Why Some Never Learned to Love Properly


It is no question that crucial decisions regarding romantic relationships are primarily made during our adulthood. However, it may be overlooked that the foundation of healthy and stable relationships is truly established during our childhood. Family dynamics, including parenting, the romantic status of parents and interactions within a family are all vital aspects that can influence our romantic development. There is no doubt that love is an incredible feeling, to give or to receive, it is yearned by us all, but could it be that some of us relentlessly dive into poor relationships due to our upbringing, or does the past not define us?

Minna Lyons, author of psychological studies, explored the romantic experiences of adult children who perceived themselves as growing up with narcissistic parents. A narcissistic parent can be defined simply as a parent who is affected by narcissistic personality disorder. Such parents are prone to raise their children via high control and low care, acquiring the tendency to consistently critique, neglect and scorn the child, lacking empathy for them. Unfortunately, many feelings and relationship strategies discussed within the study were apparent to be maladaptive in nature. It was found that many mentioned the difficulties they acquired with communication and commitment, the need for validation, sensitivity towards criticism, and fear of abandonment, claiming that such issues sprouted due to poor models for healthy relationships during their childhood. Due to the over-controlling and condemning nature of narcissistic parents, many acquired the fear that fully expressing themselves to their partner would make them susceptible to critique and exploitation. Additionally, many felt naturally attracted to abusive partners due to the emotional familiarity it acquired. 

However, in retrospect, some discussed the “realization” or “epiphany” that stemmed from having narcissistic parents, claiming that their childhood experiences no longer defined who they were. Seemingly, many highlighted the benefits of a no-contact relationship with the narcissistic parent that allowed for the recovery from abuse. Therefore, the realization of narcissistic abuse appeared to have beneficial outcomes in improving romantic relationships. 

Moreover, another study exploring how adult children reflect their own family experiences towards their romantic relationships resulted in similar findings establishing a link between family background and romantic development within adult children. When participants described having absent parents during adolescent age, they were more prone to be attached to their partners and their partners’ families. On the contrary, some participants claimed their efforts to avoid their parents’ poor relationship conflicts. Even when divorced, some explained that they attempted to avoid their parents’ mistakes via trial and error, as they acquired struggles while attempting to comprehend how to work things through with their own partners. Overall, these studies indicate how salient family dynamics can be in shaping an individual’s decisions and behaviours within romantic relationships. However, it is potentially possible to overcome poor family exposures experienced during childhood.

Ultimately, our past experiences do somewhat shape us as individuals and may lead us to poor decisions contributing to our future. Furthermore, what we are exposed to as children is out of our control and it is of complete human nature to allow it to consume us and our habits as well as our ways of thoughts. However, it is profoundly important to realize that such experiences are not the norm and solely because one acquired an unfortunate family dynamic, in no way should it define their romantic development in the same manner. Conversely, it is much easier for adult children to reflect their poor childhood experiences onto their romantic relationships, simply due to familiarity and their believed comprehension of romantic dynamics. Therefore, it is crucial that the implications that stem from unstable family dynamics do not go unnoticed. Individuals must go into the process of comprehending and accepting their past in order to heal and benefit from it. 

Assuredly, although one’s poor family dynamics does have an influence in shaping their perceptions towards romantic relationships, these perceptions do not have to be an imitation of the negative parental dynamics experienced. There is a definite possibility of flourishing. Therefore, one’s uneasy past in no way defines them as an individual, it can, if they allow it to. However, life is full of choices and whether one decides to replicate their past experiences and reflect them onto future relationships or remedy them is a choice within their control.

Featured image: Amazon Prime

Hana Abulkheir
Hana Abulkheir
Second year behaviour and social science student from Egypt but primarily lived abroad. Interested in mental health in well-being.

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