How your relationship with your mother affects your romantic relationships

By: Carole-Anne Vatcher

© Bowden Author: Canadian Living Credits: © Bowden


How your relationship with your mother affects your romantic relationships

By: Carole-Anne Vatcher
Research on couples has shown that our relationships with our earliest caretakers have a powerful impact on our romantic relationships. For most of us, our mothers were an important part of our early environment and are key to how we relate in our romantic relationships today.

How does your relationship with your mom impact your romantic relationships?

First, it affects who you are attracted to. People tend to be drawn toward partners who are "familiar" and who psychologically resemble their parents in some way, whether for good or for bad.

And once you’re in a committed couple relationship, you tend to repeat the relationship dance that you learned from your mother. You likely repeat both the behaviours she modelled for you and the ways she conditioned you to behave in relation to her. This learning is deep seated and can be unconscious.

Some leading couple researchers have found that old traumas and unresolved issues from childhood can get triggered in the intimate attachment of the couple relationship. This can cause significant distress in a couple's relationship until the issues are addressed.

This year, take stock of how your relationship with your mother has affected your relationship with your romantic partner.

If you have a mostly positive relationship with your mother:
First off, celebrate! You are a lucky person indeed. The quality of your relationship with your mother can greatly affect your sense of security and well-being in adulthood, especially for women. If you're blessed to have a caring mother who respects  your boundaries, you are more likely to thrive and feel well in your life, and your couple relationship is likely to have also benefitted from this stability.

Next, consider the ways that your mom has positively affected your life. Connect to a sense of gratitude for the great gift she has given you. You may want to convey to her your appreciation for the job she has done.

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover simple and useful tips to help cope if you have a diffucult relationship with your mother on page 2
Then acknowledge any negatives. No parent can possibly be perfect. Even though your mother has been great, don't deny any aspects of her mothering that may have inadvertently affected you negatively or that may be playing out in your romantic relationship. See below for some ideas.

If you have a more difficult relationship with your mother:
If this is the case then it is much more likely that you have struggled with difficulties in your dating or couple relationships. Old wounds may be leading you to react negatively to your partner, causing conflict. Or perhaps you pick partners who are needy because you were often a caretaker for your mother. Maybe you are stuck in an unhealthy pattern with your mother today, creating stress in your relationship with your partner. Or maybe your mom wasn’t safe, so you shut down to protect yourself and prevent closeness with your partner.

It is crucial that you work toward your own healing. Addressing these issues head on usually helps improve your couple relationship, and it’s also good for your own health and well-being.

Here are some ideas to help you heal:
Personal counselling: Find a supportive therapist who can help you work through the issues, set boundaries and cope.

Couple counselling: Find a good couple therapist who can help you and your partner develop more supportive patterns together.

Work on yourself: Journalling, meditation and yoga are all excellent modalities for releasing negative emotions and connecting to the authentic, powerful part of yourself.

Self-care: Be the mother to yourself that you wish she could have been. Eat well. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Treat yourself to a massage or a nice, hot bath. The better shape you are in, the better a partner you'll be to your significant other.

Self-help reading: Read books about couple relationship skills and gather new ideas about how to strengthen your romantic relationship or dating habits.

Finally, consider how this important relationship has affected your life. Celebrate the riches of your relationship with your mom and assess what you might need to heal or what you want to change. You may also want to reflect on the kind of mother you want to be if you have children of your own.

Carole-Anne Vatcher, MSW, RSW is a Therapist and Relationship Coach for women. She works with women in person in her private practice in Kingston, Ontario and via telephone with women across Canada. For more information or if you are interested in working with Carole-Anne visit her website at

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How your relationship with your mother affects your romantic relationships