What did your mother teach you about love?

This probably won’t come as a shock, but new research suggests your romantic life is the way it is because of your mom.

According to a longitudinal study at Ohio State University on more than 7,000 mothers and their biological children in the U.S. over the past 24 years—the largest study of its kind—children follow their mothers’ example when it comes to love.

Mothers pass on relationship skills to their children that in turn affect how their children interact with others, including their romantic partners. It even influences the number of marriages and cohabiting partners their children will have.

To put it bluntly: Whatever choices a mother makes in love—whether or not she marries or moves from relationship to relationship, whether or not she stays married if she does marry, and how she behaves in the marriage or relationship she has—will practically guarantee her children will do the same.

(For the record, there was no longitudinal data on fathers, which is not to say fathers don’t also pass on relationship skills to their children. They clearly do. But this study focused on mothers, no doubt because children spend far more time with their mothers than they do with their fathers.)

That may sound like a lot of pressure, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s common sense that parents are their children’s models for everything, including how they manage their relationships. That’s one of the things that makes parenting so hard: everything we do affects our kids. Thus, it stands to reason that if a mother divorces her husband, let’s say, and moves in and out of countless relationships, her kids are likely to do the same. Or if she stays married but the relationship is mired in conflict, her kids will likely follow suit.

None of us is born knowing how to love—it is a learned art. And our mothers are our first teachers.

As infants we are cared for primarily by our mothers. When we’re older, we watch how our mothers interact with our fathers— assuming there’s a father in the home. If there isn’t, we watch how our mothers interact with the men in their lives.

“Our parents provide a blueprint for how to be a social human being,” writes Mia de Graaf at The Daily Mail. “The adults who raise us show us how to show affection, how to argue, how to apologize, how to introduce yourself, how your interactions may vary with older people or different genders, or neighbors or strangers.”

And this seems to be especially true with mothers. Children tend to take their cues about love from the primary woman in their lives, no doubt because women are the relationship navigators.

What that means, unfortunately, is that if you’re struggling in the love department your kids will likely struggle, too. We know that children of divorce are much more likely to divorce themselves; but what children see and learn about relationships, even when their parents stayed together, also matters. Children will copy what they see.

That’s precisely why I wrote The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: to help women UN-learn their mothers’ mistakes in love. If you’re a product of divorce or of a high-conflict marriage—or simply a product of a marriage you do not wish to have—you are likely shooting blanks yourself.

And because I don’t want you to become part of the statistics above, I’m giving you The First 26 Pages of The Alpha Female’s Guide 100% free.

You really can unlearn what your mother taught you. You can retrain your brain. You can figure it out.

If I did, anyone can.

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne Venker is an author, speaker and cultural critic known as “The Feminist Fixer.” She has authored several books to help women win with men in life and in love. Her most recent, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage, was published in February 2017.

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