Advice

Suck at Relationships? Blame Your Mother.

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Thank you, science. Just in time for the post-holiday break-up explosion, you’ve given us a new scapegoat for our failed relationships (along with your poor work-life balance, your need for self-actualization, and of course, your crazy ex). A new study posits that your ability to love, trust and resolve arguments with loved ones stems from how your mom treated you as an infant.

The whole thing sounds rather Freudian: In the first 12 to 18 months of life, when your main to-dos are things like “drink milk” and “be adorable,” messages about how worthy you are of love and affection are encoded into the mind. If no one comes when you cry, you learn some very sad little tales, e.g., “I am scum, too worthless to be changed when I’ve peed in my diaper.”

While you can consciously buck those beliefs once you’ve grown up and, you know, stopped soiling yourself, in times of stress you’ll default back to whatever patterns played out in your crib. The neglected baby grows up to be a defensive arguer; the baby whose mommy was attentive and loving works through conflict, confident that mankind is generally, uh, kind.

Psychologists have been musing on the idea that the mother-infant bond determines your later bonding ability for decades now, but this paper (published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science) was one of the first to provide solid evidence for it. Researchers used longitudinal data to track babies from infancy to their early 30s, identifying solid links in how they behaved in their mothers’ arms at Age 1 and their lovers’ arms decades later.

But researchers stress that you don’t have to be a slave to your past. Find a supportive partner, inch up out of your shell, and baby, learn to love.

[photo credit: flickr, {EHPhoto}]

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