If you’ve been putting yourself out there and are serious about looking for love, you might find yourself frustrated and upset to keep coming up empty-handed. You’re strong, smart, and a total catch, so where’s your Mr. Right? Turns out, your mom might be to blame for your eternal singlehood, at least according to a new study. Here’s what you need to know.
This was a pretty large-scale study. Researchers pulled data from two national surveys spanning more than 24 years, both following the same mothers and their children during that period. The aim was to see how many partners both had over the study period.
Turns out, we really are becoming more like our mothers every day. Study author Claire Kemp Dush of the University of Ohio found that those of us with moms who had more partners, whether more casual arrangements or actual marriages, tended to follow in their footsteps with a similar number of relationships. In other words, if our moms find it hard to form stable connections, it’s way more likely to happen to us too.
We imitate what we see. “Our results suggest that mothers may have certain characteristics that make them more or less desirable on the marriage market and better or worse at relationships,” Dush explained. “Children inherit and learn those skills and behaviors and may take them into their own relationships.” She added that we’re not just affected by divorce but even the endings of more casual relationships.
It’s hard to learn healthy relationship habits if our mothers don’t practice them or teach them. Dush admits that for better or worse, we go into relationships using the skills we’ve been given or that we’ve witnessed on display over the years. “It could be that mothers who have more partners don’t have great relationship skills, or don’t deal with conflict well, or have mental health problems, each of which can undermine relationships and lead to instability,” she said. “Whatever the exact mechanisms, they may pass these characteristics on to their children, making their children’s relationships less stable.”
Of course, not all is lost. Just because our parents may not have been a great example of healthy, happy, thriving relationships doesn’t mean we’re doomed to repeat all their mistakes. While this study says it’s more likely that we’ll follow in our moms’ footsteps, it doesn’t mean that through awareness and hard work, we can break the cycle and have more fulfilling partnerships. Knowledge is power, so if we see ourselves falling into these patterns, we have the ability to take a step back and approach things from a more informed place.
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