Why We Marry Our Parents

And how to stop having relationships with avatars of our moms and dads

Mookie Spitz
4 min readSep 15, 2022


Mother Duck & Baby Ducklings

Our brains are like computers, programmed by inputs. Early experiences teach us how to survive by creating behaviors that become automatic.

Our first exposures to love and relationships are stimulated by our parents. How they treat us and each other is then physically etched into our brains.

As we mature and nurture our own relationships, our behaviors as lovers and romantic partners are based on what we experienced as children.

Whether we like it or not, are even aware of it or not, the dynamic we saw at home is repeated with companions and partners our entire lives.

Not only will we repeat the patterns we saw while growing up, but we fastidiously and often unconsciously select partners emulating our parents.

Even if our adult relationships are as challenging as our childhoods, we typically favor the comfort of familiarity over the fear of uncertainty.

Gilbert Grape’s Mom & The Great Santini

My mother was a mental health basket case, and I grew up in an asylum. She either nagged or sat comatose. She was distant and over-protective.

My father was like a military drill sergeant, and I grew up in bootcamp. He either screamed or was silent. He was quick to rebuke and never praised.

They slept in separate bedrooms, and rarely spoke to each other. My father was abusive and negligent, and my mother was checked out and in fear.

Our household was silent except for the sound of the TV, and my father’s weekend rampages. We never had any conversations. No exaggeration.

Growing up I experienced no expression of affection, and no successful conflict resolution. I equated family life with a life of pure misery.

I’ve therefore been drawn into romances with highly polarized personality types who excite me in diametrically opposite, complementary ways.

The MILF & The Princess

My programming has led to oscillating phases of voluntary celibacy, serial monogamy, and reckless…



Mookie Spitz

Chicago native now in New York City by way of LA. Hungarian parents, Korean kids, racks of electric guitars, shelves of Rubik's Cubes, and mountains of LEGO.