Did You Marry Your Mother?
If you’re a guy, you may well have heard someone, somewhere, tell you that you had married your mother. You might have even wondered that yourself on occasions. After all, it was no less than Sigmund Freud who told us that we are indeed attracted to our opposite sex parents. Even as babies, we are meant to have longings for our opposite sex parent, according to Freud. In fact, those feelings are so strong that they lead to conflicts with our same sex parents for our mother’s or father’s attention. It get’s so bad, apparently, that, even as kids, we can be homicidal about it. The Oedipus Complex is well known as the young male’s attempt to defeat his father. The lesser-known girl’s version was called The Electra Complex, which honestly sounds like an apartment block to me. So, does this lead us to selecting mates that resemble our opposite parents?
Studies on Freud’s ideas are few and far between today, but there were some studies conducted when his concepts were more in fashion.
In one study conducted in the 1950s, 100 men and 100 women were asked whether their romantic encounters were with people who resembled their opposite sex parents. 17% of the men and only 5% of the women said their romances involved people who physically resembled their opposite sex parents. Virtually the same results were found when asking about the similarity between romantic partners and the opposite parent’s disposition. So, it doesn’t look like we do date and mate people who are like our opposite sex parents, whether physically or in relation to personal traits. However, of course, that doesn’t mean that our parents don’t have some influence on our dating and marriage patterns.
There are some ways in which our parents might influence our general view of relationships, not least of which are the happiness and stability of our own marriage. We might, also, have been given some wisdom about what is important in a spouse that could determine what we look for in an ideal partner. Perhaps, more importantly, our experiences, either good or bad, with our parents are likely to influence our mate preferences. For example, if you felt smothered by your mother as a child, you probably would look for a spouse who gave you plenty of space and independence. Or, if your mother was a great listener and a source of emotional comfort, you are likely to put that trait on your list of things to look for in a spouse, whether you were consciously aware of the connection or not.
Recent work in how we think has shown us that we can often overestimate the value of a trait in our relationships. For example, if you believe that one of the main reasons for your recent divorce was your ex-husband’s overbearing control, you are likely to over-value and over-emphasize the opposite trait in your next relationship, seeking laid back guys and running quickly away from anyone who seemed remotely controlling.
So, if it isn’t our opposite parent that influences dating and mating choices, what does?
The research consistently shows that similarity on such things as attractiveness and values, is associated with attraction. Another theory is related to the notion of imprinting. When some animals are born, they immediately connect to the first living being they encounter, which would make some sense given that a lot of the time that would be mom. However, it could also be the midwife, the doctor or the lady cleaning the delivery room. It makes more sense to think of such imprinting not so much at birth, but when sexual maturity is reached and the hormones have kicked in; around pre-teen years. On this theory, the person you had your first crush on, after sexual maturity, would provide the physical features to which you are most attracted. So, if you were 11 and had your first huge crush on a girl with blonde hair, blondes would become your preferred physical type. However, even if that were true, I would assume that such a blueprint would be a general one and could fairly easily be overcome by factors other than physical appearance.
What do you think? Do you think the appearance of your first teen crush set you up to prefer dates and mates that had a similar appearance?
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