Is your partner your parent?

Our spouses become the father or mother we never had. Or worse, they are versions of our parents...

By Kavita Srinivasan

Published: Thu 4 Aug 2022, 7:58 PM

I am in my early 40s and suddenly I see marriage for what it has become. Why do we get married? For stability, for family, for children and mostly, so we do not feel alone. And then, there is one more reason that most people do not dare to admit to themselves: we get married because we do not know how to take care of ourselves. Most of us are looking for someone to complete us. Naming your partner your ‘better half’ or ‘other half’ may sound romantic. But then, stop for a second and reevaluate what that means: you are incomplete; you are broken without the other person.

This is more dangerous than you think. We stay broken all our lives, looking for our partners to fill a gaping hole that cannot be filled by anyone outside of us. We are looking for parents because we were never nourished emotionally into adulthood. We are still children.

All would be well if we attracted healthy adults to marry and care for us. Sadly, we are programmed to marry people who are versions of our parents. The more unhealed we are, the more toxic that version becomes. Why is this? Say you had a father who always criticised you. The way our parents speak to us or treat us becomes our version of love. Criticism then, subconsciously, is what you think love is. With healing, you begin to recognise that this inner critic is actually the voice of your father. And you can replace that critical voice with a more loving one. If you are not aware, this critic becomes your home. And your chosen partner, the version of a man you are most comfortable with.

Then, there is the other scenario. You marry someone who is exactly the opposite of the critic. Someone who loves you, worships you and feels you cannot do anything wrong. Your identity and worth are dependent on this person showering you with adulation. If they stop, you could break. Whilst the second version sounds appealing, it isn’t. Your spouse is a parent, not a spouse. And you are still looking for validation on the outside. You are crippled without it.

There is only one marriage that can never break. It is the one you have with yourself. When you are whole, able to take care of your emotional, financial and physical needs, then the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with becomes a partner. You are an adult. And here is the thing: only adults can raise children. If you are looking for your spouse to take care of you, remember, your children are watching. Your helplessness will become theirs.

Stop for a minute and look at the person you have married.

In what ways does he/she/they remind you of your parents? Write down the qualities.

Which parent is he/she/they like? What was your relationship like with that parent?

In what ways did that parent hurt you?

In what ways are you dependent on your spouse?

In what ways are you unable to take care of yourself?

This is awareness. Every deficiency in your marriage is because you are still looking for your parent in your spouse. Ultimately, the marriage outside of us is only a reflection of how broken or whole we are inside. Healing is when you become the mother and the father you never had, to yourself. It is never too late to begin.

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