Relationship Intelligence: The Key to Picking a Life Partner. ~ Mark Wolynn

Via Mark Wolynn
on Aug 3, 2013
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For over two decades, I have worked with men and women from around the world to help them improve their relationships.

I have noticed a common thread of unhappiness and disappointment throughout, a mélange of musical partners and dead end relationships—patterns which can be avoided once we understand the hidden dynamics operating behind the scenes. Let me start by telling you about Trent.

Trent was ready to foreclose on love. All of his relationships had been short-lived. None had lasted more than a year and he no longer trusted in his ability to make good choices.  The women he chose fell into one of two categories: the “chronically dissatisfied” or the “Damsels in Distress”—the ones he felt he needed to save.

In the first category, the women seemed to come equipped with old anger brought forward from the past. No matter how giving or loving Trent would be, their anger often seemed to explode in his direction. “You never give me enough.” “You never see me.” “You never reassure me.” “You never….”  The accusations were relentless and often seemed to be unrelated to Trent’s behaviour.

Reject Your Parent, Reject Your Partner

These particular women, Trent later learned, felt that they had never received enough from their mothers. Believing they had been short-changed by the one person who was responsible for caring for them when they were small, these women projected a feeling of deprivation onto their partner, the next person in line to care for them. Their complaints about each “love gone wrong” all shared a similar quality: “He didn’t give me what I needed. He never gave me the love I deserved.” The more they clung to this early feeling, the less likely they could see their partner for who he really was and for what he was truly able to give.

The women in the second category felt very familiar to Trent. He could rescue them from their deepest pain. He could understand their hidden needs. He could read between the blurred lines of their desires and their dislikes. In the initial months of the relationship, Trent would feel inflated like a hero. A champion of love.  That is, until his feelings disappeared and his heart felt like a block of cement.

As a boy, Trent would try to ease his mother’s unhappiness. For as long as he could remember, his mother was sad and lonely.

Unhappy with the love she received from her own mother, she was equally unhappy with the love she received from her husband.

Trent’s father could do no right in her eyes and, eventually, with all of his attempts to please her thwarted, he began spending more time away from home. From a young boy’s perspective, Mom was alone and Dad was absent. That’s when Trent, sensing a hole that needed to be filled, dove in. He was a good boy, sensitive and caring, the perfect rescuer—skills he would employ in later relationships. He would give his mother what his father could not, and imagined that his love made her happy. Trent became the gleam in his mother’s eyes. He became her raison d’être.

Overwhelmed Children Can Become Overwhelmed Partners

While it felt good to try to make his mom happy when he was young, it became burdensome as he grew older. He realized that he could never give her what she needed. He could never fully take her pain away. It had been a fruitless undertaking.

A parent’s role is to give to a child; a child’s role is to receive from a parent. When this order is reversed, a child can struggle in later relationships.

This was the case with Trent.

Feeling responsible for making his mother happy drained Trent emotionally. Her love felt inundating. Her needs overwhelmed him. That same feeling pervaded his later relationships.

Confusing the needs of his partners with the needs of his mother, Trent found himself shutting down without understanding why.

The natural wants and desires of his partners felt like a cascading torrent of demands. His body would tighten to the degree that he would say yes when he meant no and no when he meant yes. When Trent’s relationships reached this point, they rarely lasted very long.

Trent’s early dynamic with his mother caused great suffering in his relationships. His baffling shutdowns and rapid departures were destructive forces that both embittered him and enraged his partners. Intimacy and longevity with Trent didn’t stand a chance.

Choosing unhappy women he felt he could save, Trent would initially be the hero, only to become the villain by leaving the women who loved him. Having hurt several partners, and numbing himself one too many times, Trent finally took time off from his relationship pain and put time into understanding his relationship patterns.

Breathing Can Clarify Your Feelings

In taking time for himself, he learned to set an inner boundary with his mother. In his mind’s eye, he visualized standing far enough away from her where he could relax enough to feel his breath filling his body.

With his breath flowing, he could feel the emotions and physical sensations that gave him cues to know what he wanted and what he didn’t want.

In time, he was able to differentiate between his desires for closeness and sensations that alerted him that he needed to step back and integrate what he was experiencing.

At the same time he distanced from his mother internally, he maintained a warm connection with her externally. Instead of continuing the pattern of giving to her, he was now able to receive from her. He could take in her love without having to give anything back.

