Romantic Relationships & Your Mother Experience
Nature starts its climb toward spring just as we are beginning to solidify our goals for the year.
The idea of new beginnings is so romantic. This notion can be taken both literally and figuratively.
And as we move forward, we are becoming aware of those patterns that are, yet again, present in the way we build relationships.
This brings me to what I’d like to muse about today: How a Mother Wound may impact our romantic relationships.
Have you heard the expression, “I married my mother” (or father)? Well, that actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it through an attachment lens. You see, our first relationships have the greatest impact and influence, consciously and unconsciously, on how we perceive the world and those in it. This is natural, healthy, and expected.
However, if there were aspects of your early relationships you do not want to bring forward into your adult life, you may find this article useful.
How Your Mother Experience Influences Communication with Your Partner
Our first relationship may define each connection we make with new people. Much depends on the quality and duration of that relationship. You may have had multiple first relationships or you may have been raised by a male figure. What matters is the Maternal presence (or whoever stood in for that role). Was it consistent? Kind? Cruel? Reliable? This in turn creates the way we express our attachment style.
For instance, let’s look at the basic Attachment Expressions:
Secure is when care was consistent, attuned, safe, caring, and simply Good Enough.
Anxious is when there were no reliable adults or if they were too much to bear.
Avoidant is when we did not feel valued or important enough and often had to fend for ourselves or take care of others.
Disorganized is when we could never know what to expect.
Fast forward to adulthood. You may find yourself anxiously attaching to someone who wants to avoid being close. More often though it is more subtle than that, and does not show its full bloom until feelings of being attached begin to form.
For instance, while dating someone you find yourself checking your phone constantly and getting upset when your partner does not call back immediately. Your partner finds this annoying and for this reason won’t call back. If you had a mother who got annoyed with you for sharing anything about yourself or not sharing everything, then it would make sense for you to develop a pattern of anxious attachment.
And of course, our partner is coming to this relationship with their own Mother Wounds. As partners get close to each other and let vulnerabilities show, these hurts become shared as they are being experienced together.
Boundaries, Healthy Communication, and Loving Support
Simply speaking, we are looking at the parallel between the way we loved and were loved, as well as the discrete ways these impressions make themselves known.
You could love the slurp your partner makes while drinking coffee because it reminds you of happy, contented mornings together. Or, you could absolutely loathe the sound because that’s how your mother would let everyone in the house know she was angry without using words.
Another example is excitedly planning things together and your partner forgets or is not able to follow through for whatever reason. How do you respond? Does this bother you? Do you go into a rage? Do you think “it’s not a big deal” and then find yourself becoming increasingly tired and annoyed at the silliest things? Unable to let your feelings be known?
A lot depends on how your partner treats the situation and treats you. Is there a discussion before or after? A shared sense of loss?
You may want to consider if this or a similar experience of being let down and disappointed in childhood is familiar. If so, were your feelings considered? Were you allowed to feel angry about broken promises? Allowed to have feelings of hurt? Sadness? Did this happen a lot? Was the broken promise acknowledged? Were you acknowledged?
The last thing we want is to have our “mother” interfering with our love life.
So being aware of the origin and its original impact helps us to separate, more objectively, our ‘reaction’ versus our ‘response’ when it comes to relating to our partner.
When we become aware of the patterns and know we want to break a critical loop, we are able to set boundaries from a place of compassion. And, of course, boundaries aren’t always between you and another person, they can be intrapersonal. They are your internal voices and choices, what you say to yourselves, and the tone of voice you use. Do you respect your own feelings and hunches?
When we operate out of our heart space– instead of the ego mind– and care about our partner, ourselves, and the relationship, boundaries and healthy communication become acts of love.
(This information is best applied when both people in the relationship are attempting to be conscious of their ‘reactions’ versus ‘responses’ and does not apply to those who may be in an unstable or unpredictable partnership.)
Patience with each other when one snaps or responds curtly can help each partner to stop the cycle of criticism and hurt.
It is important to remind yourself:
Your partner is NOT your mother (or father or aunt or…)
You are NOT your mother.
Your mother does NOT define your relationship.
This is YOUR relationship.
This is a loving and patient relationship.
Love is working through the difficulties of our past to create a healthy future together.
When we know ourselves, accept ourselves, and take responsibility for our actions and feelings, we become more available to love and be loved.
It often helps to have an awareness of how things came to be, but simply knowing is not enough.
It is a DAILY choice to be present with yourself and communicate with your partner– the person you care about most and who cares about you, and with whom you choose to share your inner world.
Love is a beautiful thing when shared with someone who sees your hurts, shows you theirs, and chooses to be better together. And while the first relationship surely impacts how we communicate with our lover, it absolutely does not define it.