Is It True That We Try To Marry Our Parents?

Is it true that adults instinctively attract towards partners who remind them of their own parents? If so, why would this be?

Parents do indeed have a major influence on what kind of romantic partners we seek out as adults.  But things aren’t as straightforward as us simply trying to marry a clone of mom or dad.  In fact, the underlying mechanics of attraction are very complex (as is always the case with human beings).  But they are also quite fascinating, so let’s dig into this subject a bit and see what we can learn…

The Two Deciding Elements

You have four elements to your being: your body, your conscious, your soul, and your subconscious.  When it comes to making you feel attracted towards a romantic partner, it is only your soul and subconscious that cast a deciding vote.  Because these two elements have different priorities, they express attraction differently. 

Once your subconscious finds a match for you that it really likes, it feels a strong psychological attraction towards that person.  You experience that kind of attraction as an emotional attraction, and it results in you wanting to be around the person as much as possible, obsessively thinking about them, etc.  Yet because your subconscious tends to be very secretive about its personal motivations for doing things, psychological attractions often feel mysterious to your conscious.  This is why people who “fall in love at first sight” often can’t explain why they feel the way they do.  There is an explanation—a very detailed, logical one—but their subconscious is usually keeping that information to itself and refusing to let its partner elements in on its plans.  The result is a person feeling intensely drawn towards someone else, and feeling compelled to “follow their heart” despite the warnings from their friends and family that they’re “moving way too fast.” 

A psychological attraction is not sexual in nature.  The sexual feelings are added on when your subconscious gets your body involved in its agenda.  Your body is the part of you with sex hormones and a sex drive.  Your conscious, subconscious, and soul are all non-physical elements that do not have things like hormones or DNA. 

Spiritual Attraction

Your subconscious and your soul are the elements that control your feelings of attraction towards an intimate partner.  But why seek out this kind of relationship in the first place?  How you answer this question depends on what’s currently going on with your soul and subconscious.  A soul with strong moral and/or religious beliefs will often want to seek out an intimate partner for the purpose of having someone to spiritually commune with. This is what’s happening when you find yourself wanting a partner who shares your moral values or religious beliefs. 

Not all souls have strong feelings in this area.  All souls have a moral code, but those codes can be wildly different from each other (with some not seeming very “moral” at all).  In general, souls who are attempting to form relationships with supernatural entities (such as God) are likely to be more invested in having an intimate partner who shares or encourages their interests in that area.

It’s useful to note that your soul is the only part of you that has a capacity to form relationships with supernatural entities (and only then if there is cooperation on both sides).  Let’s take someone who identifies themselves as a “devoted Christian” and who says things like, “Jesus is everything to me.”  It is the soul of that person who has formed a relationship with God.  Relationships with God are very intimate, private affairs, as much of what happens in that relationship is kept hidden from other humans.  Because of the secret nature of these kinds of relationships, souls who feel very bonded to God can feel very repulsed by other souls who view God negatively.  In these situations, the soul will push away potential partners who it does not feel it can spiritually commune with.

Psychological Attraction

Your subconscious has very different items on its personal shopping list, and it doesn’t care about God or matching moral values.  Your subconscious is looking for a partner who can provide things like physical safety, emotional affirmation, and material resources. Your subconscious is also looking for help in shortening its “pending problems” list.  If there are extremely urgent items on that list, your subconscious can feel a need to latch onto the first person to come along who shows any sign of helping with that issue.  In these cases, your subconscious is often willing to work with a combination of qualities that it doesn’t especially like, so long as it feels it’s getting help with its most pressing issue.  In many cases where someone feels “used,” they were pursued by someone who was only interested in some very limited aspect of their whole person.  Once their pursuing partner had their fill of that aspect, he or she dropped them and moved on.  It’s rather like having such an intense craving for mashed potatoes that it’s all you can think about.  So you buy a bunch of frozen dinners that have potatoes as one of their sides.  You scoop out the potato portions and throw the rest of the food away, not bothering to sample the other sides and entrees. 

It’s no fun when you discover that your partner was only interested in your potatoes, and I’m not just talking about sex here.  There are many specific qualities that stressed out minds can get fixated on, but when they are hyper-focusing like this, they often engage with personality packages that they don’t particularly like, so they dump those packages as soon as they’re done taking what they want.

Conflicts of Interest

Now things really get tricky when your subconscious locks onto someone that your soul doesn’t like or vice versa.  While your subconscious will typically win in these situations, that’s not always the case.  Sometimes the soul dominates, and when that happens, the subconscious feels intensely upset and miserable while the soul is pursuing its own interests.  An example here would be two zealous Christians who decide to partner up and go on an evangelical mission into some deep, dark jungle in which dangers abound and the body constantly struggles to feel comfortable.  Such a situation can be very appealing to two souls who feel like they are fulfilling a special calling from God.  But to the minds and bodies that are being dragged along, this union feels like a nightmare.