Bonding with the Same-Sexed Parent Can Strengthen Your Relationship

Trent also developed a deeper bond with his father. As a boy, he often witnessed his mother ridicule his father. Not only was it painful to watch, Trent felt he didn’t have his mother’s permission to love him. He couldn’t love them both. Were he to openly love his father, Trent felt he would secretly betray his mother.

His feelings for his father were also obscured by the fact that his mother preferred his company to his father’s. Trent stood in his father’s place as his mother’s emotional partner. Feeling responsible for her emotional needs, Trent had little option to stand anywhere else. It was as though his father had been shoved behind a curtain where Trent had no access to him without his mother pointing the way.

In getting close with his father, Trent discovered what a great guy he was. It was shocking to learn that his father had always been there waiting for Trent to come to him. Trent just couldn’t get to him, and his father had no way to pierce the dynamic that separated them.

The experience of reconnecting with his father was extraordinary.

With his father at his back, Trent felt as though he was tapping into an endless source of strength and masculinity.

Eventually, it changed the way Trent felt about himself. He now felt ready to resume looking for a partner. But he had questions.

After understanding the dynamics of his own childhood confusion, Trent wondered what sat on the other side for women. If a close relationship with his father was crucial for his ability to bond with a woman, what kind of relationship would a woman need to have with her parents so that she could have the best chance of succeeding with a partner?

What type of woman would make a good partner?

Here’s the bottom line: Look for a woman who genuinely adores her mother. If she has remained trusting and vulnerable to her mother’s love, if she delights in receiving her mother’s tenderness and care, she will receive similarly from you. Your relationship will also be strengthened if her mother and father—whether they stayed together or not—demonstrated care and respect for one another. Now let’s turn the tables.

What type of man would make a good partner?

Here’s the bottom line: Look for a man who reveres his father. If he credits his father for being his role model, guiding him through life’s challenges, you are in good hands. A man who admires his father wants to emulate what he admires most in him. Choose a man who feels loved and supported by both parents, yet sees himself as being a bit more aligned with his father. If he was his mother’s emotional partner, and was distant with his father, don’t expect an easy road ahead.

If he attempted to satisfy his mother’s unmet needs and supply her with what she felt she couldn’t get from her husband, look out. This man is likely to have difficulty appreciating your needs.  Fearing that you will want too much from him, the way his mother did, he is likely to put his guard up by shutting down physically or emotionally when he feels he’s getting too close to you.

Our partner’s relationship with his or her parents can be a trusted indicator of how frustrating or fulfilling our relationship can be. If there’s one takeaway, it would be this:

A solid bond with the same-sexed parent can be insurance that your relationship will endure.

With this principle as your guiding light, you now hold an essential piece of the relationship puzzle and can be more prepared when it’s time to pick your life partner.

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Assist. Ed: Jade Belzberg/Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Mark Wolynn

Mark Wolynn is the Director of The Hellinger Institute of Northern California and co-director of the Hellinger Learning Center in New York City, Mark is one of North America’s foremost Family Constellation facilitators. He conducts workshops and trainings in family therapy throughout the United States, Canada, England and Latin America, as well as for the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Social Work, Western Psychiatric Institute’s 4th-Year Psychiatry Residency Training Program, Kripalu and the California Institute of Integral Studies. Mark is a regular presenter at hospitals, clinics, conferences and teaching centers. He specializes in working with depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, fears, panic disorders, self-injury, chronic pain and persistent symptoms and conditions. Check out his website for further details.


121 Responses to “Relationship Intelligence: The Key to Picking a Life Partner. ~ Mark Wolynn”

  1. Matt says:


  2. Alexis says:

    I agree with the gals above…this article is simplistic and alienating and really just unhelpful the majority of the population. you put a lot of effort in allowing Trent to go over his parental relationships and finding and repairing them, but you do not offer women the same. And furthermore, Trent is quite lucky that his father turned out to be such a wonderful guy…some of us might not have such luck and it would be impossible and not at all healthy to "genuinely adore [our] mother". And in response to Elliot's comment, no one is "bashing" anything, they are simply saying that this article is only helpful for a small portion of people, men who have wonderful fathers that they haven't yet gotten to know because of a horrible mother who kept them apart or women who have wonderful mothers who's fathers have somehow kept them from knowing this. Most people do not fit into this world. if you don't already know your mother or father is wonderful, it might be because they aren't and didn't make any effort to know you. And that doesn't mean that you will never be able to be in a healthy relationship!

