Lesson 4 of 7 - optimize your relationships

Relationships 101: Having a Supportive Mom Helps You Commit

By Bonnie Rochman
Time Magazine "Healthland"
June 30, 2011

The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/relate/news/commit.htm

Updated  02-20-2015

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost. .

      This research summary supports a major premise in this nonprofit Web site - i.e.: lack of healthy early-childhood nurturance promotes psychological wounds in kids. Difficulty committing to a primary partner is a symptom of all six wounds - specially the inability to exchange genuine love and to bond in a healthy way. See my comments after the article. The highlights and links are mine. -  Peter K. Gerlach, MSW    

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Commitment can be a scary word. But if you want to teach your child how to love well, new research suggests being a supportive mom is key.

A team of researchers has found that supportive mothers, those who showed sympathy and understanding toward their toddlers and who fostered in their teens the ability to soldier through angst and successfully problem-solve, raised adults who are more likely to become the “strong link” — the more committed partner — in a relationship. In the absence of those conditions, kids were at greater risk of winding up as the “weak link” — the lover who can’t be counted on to stay put.

“We wondered why some people have one foot out the door,” says Minda Oriña, an assistant professor of psychology at St. Olaf College and lead author of the study. “Is there something in their developmental history that might predispose someone to becoming the weak-link partner?”

Researchers from St. Olaf College, University of Minnesota and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at 78 young adults aged 20 or 21 and their heterosexual romantic partners. Because the 78 participants were part of a larger longitudinal study, researchers were able to reach back in time and retrieve data from their childhoods. When they were 2 years old, for instance, they were asked to perform a challenging task a bit above their ability level while their moms watched. The mothers were instructed to offer support but not complete the task for them. Some mothers coached the kids; others were unresponsive or even laughed in response to the child’s frustration. Later, at 16, the teens were asked to recall a conflict with a best friend and describe how it was worked out.

The study, published in the June issue of Psychological Science, found that people were much more likely to become the less-committed partner if they had moms who weren’t as supportive when they were 2 or if they were unable to resolve conflicts well at 16.

“The takeaway for me is that early relationships set the stage for current relationships,” says Oriña. “If people have been somewhat punitive in the past toward you or you have had relationships where there is always a winner/loser, it’s less likely you will enter a romantic relationship with an attitude of trust and willingness to work through problems.”

Researchers also asked couples to perform a conflict-resolution exercise in which they were asked to talk about and try to work out the issue that caused them the most stress in their relationship. While they spoke, researchers videotaped their conversations and assessed them for hostility and feelings of hopelessness about the future of the relationship. Not surprisingly, the couples who did not share similar feelings of commitment toward each other were the most hostile.

Bottom line: relationships in which both partners’ levels of commitment are similar have the best shot of making it in the long-term. Two strong links have good prospects for obvious reasons, but a duo of weak links can persevere as well — if both partners have low expectations, at least they’re on the same wavelength. Now, go be nice to your kids.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2011/06/30/commitment-101-have-a-supportive-mom/#ixzz1hwc9gENY


      Recent media reports suggest that almost half of U.S. marriages fail legally. Uncounted millions of other primary relationships - married or not - fail psychologically. The media also suggests that increasingly, American choose to cohabit without marrying. Other adults never commit, and live alone or with transitory relationships. The widespread reality of marital affairs by women and men suggests that "cheating" partners are not fully committed to their mate.

      My conclusion after working as a family therapist with hundreds of troubled couples since 1981 is that most relationship problems - including no relationship and divorce - are caused by...

  • one or (usually) both mates are psychologically wounded from childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse; and...

  • both mates are unaware of topics 1-6 or 7 in this Web site; and...

  • one or both mates have significant unfinished grief from prior losses; and...

  • because of these three factors, mates make up to three wrong commitment (marriage) decisions; and...

  • there is little informed help available on these four relationship stressors locally or in the media.

      This research summary seems to (indirectly) support at least the first of these factors - i.e. "non-supportive mothers" (and fathers?) can promote early-childhood neglect and/or psychological abandonment ("trauma"). That promotes psychological wounding in their kids - including an inability to empathize,  bond, and fully commit to a primary partner.

      The author of this article uses "strong link" and "weak link" to denote strong or weak relationship bonds. This brief YouTube video offers perspective on "emotionally unavailable" people:

      In my experience, typical "unsupportive (ineffective) parents" (not just mothers) are themselves survivors of early-childhood trauma - Grown Wounded Children  (GWCs). The wounds and unawareness passes down the generations until parents break their denials and stop this toxic inheritance.

      Online Lesson 1  in this Web site focuses on assessing and reducing psychological wounds. Lesson 6 offers ideas on effective parenting.

Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

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          Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

      This article was very helpful  somewhat helpful  not helpful    

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