How an absent parent shapes your love life

Thursday August 22 2019

The impact of living with only one parent

The impact of living with only one parent leaves its mark in surprising ways, especially when it comes to future relationships. With an absent parent, it becomes harder for the child to trust people and this might be projected onto their future partners. NET PHOTO 

By FLORENCE BETT

Parents obliviously lay the blueprints for their children’s choice of life partners. As they grow up, children admire (or detest) particular character traits in their parents. Say, they will admire how their father comes home early to wind down the day with them, or how involved he is in their school life.

Or they will admire how their mother runs the household with personalised loving care, and how she extends the same to her husband and children. And children will search for these traits in their life partners. A good father or mother is the paragon of a good husband or wife.

Similarly, a not-so-good father or mother is a warning to the type of man you do not want to settle with or the type of mother/wife you do not want to turn into.

First romantic relationship
The parents’ relationship is the first real romantic relationship a child encounters. A child first perceives his parents as mother and father, two separate individuals who care for him. As he grows older, he will perceive them as a committed unit that shares love. On the flip side, it could be the first dysfunctional relationship he encounters.

One where either parent is absent, or is uncommitted to their partner and to parenting their children. This dysfunctionality leaves a bitter taste in their mouth.
Let us also consider the circumstances that lead to a single-parent home. These vary from divorce and separation, death, or simply irresponsible parenting.

Lillian, a 31-year-old sales manager, was raised by a single mother. She says her father was a violent man who abandoned the family when her mother was expecting her.

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“I do not know my father and I do not remember what he looks like,” she says.

“He tried to make contact a few times but I have no interest in knowing him since I do not see the value he will add to my life,” she adds.

Speaking about motherhood and parenting, Lillian says, “I do not respect men easily. I do not see the role they play in society because they are not providers, nurturers or caregivers.”

Abandonment chills
And yet, “I do not want my daughter to grow up without a father so I vowed to work hard to make my marriage work since abandonment chills me to the core.

Didn’t her strong and contradicting views rub her husband the wrong way? They did, she says, especially when they were dating. She did not trust easily.

“I kept challenging him to prove his worth to me,” she says.

Unconsciously so, he did not know his place in her life but this did not bother her one bit.

“I am fiercely independent. I give off this I-don’t-need-a-man vibe. It frustrated him. And yet, I live in constant fear that he could become as violent as my father was.”

Roselyn, a 32-year-old, who is engaged, grew up with her mother and five siblings. Her father passed on when she was eight. Her mother was a great influence in her life.

“I learnt from her how to be a strong and persevering woman. She always spoke well of my late father, so we loved him and missed him more. Her love did not die with his death."

Expert view
According to Dr Chris Hart, a psychologist, it does not matter whether you are brought up in a single-parent home or not.

What matters is the quality of parenting you receive. “If the mother is in contact with the father of her children and they have cordial relations, then he can still be a role model to the children.

But if she is a bitter woman who despises their father, then this spills to her children who end up projecting the same views to all men and to life in general.” Dr Hart adds that single mothers are less authoritative and more permissive compared to their peers. They are too friendly with their children who end up becoming wayward.

Also, if a child grows up in an environment where he sees evidence of other grownups (besides his parents) loving and caring for one another, then it will not matter if he is brought up in a single-parent home or not, says Dr Hart. He will already have known what love means.

Key points
•Parents obliviously lay the blueprints for their children’s choice of their life partners. As they grow up, children admire (or detest) particular character traits in their parents.
•Say, they will admire how their father comes home early to wind down the day with them, or how involved he is in their school life.
•Or they will admire how their mother runs the household with personalised loving care, and how she extends the same to her husband and children.

Adapted from Daily Nation

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