  3. gretacargo says:

    Agreed!! Alrishi, very well articulated: Perfect parenting doesn't exist, so what's important is that someone be willing to face their imperfect childhood with courage and compassion.

    I've spent a lifetime trying to understand my mother and yet my parents had a loving relationship. I've also realized all of the good things she has given and developed along with the bad. Recognizing the dysfunction gives me greater awareness and sensitivity to what I bring to my partner. Lack of awareness would track with what Mark writes. I wish he didn't end on such a disheartening note. The exercise in his recommended blogpost I must respectfully disagree with. Understanding the family difficulties and finding forgiveness is difficult, but it is as much about forgiving ourselves for the anger and frustration we feel over what is lost. Finding a surrogate parent in another older and good/wiser person is healing. And also recognizing the nuturing power of a partner (yet not making them into a parent) is also a wonderful gift. I feel that these are significantly missing themes in the article above.

  4. gretacargo says:

    Agreed, and the awareness of those patterns and healing from them can still make us worthy partners. I wish that were more obvious in this article.

  5. anonomously me says:

    Well… here is my two cents…. I had parents that worked all the time, and I mean all the time, they supplied me with food and shelter, but were never around for me otherwise… I was not taught about how horrible people can be, I was told to suck it up and move on. If there was something to cry about, well I was on my own. Be rest assured, my mother had absolutely no time for it. Not that she didn't care, it was because she was so busy. So I accepted that. Not one baseball game, basketball game, countless times when I was a cheerleader for the boys teams, music recitals, swimming, or skating… nothing… as much as I would look in the crowd and hope that just maybe… they would show up… they never did. I have loving parents, they did the best they could… I had to accept that… along with all of this came baggage of things I never even knew! Somewhere along the way, my parents… probably during my infancy, til I was 5 or 6 when I started going to school… they loved me dearly !!! As for the following how ever many years, they were none existent parents. I have had to release those empty years and replace them with the ones I remember full of love… in this evolution process, I have learned many things… and purged out many demons created, from not having the voice of reason to go to… I was on my own. I am happy, I am struggling… and I have a group of loving friends who are the best family I have ever known… they remind me… how great life can be with me in it. So the bottom line is this… one must learn to love… fully and completely, it is just way to easy to let yourself off the hook by blaming someone else for your misfortunes in life… people are going to hate you… there is just no way of getting around that… sometimes there two souls are not meant to be friends for life… it is a feeling everyone gets… but the ones that are worth it… will make it so worth it… all you have to do… is just love them… completely and unconditionally… you will find out your answer, it may not be what you expect… either way… it is a gift…

  6. anonomously me says:

    hopefully my post finds its way … knew I should have copied it… ((insert sad face))

  7. Brian says:

    Thank you, Patricia.

  8. I always hate these articles that say our parents will be the indicator for who "we" become as people. I was abused by my MOTHER before I could speak until the age of 11. I did have to work thru the issues with a therapist for many years, but I am a vibrant, outstanding, healthy mentally and spiritually, and really have it together more than most. I would make an outstanding partner, but I will never be close to my mother.

  9. Kari says:

    Hi Jane – An early separation from a mother can certainly have an effect on our relationships and our feelings of security. Even though she has passed, she is present with you and in you. Intergrated Body Psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing and Family Constellation Work are all good ways to support that connection.

  10. tammie says:

    I could not agree more! I found this to be the total opposite of both enlightening and realistic. In life we have a choice regarding who we want to be "when we grow up". Our parents may provide our roots in a sense, but we have a choice in life to dig deeper into who we are and what we are here for. People who remain attached unfortunately end up having issues that stem from their childhood. However, the more spiritually evolved, truth seeking and grounded individual realizes that our parents are merely a vehicle for us into this world. But we are what drives us…individually. The statement in this article regarding finding someone who has a good relationship with the same sexed parent if they want a lasting, trouble free relationship is absurd and the only one I can picture it ringing true for are unevolved, trapped souls who remain in suffering their entire lives. That my friends is a sad way to live. This post is for the weak minded and self pitty individual, I would never consider a man like that for a relationship.

