Parental Effects on Relationship Patterns: Finding Security in Connection

by Elizabeth Uhles, LAPC

“Hold on. Hold on to me. ‘Cause I’m a little unsteady. A little unsteady. Mama, come here. Approach, appear. Daddy, I’m alone. Cause this house don’t feel like home. If you love me, don’t let go…” Song Lyrics. Unsteady by X Ambassadors

Several weeks ago, I was on my morning jog when this song shuffled through my playlist. I pictured a toddler between his parents, hands stretched above his head, waddling side-to-side learning to walk. The toddler found his steadiness from his parents. It gave him the security and confidence to propel his body forward on under-developed muscles.

The hands of our parents give us the safety to develop not only physically, but also emotionally and socially. Steady and secure parental relationships in our childhood development, put us on the path towards social and emotional resilience.

So many of our parents did their best, but the safety we experienced as a child may have been intermittent (or for some of us, not at all). One moment our world was steady, the next we were faced with our parents’ distance, defensiveness, or loss of control. To survive the roller coaster, we develop defenses. We may have become anxious, demanding, or built a ten foot wall around our heart. As children, these defenses worked, but then we grew up, started adult relationships and found that our defenses were actually backfiring.
As adults, we may find ourselves confused, picking fights or walking away, even when our heart is really singing, “If you love me, don’t let go.” Even when this happens, it might feel safest to continue to use our same old, tried-and-true defense mechanisms. It takes courage to show vulnerability and communicate our needs. It takes courage to trust someone and learn a new way of relating.

Therapy can help you learn your past story and understand why you relate the way you do. You don’t have to repeat your backfiring childhood patterns; instead it is possible to reshape your relationships to be what you want them to be. A healthy relationship, can give you the confidence to propel forward to a life of care, trust, and resilience.


Elizabeth is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor at Foundation Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

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