Your Early Relationship with Mom and Your Intimate Adult Relationships

“The ability to trust, love, and resolve conflict with loved ones starts in childhood — way earlier than you may think. That is one message of a review of the literature in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.”  This is the lead-off in a recent article, Ability to Love Takes Root in Earliest Infancy, in ScienceDaily.com.  It goes on to say that the behavior of mothers towards their children, particularly between the ages of 1 – 1 1/2 years,  lays the important foundation of sense of worth, value and inherent deservability of love of the child.  The longitudinal study in the piece demonstrated a connection to behavior in adult romantic relationships later on.

As an individual and couples therapist, observe people often struggling in their relationships around feeling safe, opening up and giving/receiving love.  The presenting problems may not initially be described in such terms but if you peel away the layers to reveal the process (underlying feelings) rather than the content (the details), this often reveals itself.   Human beings are born wired to connect to others but often time it’s the conditioning or experience in the family of origin that inhibits that connection.  If you don’t receive tenderness, attentiveness, mirroring or even physical touch as a young child, you are more likely to go into an adaptive defensive response – as it’s emotional survival at stake!  If it wasn’t safe to rely on mom, it may have been wise of you to learn not to need her (as infant attachment research has shown).  More recently, infant attachment models have been applied to adult intimate attachment styles as well.

“The good news: ‘If you can figure out what those old models are and verbalize them,” and if you get involved with a committed, trustworthy partner, says Simpson, “you may be able to revise your models and calibrate your behavior differently.” Old patterns can be overcome. A betrayed baby can become loyal. An unloved infant can learn to love.’

If you had a lack of secure connection with your own mother and can identify with ensuing struggles in your intimate relationships, that’s a start.  You are aware that this is an issue.  The next step is the process of change and this is where a good therapist can help you identify what negative patterns you might be replaying without even realizing hit, do the work of unresolved grief left from childhood, identify red flags possibly ignored in your life and ways to move towards loving, trusting relationships.

The more you believe you deserve love the more likely you will invite it into your life and be comfortable with it.  Thankfully, with all of the recent research in the field of neuroscience, we know the brain can rewire itself across the lifespan.  This means positive relational experiences have the capacity to facilitate brain change to assist with belief in self, others and the world around you.

If you prefer the self-help route, there is an excellent book on the subject of healing old wounds around getting the love you missed from mom called, The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori, MS, LPC.

Regardless of what your experience was with mom – you can experience the joy of relational connection, attachment and emotional health.