  11. tammie says:

    I agree with you completely, you are most likely the most evolved person on this blog…parents create you, they dont define you and if they do, well then you have a whole lifetime of work ahead of you. I dont know you, but I am very proud of you for taking that courageous step in what is clearly a self realization journey you have been on. As I said in my last comment, our parents are our vehicle into this world, but it is us, as individuals who make the CHOICE to discover who we are and what we came here for. There is no other place that can come from rather than within, not your parents, not your boss, not your boyfriend/girlfriend, brother, sister, best friend, yoga teacher, guru of whatever it may be. YOU and only YOU can decide to dig deeper and find those answers, the aforementioned are just vehicles..thats it.. vehicles that we have most likely chosen before we came here…our suffering is what makes us who we are, we either have a choice to acknowledge it and work with it, embrace it, heal and move forward, or we can allow ourselves to continue to suffer. Any man that would allow his relationship with his parents determine the one he is going to have with his partner, is sadly misguided from his true path and needs to achieve self realization before he has any business providing love to another…this post was so far from the truth..

  12. Elliott says:

    Well said… Sometimes the distance is the love for yourself and your parents

  13. Brian says:

    I just want to say how grateful I am for this article and, just as importantly, all of the comments that have been posted. It feels as though Mark has started a conversation and all of you who have replied are helping to finish it. Wether you agreed with him or not, everything that was said was what I needed to hear. Funny how that sometimes works.

  14. Sheryl says:

    Perhaps looking for a partner who has made peace with their parent-child relationship experience would be kinder and more accurate. As someone who has deeply sat and difficultly worked through the physical abuse and neglect I experienced as a child, I encourage the richness of exploring emotional bonds and attachment from the roots to move forward.

    Genuine love for my mother? …in a distant disassociated spiritual way perhaps. Does this mean that I should not be chosen as as a partner despite I having living and cultivating a conscious, heartful and loving life path? Apparently – according to this article. Hmmm.

  15. Lori Bell says:

    As many commenters here, I had a similar response to the (seeming) "bottom line" of this article, having come from a very difficult childhood and distant or strained relationships with both parents. I am also simply aware that, in truth, Most people have come from dysfunctional families. In a talk I heard given by Terry Gorski, author of "Getting Love Right: Learning the Choices of Healthy Intimacy" (which I highly recommend), he estimated that 70-80% of the (U.S./"Western") population has grown up with dysfunctional families; i.e. families where children were not being taught how to a) recognize and communicate effectively with others about feelings, b) see reality more or less for what it is with little or no denial, and c) work productively with others. So, yes, as "insightful" as this article might be, there's probably going to be a relatively small percentage of the population that will be able to act on the info in exactly the same way "Trent" did.

    I have had the opportunity to give a TEDx talk wherein I shared what I felt were two of the keys to my own "recovery" (or, at least, the beginnings of my own recovery). You can view that link here: I think it speaks more to "the majority of the population" (if Terry Gorksi's numbers are correct). I also have my own blog where I have continued to share from all of my relationship experiences and learning (which is still ongoing). You can find that here:

    I agree with one of the commenters that becoming self-aware and introspective and fundamentally committed to truth, as I mention in my TEDx talk, is key to Any process of recovery. I call this being willing to do your "home" "work". And it is not easy. I think the article and even many of the comments here have something to offer to that greater discipline, and I also feel that we each must persevere, and keep learning as much as we can, from whatever sources and life experiences come our way.

    To address one of the other commenters, concerning my own "relationship status" – I may not be in my "dream relationship" right now, but I'm closer than I have ever been, and I have experienced more empathy, understanding, mutual respect, and emotional intimacy than I have ever experienced with anyone before. Furthermore, this relationship involves someone who has had just as many if not more challenges in his childhood than I faced, as well as someone who has also been doing his "home" "work", as I have mentioned above, and I fully appreciate that fact.

    And, finally, I'm not dead yet! And there is something in my heart that "knows" what is actually possible in an intimate relationship with another human being, even if I have not fully Realized That Perfectly yet in my own life. So, I am going to keep persevering and trusting that "inner knowing" and allowing it to guide me, through whatever life experiences and relationships come my way.

  16. Alicia says:

    Wow – What a conversation this article has stirred up. I'm trying to hear both sides. Lots of pain, anger, resentment, and defensiveness expressed here. The topic of our relationships with our parents seems to have hit a very raw nerve. Nobody has the absolute truth or answer as to how to find the perfect partner. This is one article that is provoking thought and conversation. Can we listen to the message without condemning the messenger or each other? I think we're all in the same boat trying to figure out love and life. If it was an easy and painless answer, we wouldn't be in this discussion. Thanks and peace!

