It’s gross, right – the thought of dating a parent? It should be. But still, so many of us find ourselves looking across the table at a significant other and suddenly catching a glimpse of our mothers or fathers. We recognize something familiar in them…

So why do so many of us end up dating our “parents?”

Well, I’m not sure there is any real “one size fits all” answer, but what I do know is that each of us is on this planet to fulfill a purpose and the lessons that we learn from our families are among some of the most profound and important.

When we notice an attractive man or woman, do we even bother to ask ourselves what is attractive about them in the first place? Sure, they may have a great bod or lovely eyes, but what else? Could there be “other” reasons we are attracted to them? Maybe ones that go beyond chemistry, physicality or our genes dictating a biological response? Or maybe we are attracted because we are conditioned by society as to what we “should” consider attractive.

Regardless, attraction is complex. Something beyond just the physical. Have you ever been attracted to someone you normally wouldn’t classify as your “type?” Or even someone who you might not even think is that “good looking?” Maybe there’s something “else” going on. Something more ….

Consider that maybe the biology of sexual attraction is masking our emotional need to “fix” something about our relationship with our mothers or fathers. And so, we end up finding ourselves in romantic relationships for what we think is one reason when it is really for another. You have to agree that it is interesting to consider that when we are attracted to someone it may be more than a sexual draw. Maybe we are trying to better understand some underlying problem we haven’t addressed, or work out an unresolved relationship, or just plain deal with our shit!

Like many women, there was a time in my 20’s when I was attracted to the “bad boy” types. I thought they were so “hot” and it was exhilarating how they were so free in that ‘take what you want and screw the world’ kind of way. But what I quickly learned is they actually didn’t care about anything – including me or themselves. And they really weren’t as free as I thought they were. In fact, they were drowning in their own misery.

Sure, I intellectually realized that men who abuse their bodies with alcohol or attempt to commit suicide were mainly trying to escape and forget about the shit they had been through as children – medicating from having to deal with that pain. I’m sure many of us get that on some level. But why still be attracted to them when I was fully aware of all this?

Over the years I came to realize that the “bad boys” I attracted had something in common. They were broken, self-destructive, and in heaps of pain. And who does that describe to a tee? My mother. Like my mother, the “bad boys” that I dated were very needy children who wanted someone to take care of them. In my twenties, I had a sticker on my forehead that said, “Me! I’m the sucker that will enable and take care of you.” It’s scary to think back on how asleep and unaware we can be to our lives and the choices we make. Luckily, with a lot of self-reflection and spiritual guidance, I was able to break away from that pattern.

Essentially, everyone just wants purpose in their lives and to feel like they matter and have value. Through my relationships with “bad boys” I have been better able to understand my relationship with my mother, why she is the way she is, and to more humbly surrender and accept it. When I was finally able to let go of trying to “fix” my relationships – which took several years mind you – I not only stopped being attracted to “bad boys” but I stopped attracting them and discovered a new compassion for my mother than I had not previously had.