Are your PARENTS to blame for your sorry sex life? Tracey Cox reveals 7 signs you’ve learned bad love lessons from Mum and Dad – from jealousy and lack of affection (and how to break the cycle)
- Tracey Cox shares signs that show you’ve learned bad love lessons from parents
- British expert said how we communicate depends on what our parents taught us
- ‘Communication styles are one of the first things we pick up as kids’, said Tracey
We don’t just hatch out of an egg and raise ourselves.
We’re dependent on people around us – and no matter how much our parents love us or how good their intentions, they’re human and make mistakes.
We are all products of the generation before: how their parents parented them, affects how they parent you and how you will parent your own children.
Ideally, parents are loving, supportive and affectionate while simultaneously encouraging their children to be independent and make their own decisions.
That’s the theory.
Unfortunately, not too many of us grow up with parents like this.
Some parents are cold and distant, others cruel and abusive. Most muddle their way through, alternating between Parents of the Year and ‘Oh, for God’s sake, what do you want now!, depending on how far behind on the mortgage payments they are.
Few parents sit down with their kids and deliver the ‘birds and bees’ chat or talk to them directly about how to navigate love and relationships.
But we still grow up acutely aware of how both our parents really feel about love and sex, simply by living with them.
Did you inherit more than you bargained for from YOUR parents?
Here’s some of the signs that suggest you’ve learned bad love lessons from good old Mum and Dad.
‘How we communicate as an adult depends very much on what we learnt from our parents: communication styles are one of the first things we pick up on as kids and teenagers’, said Tracey (stock photo)
You have a problem with jealousy
My father had an affair that lasted ten years before he eventually left my mother for his mistress. Sometimes, I’d be in the car when he’d ‘pop in to drop something off for a work friend’. I watched intently from the car when this happened. I was only eight, but my instincts fired every single time. I knew there was something not quite right going on with this seemingly innocent event.
The same woman always answered the door and my father would push her out of the way in his haste to get inside and away from inquisitive eyes.
Fast forward to my late teens and first relationships and one thing became abundantly clear: I didn’t trust men. Not. One. Bit.
It took me years – and a lot of therapy – to stop being jealous.
In the whole 40 years that I have been writing about relationships, I have never met a jealous person whose parents are happily married with no hint of cheating or affairs.
Parental affairs have a dramatic impact on our future relationships.
You’re not good at communicating with your partner
‘My mother was always saying, ‘Don’t tell your father’. It was drilled into us as kids,’ a 36-year-old woman confessed to me. ‘I learnt very early on that you shouldn’t ‘bother’ men with problems or issues. Is it any wonder my marriage didn’t work out? I had no idea that telling your partner the truth about your day is what bonds you. My husband said I deliberately lied and kept things from him but I thought that’s what a good wife did.’
How we communicate as an adult depends very much on what we learnt from our parents: communication styles are one of the first things we pick up on as kids and teenagers.
British sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox (pictured) discusses the signs that suggest you’ve learned bad love lessons from your parents
If your parents didn’t talk about their feelings, rarely argued and didn’t have very many friends, you don’t learn how to talk about your own emotions or how to negotiate your wants and needs with the people close to you.
While constant arguing isn’t great, it’s preferable to growing up in a house where neither parent even attempted to resolve conflict or try to better their relationship.
You have no problem talking about your relationship, you just don’t do it with your partner? Chances are you had parents who would complain constantly about each other to other people – but never directly to each other. Not exactly helpful.
You find it hard to show and receive affection
‘It took me until I was 30, to learn that when someone hugs you, you’re supposed to put your arms around them and hug them back,’ one 32-year-old woman told me. ‘My parents rarely touched or hugged each other and when they did, my mother would stand still, with her arms by her sides, and wait for it to end.’
How your parents showed love is how you learn to show love.
Grow up with touchy-feely parents who are constantly kissing, hugging and showing affection and you’ll grow into an adult who finds it easy to show people how much you love them.
If affection was rare and awkward when it did happen, you will usually find it difficult to both give and receive affection when you grow up.
We model and emulate the ways our parents showed love to each other.
You married your mum or your dad
‘I’m very close to my father and admire him so much – I always thought I’d end up with someone like him,’ one mother of two told me. ‘My husband looks nothing like Dad, so I thought I’d done the opposite. But now I see he has two of the qualities that I most love about my father: he’s incredibly kind and always sees the funny side.’
HOW TO BREAK THE CYCLE
Had a not-so-great childhood? Here’s how to make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
Let go of the blame. We are all a product of the generation before. The quicker you accept any bad parenting probably wasn’t intentional, the quicker you’ll reduce the negative influence your parents had.