  17. Jane says:

    I've never heard of those forms of therapy. I'm going to look into em. Thanks:)

  18. legalchic7 says:

    I'm with you Renee. After 45 years of trying, my relationship with my mother is now non-existent, by my choice. The bottom line is, I chose to end a lifetime of hurt, and I've never been happier or more content. In fact, severing that relationship has enabled and empowered me to be able to walk away from relationships that, for whatever reason, just don't work. Therapy, years of trying, but the relationship failed. I don't blame, it is what it is and I've moved on. That certainly shouldn't and doesn't mean I'm not worthy of dating or that I wouldn't make a good life partner. I also found the closing disheartening. I'm not alone in the bad relationship with mom category either. Probably 1/2 of my friends have a strained or minimal relationship with their mothers. We're still whole, complete women who have a LOT to offer someone (2 of whom are in very long term marriages). My relationship with my mother USED to be more of an influence (negative) on my relationships, and if anything, I've got more to offer (and I'm freer emotionally) because that relationship is now non-existent. I have forgiven my mother and harbor no anger or ill feelings towards her. I encourage my son's relationship with her, and when I've been physically present with her, I'm civil and polite. Sometimes, relationships fail. Therapy has taught me a lot and helped me understand her, and myself, and how that relationship affected other relationships. I don't accept that in order to have a healthy relationship with a partner you have to be close to your same sexed parent. Life isn't a box.

  19. articles like this often have a picture of a man and a woman….would be nice to see same sex couples used as the graphic more often

  20. Sanna Carapellotti says:

    This article was a fascinating read. I read it and the posts several times, learning and understanding more each time.

    First, Bravo! to Trent for having the courage to explore his struggles!

    I am thrilled that Trent found Mark Wolynn to assist him in understanding his relational patterns. Trent could be Bill, Tom or Jack, or any man; and his girlfriends, Sally, Dawn or Liz, any woman.

    Relationships are complicated and multi-faceted. We all experience that. We bring who we are as individuals into them, and we are the products of our lives and the decisions we made along the way, which includes the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. We do the best we can with what we know and are willing to do.

    I completely agree with Elliott who reports that our culture blames parents and it occurs even in the mental health profession. I experienced that personally.

    I spent years pointing fingers at my parents for my unhappiness until I realized I was playing out a script I had clung to, that was, to be angry and distant, and to pretend I wasn’t unhappy.

    When I was able to see my parents as two people with all their strengths and shortcomings, how they grew up in this world, the impact it had on them, etc., although it was totally unexpected– I became more tolerant and forgiving of myself and others. I stepped down from my demanding high horse.

    II admit it was difficult to see through my anger and resentment, but I persisted. The transformation occured when this happened: In order for me to ‘accept them’ as people and MY parents, I had to start at square one- my parents were loving and generous enough to give me life on this planet. Without them, I would not exist today. Planting that seed , breathing into my body, expanded my ability to see a pattern, a soul energy movement, in the family system that I chose to stop. It ended with me.

    As adults, it is up to us to resolve our inner conflicts so we can breathe more fully, as Mark Wolynn explains, into the life we want to live.

    If I were younger, single, and considering a partner, I would insist that he and I work through the challenges we would inevitably face with a powerful professional, such as Mark Wolynn, if we cannot do it on our own.

    The partners we chose can be our greatest healers if we commit to understanding our needs and desires within that partnership, which includes our early experiences within our families of origin. It is what it is, was, and I decide what I do with it.

  21. Sanna Carapellotti says:

    This article was a fascinating read. I read it and the posts several times, learning and understanding more each time.

    Bravo to Trent for having the courage to explore his struggles!

    I am thrilled that Trent found Mark Wolynn to assist him in understanding his relational patterns. Trent could be Bill, Tom or Jack, or any man; and his girlfriends, Sally, Dawn or Liz, any woman.

    Relationships are complicated and multi-faceted. We all experience that. We bring who we are as individuals into them, and we are the products of our lives and the decisions we made along the way, which includes the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. We do the best we can with what we know and are willing to do.

    I completely agree with Elliott who reports that our culture blames parents.

    I spent years pointing fingers at my parents for my unhappiness until I realized I was playing out a script I had clung to, that was, to be angry and distant, and to pretend I wasn’t unhappy.

    When I was able to see my parents as two people with all their strengths and shortcomings, how they grew up in this world, the impact it had on them, etc., although it was totally unexpected– I became more tolerant and forgiving of myself and others. I stepped down from my demanding high horse.

