Why are we attracted to people who might be “wrong” for us?

Ever feel like you have no idea why you chose your current partner? After the 75th thousand fight about the same frikin’ thing you secretly question whether or not you are with the right person. Granted there are many things you must consider before making decisions about your relationship, but I have something really interesting to add to your reflection.

What if I told you that the reason you chose your partner may, in fact, have something to do with your parents? I know, I know…you’re thinking, “What a shocker! …a psychologist who wants to talk about my parents.”  Listen, this may not apply to you at all, but hear me out. At the very least, it’s interesting stuff.

Leading researchers have discovered that there is a close relationship between your parents’ negative traits and the negative traits belonging to your partner. In other words, your mom’s stubbornness or your dad’s avoidance might actually be found in your partner too. Cool, eh?! Think about it. Think about the traits that bothered you the most about your mom and/or dad (and/or primary caregiver(s)). Is there any chance that one or two of them match up with your partner’s most “annoying” traits?  If the answer is yes, you are not alone. 

Basically, our primary caregivers are our first loves. They (hopefully) fed us, hugged us, and taught us what we needed to know about the world.  However, they weren’t perfect and inevitably had flaws. If you had a mother who, for example, broke promises, you may have created an association between love and broken promises. In your immaturity and newness, you may have unknowingly concluded that love must involve broken promises. Your brain then gets on board and starts firing pleasure signals whenever you experience the feelings related to broken promises. Therefore, any time you meet someone who makes you feel like your mom did with her broken promises, your pleasure centers activate and you experience awe or attraction or amazement and may enter into a relationship with this person. 

So what does this all mean? Are you with the right person or are you with the wrong person? Well, this phenomenon of recreating the negative conditions of your upbringing is simply nature’s way of giving you an opportunity to grow. You and your partner (who has his/her own set of recreated conditions) need to work together to heal wounds and misguided associations related to love. How? Have an honest conversation with your partner about your childhoods and your parents. How did your parents trigger you? What did you perceive as their parenting successes and parenting pitfalls? You’ll be surprised with what happens in this conversation. It may do wonders for your relationship. 

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.


Laurie Hollingdrake July 16, 2016 4:50 pm

I love this!  I'm living proof!  I date my "dad" for years, then married my "mom", then got divorced, then started dating, well, "me"!  Finally found a good fit :) Also, he smells so good!  https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200801/scents-and-sensibility Thank you, Sassy! xox