When you think of your mother, does your heart open with compassion or tighten with resentment? Do you allow yourself to feel her tenderness and care? The way you take in her love can be similar to how you experience love from a partner.
What’s unresolved with your parents doesn’t automatically disappear. It serves as a template that forges your later relationships.
Maybe you’ve experienced this with a partner. If you felt you didn’t get enough from your mother, perhaps you also feel that you don’t get “enough” from your partner. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s true more often than not. The same holds true with your father: Your unresolved relationship with your father will also show up in your love life.
A woman, for example, who rejects her father, can repeat the fate of her mother by attracting a partner who behaves similarly to the father she rejects. In this way, she brings what she dislikes about her father back into her life. Not only that, but by reliving her mother’s experience, she joins her mother in her discontent.
A man who rejects his father might not have the resources to commit to his partner. Let’s say he was extremely close with his mother and not so close with his father — a common dynamic for many men. A man in this situation is likely to experience resistance when he bonds with his partner. He might find himself shutting down emotionally or physically, fearing that his partner, like his mother, will want or need too much from him. The remedy is a closer bond with his father.
Conversely, a woman who’s closer to her father than her mother is likely to feel unsatisfied with the partners she selects. The root of the problem is not them. It is the distance she feels toward her mother. A woman’s relationship with her mother can be an indicator of how fulfilling her relationship will be with her partner.
Rejecting our parents only brings us suffering. The emotions, traits and behaviors we reject in our parents often live on in us. It’s our unconscious way of loving them, a way to bring them back into our lives. Even our bodies will feel some degree of unrest until our parents are experienced inside us in a loving way.
Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that when you’re angry with your parents, “You get angry with yourself. Suppose the plant of corn got angry at the grain of corn.” He tells us: “If we’re angry with our father or mother, we have to breathe in and out and find reconciliation. This is the only path to happiness.”
The path toward peace is to make peace with your parents, even if they are deceased.