    I was difficult to see through my anger and resentment, I admit, and in order to ‘accept them’ as people and MY parents, I had to start at square one- my parents were loving and generous enough to give me life on this planet. Without them, I would not exist today. Planting that seed expanded my ability to see a pattern, a soul energy movement, in the family system that I chose to stop. It ended with me.

    As adults, it is up to us to resolve our inner conflicts so we can breathe more fully, as Mark Wolynn explains, into the life we want to live.

    If I were considering a partner, I would insist that he and I work through the challenges we would inevitably face with a powerful professional, such as Mark Wolynn, if we cannot do it on our own.

    The partners we chose can be our greatest healers if we commit to understanding our needs and desires within that partnership, which includes our early experiences within our families of origin. It is what it is, was, and I decide what I do with it.

  22. Patty says:

    Well-stated. Thank you!

  23. jlo says:

    Yep, I agree this is spot on. I have lived with the aforementioned bad blood with both mom & dad, and until i stopped those cycles completely, and stopped blaming them, and began to move on with my life, and love myself – I had the bad relationships. Horrid. I now have the most wonderful guy in my life who reveres his dad and worships his mom. And I let him love me, too.

  24. Sanna Carapellotti says:

    Beautiful, Jio!

  25. Mark Wolynn says:

    Renee, thank you for your comments. Hopefully, I have addressed your questions in my latest blog post:

  26. Mark Wolynn says:

    I've just posted more information you might find helpful. Here's the link:

  27. Mark Wolynn says:

    Kimberly, there are some ideas that might be helpful here:

  28. Mark Wolynn says:

    Thank you for all your comments and feedback. Here’s my latest blog post that addresses some of the questions that were raised during this discussion.… Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts. Mark

  29. As a Constellation Facilitator myself (and a child of abuse) I can share with those of you who are concerned about finding an open heart to your parent/parents, that there is help that can change everything. What this particular article does not touch on is that in working from a Family Constellation persepctive we are given insight and understanding into the deeper dynamics that stand behind our parents inability to bond with us, and to their own parents, in healthy ways. This insight into ancestral dynamics that are passed down can change everything and help us widen our hearts and let go of the painful stories we hold about our experiences with our parents. I know this because in studying and applying this work over the last decade to my own life, it has completely transformed my image about my parents and myself. The work can help heal a great deal. As a Family Constellation Facilitator and Educator Mark is wonderful at helping people begin the re-bonding process with their parent regardless of what may or may not have occurred for a person and their parent/s. This article relates to ALL of us once we are able to hold a new, more loving open image of our parents. I recommend checking out his website and other information as it relates to Family Constellation Therapy. Family dynamics and old painful stories can shift. The work that Mark and I do can help a great deal. Blessings to all, Felice Laurel

  30. I agree with you here Cara–it's not the history as much as one's awareness of how it impacts your relationships and the healing of those patterns.

  31. Ange says:

    My partner and I both have less than reverent relationships with our parents, but that doesn’t translate into our relationship; which is healthy, fun and respectful. Your article does not ring true for us at all.

  32. Iona Eubanks says:

    To look for a partner with no mommy or daddy issuesTo look for a partner with no mommy or daddy issues, is lame advice, Sir, very lame. I don't care how many therapists defend your point. That's like telling a single parent to make enough money to be able to afford to live in a good neighborhood and calling it parenting advice. Neither my husband nor I can stand either of our parents. No one can stand them. They are insufferable. So what? We love each other, get along great, and do our best not to be anything like those clods. Accepting reality is key to success at anything. That, a sense of humor and some luck, beats the hell out of pretending shit is ok that just plain isn't.

  33. DUatCU says:

    While not blaming or judging anyone, the fact is my father left when I was 12, and we haven't spoken in nearly 20 years. This doesn't make me a less-complete person, and I will not blame this fact for any success or failures I have in relationships.

  34. SingleMomma says:

    What about adults who were abandoned by their same-sex parent as a child or who didn't fall into your ideal partner category for reasons beyond their control? I guess they're out of luck? They aren't ideal partners? As a single mother of a boy, I read intently about mothers putting their emotional needs on their sons, that was interesting and made me feel more mindful about how I am with my son. My son doesn't have a relationship with his father, nor does he have any male role models except for teachers perhaps, I wonder if he'll ever make an ideal partner. Pretty sad article overall. Any suggestions for those of us either born into or raising children in an "unconventional" family?

