Sorry: Your Boyfriend is Just Like Your Dad
Do you have the Electra Complex?
I have been seriously dating my dad for 30 years. Sure, we aren't exclusive (I mean, my mom and everything,) but I guess you could say that we are pretty serious. It all started when I was...born? My dad would provide me with dinner (#datenight!). We moved in together pretty quickly--day one!--and he didn't even make me pay rent. He'd even buy all my clothing! He's never ghosted me or anything. We have soo much in common. We like the same TV shows, the same foods, he'll take me with him to run errands, and usually he'll buy me something when we're out.
What I'm saying is this: everything I should do with a boyfriend, I've basically been doing with my dad my entire life (except, obviously, that ONE thing.) And my closeness with my father- a definite "Daddy's Girl" through and through-- had prevented me from getting out into the dating world. I pretty much had all my emotional needs met at home. What do I REALLY need a boyfriend for, anyway? They seem like a lot of trouble!
But when I got to be 30, I realized it was probably time to start dating. And when I did, I found something startling: all the guys I was hanging out with were exactly like my dad. Same interests, same sense of humor, took care of me the same way. And I had that moment: what the hell is this all about?
Why do we end up with men who closely resemble the first man we truly really loved: our fathers?
Where does this whole "Daddy's Girl" thing come from? Well, "The Electra complex, as proposed by Carl Gustav Jung, is a girl's psychosexual competition with her mother for possession of her father." Sound familiar? Between the ages of about 3-6, we typically have an obsession with, and glorify, our parents. Usually this means obsessing over our dads, and wanting to push our mothers out of the way for their attention. This initial taste of competing for love can sometimes be taken into adulthood...and sexualized.
Relationship therapist Dr Judith Wright continues, "basically, the interactions we have with our fathers as young girls are our earliest opportunity to practise communication with the opposite sex. ‘It's called pre-sexual programming,'" So, not to be gross (it's kind of gross) but our father's are sexually imprinted on us. And now we are attracted- consciously or subconsciously- to their flaws, behaviors, quirks, sense of humor, and maybe even their appearance.
This can go both ways. Have a bad relationship with your dad growing up? Was he withdrawn, angry, unavailable? Did he cheat on your mom? Watch out, because this might be the kind of guy you end up being attracted to. But don't worry. You're not destined to date mom or dad.
According to Therapist Barbara Swenson of CNN, "If you want very badly to have a different and better relationship than the ones you grew up with, you can accomplish that if you go about it very consciously."
• Don't jump in.
"Ideally you should date for a couple of years before engagement -- and not just long distance," she says. "You need to be together on those days when your car won't start ... to see how you and your partner support each other."
• Don't be afraid to disagree.
"Assert yourself and see what your partner does with that," she says. "Can they put their needs aside and follow your lead once in a while? Make sure your relationship has room for give and take."
• Talk about life issues.
Some questions to discuss sooner rather than later: If we have kids, will one of us stay home? Who will manage our money? "Premarital counseling can get these questions out on the table in a civilized way, and prevent problems down the road," says Swenson.
So, do you date men who are just like your daddy, or do you steer clear of anything that reminds you of home? Explain in the comment section.
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