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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Gillis, LMHC

(Love) Through Her Parent's Lens

Mike met Lucy during his senior year on his college campus heading to Psychology class. Lucy was an ambitious, kind, and caring individual. When Mike introduced himself to Lucy, she responded with reluctancy as she had just gotten out of a bad situation 2 months ago. Lucy was skeptical about love and hadn't done the work to rid herself of unhealthy behaviors. However, Mike was persistent and charismatic. Mike was open to love. Mike grew up with parents who were married for over 25 years and he saw a healthy example of love. He wanted to experience the same kind of love.

Lucy had not had a healthy example of love. She consistently saw her mother experience toxic relationships after toxic relationships. Although she wanted something different for herself, her relationships seemed to follow in the same steps until she met Mike. Mike was different from any guy she had dated. He was consistent, communicative, and safe. However, Lucy wasn't used to safe.

The first 3 months of their dating experience was filled with bliss and excitement. Yet, things begin to shift as Lucy begin to recreate the toxic environments that she was used to. She would go missing for days without a word. She thought "I should abandon him before he abandons me"; as her other relationships reflected. Mike tried to remain patient with her. Yet, when he would try to talk to her and set boundaries. Lucy who wasn't used to someone setting boundaries or being understanding would start an argument.

She was never taught how to resolve conflicts or show affection. Even when Mike tried to show how her ways, she would disrespect Mike and she would defend her behaviors as a way to self-protect. This cycle continued for 3 more months until Lucy completely pushed Mike away. Lucy wanted to love Mike but she was responding based upon what she saw growing up.

Conditional Learning

Is our parent's our model for how we respond to others?"

Yes, our upbringing and early experiences, including how we were loved and cared for by our caregivers, play a significant role in shaping our understanding and expression of love. During childhood, we learn about relationships and love through our interactions with our caregivers, who serve as our primary attachment figures.

As children, we observe our parents' relationship dynamics, how they communicate, resolve conflicts, show affection, and demonstrate love. These observations become a blueprint for our own understanding of what love looks like and how relationships should function.

The way our parents communicate and handle conflicts serves as a model for our own communication styles. If we witness healthy and effective communication, we are more likely to adopt those skills in our own relationships.

How our parents express emotions, both positive and negative, shapes our understanding of emotional intimacy and how to express love and affection. Emotional openness and the ability to express and regulate emotions positively influence our relationship dynamics.

These early experiences form the foundation for our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to love and relationships.

For example, if we grew up in a home where we received consistent love, care, and emotional support, we are more likely to develop a positive and secure understanding of love. On the other hand, if our caregivers were inconsistent, neglectful, or abusive, it can impact our perception of love and relationships in negative ways.

Additionally, our upbringing can also shape our beliefs and expectations about love, such as cultural and societal norms, family values, and individual beliefs. For example, some families may prioritize independence and self-sufficiency, while others may emphasize the importance of closeness and emotional expression.

It's important to note that while our parents' influence is significant, it does not determine our entire understanding and experience of love. Love is complex and multi-dimensional, and our understanding and expression of love can evolve. We have the capacity to learn and grow beyond the patterns we observed in our childhood. Through self-reflection, personal experiences, and exposure to different perspectives, or other forms of support, we can develop a healthier and more fulfilling understanding of love, even if our upbringing may have influenced us in less positive ways.


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