  35. Lore_gris says:

    I can see my last, brief relationship here with a man who got very close to me, but then got overwhelmed by the prospect of a true relationship and flitted away after I expressed that I did indeed desire a relationship and outlined my very basic needs. But, what concerns me about this – is the reality that not everyone can have a mother they "delight" in receiving their love. My mother is a diagnosed schizophrenic. She has lived in and outside of treatment centers off and on for over 10 years. She cared for us the best she could until her illness prevented her from doing so. She sometimes would lock herself in her room for days while we were growing up. My mother recently was evicted from her apartment. She lives on the other side of the country, and we did everything we could by contacting social services and sending crisis social workers to her house. But, she did what we advised not doing and took a bus to North Carolina to try to stay with a cousin. No one in my family has heard from my Mom in the past 2 weeks. I cannot "truly delight in receiving my mother's love" as the author suggests and I doubt there will every be a time, even if found and stabilized with proper medication and rest that my relationship with my mother will ever mirror a healthy one in which she gives and I receive. For this, I attempt to do what I can for my mother, but I have to live my own life. I think it's unfair to say that I'm somehow "damaged good" for a partner, or that I'm not the "type of girl you would want to enter a relationship with". Have I had more challenges than a girl who has good reason to "delight in her mother's love"? Have issues in my relationships manifested themselves from childhood hurts? Probably. But, have I gone through a lot of therapy to overcome this? Yes! I also deserve a good relationship and can be a great partner with someone who can respect that part of my life and how difficult it is to deal. I am most certainly "the kind of woman that would make a good partner" – adoring my mother or having to accept her and her situation for what is.

  36. LivingArtisan says:

    I think its more important to be resolved and at peace with our parents, regardless if the relationship was supportive or not. ideally everybody grows up with a perfect family, but we all know that isn't reality. To believe that we must have a perfect adoring relationship with our same-sex parent to have a strong relationship with our partner is very clinical and idealistic.

    However, in my own experience, the women I've dated whose mothers didn't treat them with love and whose fathers abandoned the family or were divorced are the relationships that have been the most turbulent and bewildering.

    Coming from a family where my mother and father are still married after nearly 40 years has made me unusual. I think that people who come from divorced family or single parent homes have different needs and relationship skills than people who are raised within a more traditional family structure.

    So the needs, perspectives, expectations, will be completely different.

    To say that a partner will or will not be good because they do or do not have a good relationship with one or other of the parents is an incomplete premise.

  37. Mar says:

    Much wisdom, very harsh conclusion. The man I have been with for 4 years did not know his father. He is still a beautiful, loving and strong man.

  38. florella says:

    Thank you for a great article, and thanks everyone for equally fantastic comments! Such an interesting exchange. I just have one question – in your POV, are there significant differences in the importance/way of impact when it comes to ones relationship to a stepfather or stepmother? How would you describe the impact of an abusive stepfather? I understand that the way to healing is the same, but I just wanted to hear your thoughts on how it can impact my behavior.

  39. vyogi says:

    I am 100% behind this article and really appreciate the post. Thank you for writing this, one of the best ive read on elephant journal in a while! !

  40. omshanti says:

    What about people who had abusive same sex parents? Damaged goods? Not worthy of be chosen as life partners? Not capable of being good life partners? I cannot get behind this article.

  41. rachel says:

    completely agree, i love my mother, and she is very difficult, i dont receive love from her, because she cant give it, that doesnt mean i am a bad partner, although sometimes a doormat

  42. kolohi says:

    I have to strongly disagree with Mr. Wolynn. I don't think that how much you "adore" a parent tells anything at all about you. So many writers here have expressed pain and insecurity about their ability to have healthy relationships if their parental bonds are strained. As a health care professional, I feel that Mr. Wolynn's position is irresponsible. To the writers: ignore him and create your own success stories.

    I can site relationship profiles, also: Person #1: "adored" both the same and opposite gender parent, to a point where he felt paralyzed by their goodness, as in, "I cannot measure up", so he gave up entirely… expecting to fall short of his idealization. Now in his 50's, Person #1 has never married, has never had children and has never been able to live with a partner. He hates his life. Person #2 "adored" his same gender parent. This parent was a workaholic, alcoholic, abusive parent. Person #2 has adored his parent to the point of emulation. Hardly a surprise.

    It makes no sense whatever to evaluate a person based on the qualities of the parents… something quite beyond our personal control.

    Instead of seeking a partner with a capacity for undifferentiated "adoration", I would prefer a partner who can view parents and other humans clearly and honestly… who can respond consciously and appropriately as the circumstances warrant. Straight up: an abusive parent is unworthy of my adoration. My ability to draw appropriate boundaries, break patterns and forge a new type of relationship with such a family member is what is important.