Forming Templates

So what about parents?  Well, let’s set the word parents aside and just talk about early life influences. When you’re born, you know nothing about humans.  Whoever is most involved in your upbringing ends up serving as a very educational role model—a kind of base template that you rely on to understand human nature.  Typically those key influences are our parents, but they can really be anyone who you perceive as controlling critical resources, such as food, shelter, and emotional affirmation.  If your mind and soul liked your early role models, then they consider it smart to try and find you an intimate partner who has a lot of traits in common with the nice, safe people who provided for you early on.  In this situation, parents end up being used as a positive template for a future intimate partner.  It has nothing to do with trying to fulfil some suppressed sexual attraction to our parents—that’s just Freudian foolishness.  When your mind and soul use your parents as a positive template of qualities that you want your intimate partner to match, the kinds of qualities being focused on are qualities that your mind and soul feel will help your partner meet your basic needs.  For example, as an adult, you’d like to have a decent, steady income of cash coming in so that you can afford your idea of “the basics.”  Perhaps your father was a steady worker who brought home a generous wage, and you grew up with plenty of material comforts as a result.  Your mind is very intelligent and it logically connects the concepts of dad being a dependable worker with a valued skillset and you being materially comfortable.  Since your mind wants you to be materially comfortable as an adult, it uses dad as a reference for what is needed to make that happen.  It concludes that you need a partner who has a valuable set of skills and who shows signs of being a dependable worker.  Based on your mental template, you conclude that you should steer clear of people who are frequently unemployed or who don’t seem to have any potential to score high paying jobs. 

Now what’s interesting about this is that the templates your mind creates never accurately reflect the people who they are based on.  Instead, your mind’s templates portray specific individuals in a very skewed light, with only some of their qualities being focused on while many others are being ignored.  This kind of bias works in both positive and negative directions.  For example, if your father was an alcoholic who was prone to fits of rage when he was drunk, his violent temper will likely end up as a key feature on your mind’s dad template.  In real life, your father has many qualities, but since his violent outbursts put you at risk of being injured, your mind quickly locked onto them as being of supreme importance. 

Role model templates can be positive or negative. Once they are formed, how we end up using them varies. In some cases, we use the templates as a list of “what to avoid in a future spouse.”  Other times, we try to find someone who will match the template as much as possible.  But remember: the templates themselves are not an accurate reflection of the people who they are based on. Instead of recording who those people actually were, our templates focus more on how those people made us feel.  If dad made us feel safe, we choose certain qualities about him which we mentally link to that happy, safe feeling.  If dad made us feel scared, we note other qualities about him that we feel are associated with those negative feelings. Often these associations that we form are inaccurate, meaning that they link two concepts that really have nothing to do with each other.  Dad made you feel safe and dad was unusually tall so now you find yourself attracting to very tall men because they make you feel safe.  What does physical height have to do with a man’s willingness to protect you from harm?  Nothing.  Or let’s say that dad had a thick beard and he always made you laugh, so now you find yourself attracted to bearded men, who you view as more likely to have a funny sense of humour.  Is this an accurate association to make?  No, but minds make these kinds of links all the time. 

To your mind, all of its links are based on reasonable logic.  But your soul is often kept out of the loop on what your mind is thinking, so it often finds it odd that you are attracting to certain people over others.  When your friend asks you, “What’s your physical type in a guy?”, certain physical qualities will immediately come to mind, but they will likely be very limited in scope.  You might instantly think “dark hair” but you might not have any opinion about eye colour or size of feet.  If your friend were to ask you why you like dark hair, you would probably be unable to her a detailed explanation.  To you, your ideal “type” just seems wired in.  But in reality, it is based on templates which your mind has strategically created—templates that are loosely based on real people who had a significant impact on you earlier in life.

So then, do we try to marry our parents?  Not exactly.  We use our impressions of our primary guardians to create templates of qualities which we then either try to find or avoid.  Your subconscious always has strong opinions about who you should and shouldn’t try to pair up with.  Sometimes your soul has strong opinions as well.  To push you towards a partner that it is personally interested in, your subconscious creates feelings of “chemistry,” which often include a strong element of sexual attraction.  If your soul really likes the person your mind has chosen, you’ll also feel a spiritual attraction to them.  The strength of your attraction depends on how well your internal elements feel the other person can meet their current needs.  When a person seems like a very good candidate to meet some of your strongest core needs—either spiritual, psychological, or both—your attraction to them can feel overwhelmingly strong and you’ll probably be unable to think of anything else until the relationship has a chance to progress past its infant stages.

This post was written in response to Claire.