Relationships: Do Children Raised By A Single Mother Idealize Love?

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Being raised by a single mother has its ups and downs. Based on my experiences/background as an adult who was raised by a single mother, over time I have learnt that the idealization of love can happen in two ways:

  • Before an actual relationship (looking at relationships through rainbow and love emoji lenses).
  • In a relationship (overlaying a partner’s traits with misguided beliefs while minimizing his faults)
GIF from https://www.buzzfeed.com/spjackson/26-reasons-why-having-dimples-is-the-cutest-deform-xc0q

Perhaps this idealisation might happen to someone who was brought up in a nuclear family. However, in this article, we look at some of the underlying factors that might generate these tendencies from someone raised by a single mother.

  1. Context and Influence

A girl raised by two parents has the advantage of seeing how the father treats their mother and they can base their principles on that. While it might not be all sunshine and rainbows in all homes, a nuclear family provides a background to compare how you would like your relationships to turn out and how you wouldn’t. It gives that security and a sense of assurance that you can foster a relationship with the opposite sex with pre-conceived ideals ( of how you expect to be treated) and notions based on what you learnt from a father figure.

On the other hand, a child raised by a single mother lacks the love, significant input and the attention a father could provide. Depending on the environment, she lacks a positive male role model who plays a significant role in a girl’s decision when she is choosing a partner. When this happens, the media takes over if not for novels and other romanticised external sources. Since these avenues are readily available a girl might end up forming very high expectations based on sensationalism instead of what happens in reality.

Ever wondered why Alejandro is popular among women?

Read this opinion piece; in defence of romance stories

  1. Mother’s bond

The most important years of a child’s life are during the development and teenagehood. This is when she tries to establish her identity and therefore physical growth is as important as emotional development. However, when a girl is raised by a single mother, the bond of oneness which is formed since birth continues to solidify and the mother and daughter tend to grow accustomed to meeting each other’s needs. Over time, personalities become overly merged and this broods an identity conflict.

Since the child is still developing emotionally, they might end up feeling the need to break away from the mother and become their own person. This search for individuality buds the tendency to idealise love making one believe that a knight will come, who will be the means of escape to freedom and the gateway to independence.

Is that a bad thing?

Studies have shown that this mindset, broods a tendency to overly rely on external influences all in the name of searching for freedom.  It also creates the tendency to put other people’s needs first and at the expense of the subject herself, which might not be ideal in every situation. In this case, the partner’s needs are put first and he is glorified due to the change he brings in the relationship. In addition, a scenario where someone is searching for paternal love in a partner – depending on how she imagines it to be – love can be idealized.

Other effects include adopting the idealised traits of a partner so as to merge existing differences, hence assuming the familiar bond of oneness which one grew accustomed to in the past.

What changes when a father/positive adult male model is present in a girl’s life? 

A father provides a balancing force by giving a sense of freedom and choice during development. Such that when the mother is not present a child can rely on the father; who provides that sense of diversity and difference from what a mother can offer. This gives a child the chance to establish her own individuality. Also, it prevents a girl’s relationship with her mother from becoming overly merged which results in some of the issues mentioned above.

Check out; Why dads are important.

Man whispering in a woman’s ear. image from https://www.sundaynews.co.zw/love-is-not-enough/
  1. Misguided beliefs

Being raised by a single mother, I had to grow up a little fast and learn how to rely on myself at an early age. Facing challenges on my own strengthened me and made me mature a bit earlier than my age mates. However, over time I came to realise that this independence can also bring an adverse effect. Especially when one seeks a partner who can match a formed ideal (strong and responsible) and does not depict any sign of weakness or irresponsibility (a trait usually associated with the act of a father walking away). With this mindset, there’s a tendency to idealise love.  After all, we are all outcomes of how we grew up. Therefore, when this idealization (like me, like you) is not met, it can lead to disappointments and disillusionment which can affect other aspects of someone’s life.

  1. Fear of commitment and rejection

Ironic as it may be, the fear of commitment and being rejected might make you idealise love whereby you live your life building castles but never sticking in any relationship to see it through. Ironic because when you are raised by a single mother it is typical not to believe in the opposite sex. Especially for someone who is disillusioned. Check out; The need to idealise in order to love.

Therefore, what happens when you’re in a relationship with an underlying fear of commitment and rejection, is that you tend to feel amiss or as if you’re receiving the short end of the stick in your current relationship. You see #relationshipgoals on Instagram and feel others are living the love you would like to experience while you are just settling.

Eventually, you end up sabotaging your own relationship as you chase a fantasy or a feeling that you might’ve experienced during the first stages of the relationship.

What are the key takeaways?

  • The idealization of a partner or a relationship and its thrills only lasts until the initial stage of a relationship. Therefore, it is essential to break the idealization phase, so as to evolve and consolidate an amorous bond.
  • Single parenthood should not be demonised.
  • On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that love should not be idealized.  In Dr Gadhia-Smith words, a psychotherapist and author of Live and Love Each day, “Life is difficult, confusing, and contains many contradictions. It is helpful for children to understand the way the world is. To create a fantasy about the world is not helpful, but at the same, overexposure to anything is not balanced.
  • As much as certain behaviours might not be noticeable – or even a be termed ‘a big deal,’- until one attains a certain degree of self-awareness (to realize the consequences of subtle actions), the decisions that person will make will continue to affect them in the same way.

Related: The part of us that our parents broke

Featured image via Freepik 

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