    "Adoration" of a parent is meaningless in and of itself. What is important is HOW we respond to those things we cannot control. Sometimes it is appropriate to walk away from an abusive parent. Sometimes it is appropriate to foster a continued, limited relationship with a parent. Sometimes it is appropriate to mend a rift in the relationship. "Reject your parent, reject your partner?" Absurd.

    In the end, what a person makes of the circumstances handed to them is the defining element. That Mr. Wolynn presumes parents to be a positive influence tells me that he is insulated and out of touch. Again, how "adoring" an individual feels about their parents is a significant predictor of… hardly anything. That we have free will and are capable of our own choices may be frightening, but that does not make it any less true.

    P.S., I am in a healthy, loving, married relationship… in case that is relevant to anyone reading my comments.

  43. Alison says:

    I like some of the things in this article but not everyone has the best relationship with their patents. Is this to say those people are incapable if love? You’re leaving out a large part of the population. Some people never knew their parent or were abandoned and abused by them. Or maybe the parent makes no effort to have a relationship with their son or daughter; they are a drug addict or recluse. So, if you are one of those people than you are s.o.l.? Lame. A lot of people come crappy situations that make it difficult to revere their parent. It does not mean they are incapable or a bad choice for a healthy relationship.

  44. Dawn says:

    I was abused and tortured by mother and ignored by my father. So that means I don't deserve to be loved?

  45. Aross says:

    I'm just wondering if anyone pointed out the issue of heteronormativity here… yes, there's probably some helpful information in this article, but it is very simplistic and completely misses many diverse family situations. Not only LGBTQ parents and their kids, but the situations of loss, death, prison, etc… so many different family systems to consider, not just mom and dad relationships.

  46. Dani says:

    I find this article extremely insulting. We do not live in a perfect world nor will we ever. Learning to love oneself makes a person whole. It is like you are trying to say that every human being’s value is based on how much they were loved as kids.

  47. KH says:

    It is seriously cruel and unfair to say I am an unfit partner just because my mother had no interest in mothering me. Yes, I missed out on a lot as a child but that was not my fault! I was just a little girl who got up for school every day alone, age 7, while my patents slept. I want an equal partner, the kind where we do things for each other because we love each other and because it’s fun. I don’t need a babysitter and I’m not angry or any of the other stuff mentioned. I just miss love, giving and receiving. It’s really that simple. Your friend,,,, Kath

  48. Bodine says:

    wow- really- so basically the majority of us are doomed in relationships.My suggestion is you do more research and work around this subject. this is not a one size fits all world.What works for Trent or mary or John may not work for someone else…I know(and teach) a lot of fantastic people and I have to say not many revere their mother or father…there are a lot- I mean so so many people with childhood emotional trauma.Broken families, abusive parents….
    so then avoid these people you say?This piece was submitted and accepted? wow again.
    Men and women look for someone who is authentic, and you, be authentic.Love yourself.end of story.

  49. Dominique says:

    I have seen enough therapists to get the point of what you are saying, but today is actually the day I had to let my mother know that she wasn't welcome back into mine and my sons life until she seeks out medical mental help. I wont say I am at peace with her, but I can say I have spent many years taking a look at my part in these situations, and learning to find compassion for another wounded child. I can also list traits from her that I inherited from her, and love about myself. It is because of her I am so open and driven to heal, which is why I made this decision to remove her. I am still reprogramming, and her continuous emotional abuse has proven to be a huge road block, and I have to protect my son from the toxic nature of her energy. So since I am not close with my mom, I'm not a good catch. Really bad advice. Everyone has wounds, and everyone is a teacher. Our worth is not that simple. Maybe your speaking about the average american who has no sense of individuality, let's their mind continue to be controlled by other people and things, and who has those relationships, and no consciousness in regards to healing, boundaries, and searching inside for worth. Please consider not giving advice like this to someone you are trying to help.

  50. Kate lambert says:

    This article is massively insightful and resonated with me at a deep level as I explore my own constant disassisfaction in relationships. I felt empty and saddened by the end when the article concluded by advising partners to pick people devoid of the experiences it describes. That person to avoid is me- so best that I’m left on the shelf Alongside the rest of us unfortunate souls with parent issues? I think a part two article is needed – written not for the person picking but to advise the person who it advises to avoided. We are all deserved of love