How Your Relationship With Your Mother Shapes Your Love Life

A mother laughing with her daughters.

Did you know that talking to your mom can relieve your stress? (Image: Ruslan Huzau via Dreamstime)

Most of us grew up with our mothers as our primary caregivers, and it is their love, care, and warmth that most people experience first. A secure attachment with one’s primary caregiver provides a safe platform for exploring the world, reassuring the baby that the outside world is safe with their mother by their side, and triggering normal brain development. This is when your relationship with your caregiver begins.

The Difference between bonding and attachment

It may seem trivial, but it’s important to understand the difference between bonding and attachment. Attachment has been shown to affect a person’s emotional and social outcome, while generally, bonding doesn’t. Attachment grows or dissipates depending on a caregiver’s response when the child’s feelings of security or safety are threatened. With time, children learn to anticipate a parent’s reaction when ill, hurt, or frightened. They learn how the parent responds to their distress and shapes their behaviors accordingly. 

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The impact of your childhood relationship with your mom

Studies have shown that a father’s relationship can impact a child’s entire life, and similarly, a mother’s relationship can also affect one’s future romantic relationships and social interactions. The emotional availability of a mother shapes the attachment bond that forms between her and a child, which, in turn, affects how love is perceived and distributed. According to Dr. John Bowlby, attachment is “the lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” 

Stressed mother holds her baby while standing outside bundled for the cold winter weather.
The emotional availability of a mother shapes the attachment bond that forms between mother and child, which, in turn, affects how love is perceived and distributed. (Image: Nicoleta Ionescu via Dreamstime)

Most behavioral theories suggest that attachment is a learned behavior, implying that infants only develop attachments with their caregivers because they provide nourishment. Attachment is currently classified into two main categories: secure attachment, which results from a good working relationship with one’s primary caregiver, and insecure attachment, which results from unresponsiveness or a traumatic relationship with one’s caregiver. In most cases, primary caregivers are one’s parents, and their responsiveness and consistency determine whether a secure or insecure attachment develops. Did you count on your caregivers when you had a problem?

How your relationship with your mother affects your future relationships

It affects the type of attachment you have with others

A good relationship with your mother can lead to a secure relationship with others. Conversely, experiencing an insecure attachment to your mother may result in projecting these insecurities onto others, including your children.

How you regard yourself

A secure attachment with your mother teaches you that you are important and that it is safe to trust others who care about your needs and respond appropriately. Conversely, a bad relationship with your mother may lower your self-esteem, making you believe that you do not matter, and your needs are not worth attending to. 

It influences the type of people you attract and vice versa

Your relationship with your mother can influence the type of people you attract and are attracted to. Psychologically, you may be drawn to individuals who resemble your mother emotionally, not necessarily because it is what you desire, but because it is what you are familiar with. Men often seek romantic partners with similar characteristics to their mothers. Therefore, if they have a strained relationship with their mother, they may choose an unsuitable partner.

A young woman turns to flirt with a guy on a walkway next to the ocean.
Your relationship with your mother can influence the type of people you attract and are attracted to. (Image: Eldar Nurkovic via Dreamstime)

It impacts your communication and behavior

Your communication and emotions can reflect your relationship with your mother, according to Dr. Rebecca Bergen. Additionally, you may mimic her words throughout your life. As a child, you learn important life skills such as conflict resolution and healthy relationships from your mother’s behavior. As an adult, you may adopt the same methods you saw your mother use to handle problems.

Working on your relationships

While it is true that not all people with relationship issues had negative experiences with their mothers during childhood, some may have encountered trauma from other sources. Others may be receiving unhelpful advice, for example, “how to be masculine.” Nonetheless, unresolved childhood trauma can continue to affect future romantic relationships until they are addressed. Although it may be challenging to discuss these issues, it is essential to communicate and resolve them to improve your relationships.

Relationships are not easy, and healing takes time. But it’s advisable to establish a healthy communication platform between you and the people around you. This can be done by talking to a therapist, joining a support group, or even talking to a close friend. 

The benefits of establishing healthy communication

Establishing healthy communication can help you to build trust and understanding with your partner. It can also help you to be more open and honest with your feelings. Additionally, it can help you to be more understanding and compassionate towards your partner. Finally, it can help you to be more patient and understanding when it comes to resolving conflicts. 

Your relationship with your mother shapes your love life. A secure attachment with your mother teaches you that you are important and it is safe to trust others. It also affects the type of attachment you have with others, how you regard yourself, the type of people you attract, and your communication and behavior.

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