Take responsibility for your life. It’s pointless blaming your mother for being attracted to bad boys even if she did marry one. She had her own influences. Instead, count your-self lucky for recognizing the pattern before you name your first child.
Analyse the voice in your head. Who is that inner critic that keeps telling you that you’ll never amount to anything? Challenge it. Reclaim those voices and turn them into your own best friend rather than worst critic.
Write down your feelings. Come up with three adjectives that best describe your parent’s relationship. Then come up with three to describe your own. Can you see a link between the two? Are you repeating their mistakes?
Actively work on your relationship. Ask your partner a lot of in-depth questions, turn towards them not away in times of stress, work as a team rather than point score.
Look for the positive things your parents gave you. Even if Dad was an arrogant son of a bitch, maybe he taught you how to stand up for yourself. Your mother may be clingy and dependent but she was always there for you when you were a child.
Recognise that they did their best. Despite their flaws, your parents did their best. We can only work with the hand we’re dealt.
The old theory that women who love their fathers marry a man just like him does have some truth to it.
If you’re heterosexual, your opposite sex parent is your model for your romantic partners. For women, the way you feel about your father affects the way you feel about all men.
He’s the first man you meet, the first you get close to, so we tend to judge all men by him.
If Dad looked like David Beckham on a good day, you probably are attracted to good-looking men. If he looked like Mr Bean on a bad day, you’ll probably be less impressed by looks and more attracted to personality.
Often, it’s the type of relationship you had with your father that you’re trying to replicate.
If he was warm and wonderful and loved you no matter what, you’ll probably try to find a guy who’ll do just the same.
If Dad was distant and didn’t show any love or affection, unfortunately, the same thing can happen. You may find yourself drawn to cold, uncaring men because that’s what you’re used to.
You have sex problems
‘My friends all lost their virginity early and went on to have great sex with lots of different people,’ a 26-year-old woman confided in me. ‘I grew up with parents who never discussed sex – and acted like they’d never stoop to anything so disgusting. I knew nothing about how sex worked and was too embarrassed to ask my friends. I lost my virginity at 22 and it was a horrendous experience. I still struggle to enjoy it.’
No-one likes to think about their parents having sex but you do pick up clues on what might be happening behind that closed door.
The way they touch each other, how they kiss, figuring out that their ‘afternoon nap’ was actually them sneaking off for a quickie – all parents give some hints as to how sexual they are together.
How – or if – your parents talked to you about sex has a significant effect on how we feel about sex later.
Ideally, we’d all be raised by parents who had open, non-judgemental attitudes about sex and freely offered information to set us up with a healthy foundation of beliefs.
Sadly, few people fall into this category.
Being brought up by strict, extremely conservative parents who were embarrassed by sex or scared of it, leaves a lasting impact. If you’ve always been told sex was bad or dirty or something to be punished for, you’re unlikely to grow up to be an adventurous, fun lover without actively challenging those beliefs.
You aren’t great at monogamy
‘My Dad was a serial cheater and my Mum knew about it,’ a 44-year-old woman told me. ‘There would be a huge argument, she’d chuck him out for a few days, then he’d talk her around and be allowed home. My mother was haunted by his infidelity: she was frightened of the world because of it and it’s left me also highly suspicious of love.’
Often children of cheating parents, cheat themselves. If your Mum was getting more than just tennis lessons, you might find yourself severely tempted to play around when you’re given the opportunity. Especially if she saw cheating as a bit of ‘harmless fun’.
Men watch their Dad cheat as a young boy and get this message: this is how men treat women and that’s what all men do.
There is strong evidence that kids of unfaithful parents have lower self-esteem, feel abandoned and are afraid to fall deeply in love for fear of being left.
Cheating on someone before they have the chance to cheat on you is a way of avoiding the hurt you saw one (or both) your parents experience.
You find yourself in abusive relationships
‘I grew up with a father who had anger issues: he’d shout in my face so much, it didn’t bother me in the slightest, ‘ a 51-year-old woman, currently going through a divorce, told me. ‘This was not a good thing: I ended up marrying a man who did the same because I didn’t see anything wrong with it. Then I had a daughter. When I saw my husband shouting at her, I realised I had to get out and break the cycle or she’d choose an abusive partner as well.’
Being around physical and emotional violence is traumatising: it stays with you for life. If it’s particularly bad, it can leave you with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Abuse takes many forms. It might be you could always cut the air with a knife because your Dad drank too much. Or home life was tense because your Mum had a shocking temper and threw things. Being shouted at is a form of abuse. So is a parent who puts you down, deliberately embarrasses or baits you or is excessively controlling.
Tracey has two product ranges – supersex and Edge – as well as a weekly podcast, SexTok. You’ll find details of all her projects on traceycox.com.
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