to?

Do you tend to fall into certain familiar roles?

Are you the pleaser, the competent one, or the long-suffering one who puts up with too much?

If you are not happy with your relationships, it is worth examining these patterns to change them.

But how do you change these deep-seated patterns?

You can’t control who you are attracted to, but if you do the emotional work to clear up these early experiences with your parents, you can break the influence of the past.

As you recover your self-esteem, you will be freer to make wiser choices, and the kinds of people you attract will change.

Change is possible, but you have to do the healing work to get the results.

And did I marry my father? I certainly see some similarities with my father and with my mother too! But my husband is also different in his values and personality, and when he makes me laugh, cooks a nice dinner, or gives me a hug I am grateful for all he brings into my life!


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