Are Healthy Family Relationships Essential to Finding Love?

Hi Evan,
I am a 34-year-old German girl living in Munich. I’ve read two of your books and I’ve been following your blog. Yes, you could call me a fan. Your advice has helped me a lot and I feel lucky that a friend has send me a link to one of your articles about one year ago.

I’d love to hear your opinion on the following: You often mention that you consider it important that a guy is on good terms with his family and has a good relationship with his parents. I personally don’t have a good relationship with my parents and I am very sad about this. But during my childhood and early adult life I suffered a lot from my depressive mother and my (verbally) abusive father until I decided a couple of years ago to limit our contact to a minimum since there was too much damage done already. I understand that my family history is far from ideal, but this doesn’t mean that I am not a family person or that I am a bad partner. Of course I am in no position to turn down a man for this reason, and I also hope that I am not judged by a man who thinks that a healthy family background is vital for a good relationship. Although I normally find the fact that a man is close with his family very attractive I often connect better with men who can relate to what it’s been like for me.

So here’s the question: “How important is a healthy family background for a healthy relationship?” Am I doomed because I come from a broken family?
-Jenny

Your history does cause complications. You are undoubtedly aware of some of them; you are undoubtedly oblivious to others. This is why therapists have jobs.

No, Jenny, you’re not “doomed” because you come from a broken family.

That would doom far too many people and I’m kind of an optimist about love.

But your history does cause complications. You are undoubtedly aware of some of them; you are undoubtedly oblivious to others.

This is why therapists have jobs.

In general, are people who come from highly functional, loving, intact families more likely to try and successfully emulate their parents? Sure. I knew I wanted to be like my Dad by the time I was 10 years old.

In general, are people who come from divorce, neglect, trauma, physical and emotional abuse more likely to have issues. Absolutely. It would be next to impossible to have a depressed mother and an abusive father and not internalize any of those imprints from your youth.

But all people are different and process things in their own ways.

There are men who got beaten by their dads who, as grown-ups, see physical abuse as something that’s been normalized. And there are men who got beaten by their dads who vowed to be NOTHING like their dads.

You don’t need a guy who is just like you. You need a man who treats you well, treats you consistently, and accepts you for all that you are.

There are women who, from early in their childhoods, see men as selfish, inconsistent, and unavailable – and they often live this out as adults by choosing men who are just like their fathers. And then there are women who instinctively avoid such men at first glance.

I don’t know you, Jenny. I don’t know what work you’ve done on yourself.

I will say that, between choosing a man with healthy secure attachments and choosing a man who “connects” with you over your shared childhood abuses, I’d stick with the former. You don’t need a guy who is just like you. You need a man who treats you well, treats you consistently, and accepts you for all that you are.

Find the guy who does that – regardless of his background – and you’re well on your way to building a superior existence than the one you had growing up.

Good luck.