Why Do Women Marry Their Dads?


A lot of us do. Or, you know, don’t.

A piece on CNN talks about the phenomenon of women who are drawn to husbands like their fathers. By way of illustration, we’re given a number of marriages, both successful and unsuccessful, in which similarities between a woman’s husband and her father range from those as commonplace as a shared love of politics, to unsettling things like uncanny physical resemblances or abusive temperaments. There are, of course, a lot of obvious reasons people do this: the piece cites the “comfort of familiarity” as well as the natural desire to replicate those qualities you loved and admired in a parent. Other times, the motivation is more complicated, namely in those cases where someone subconsciously wishes to “make amends” for a troubled childhood. Says one expert whom the article quotes,

This is most common if you felt rejected or abandoned by a parent and still haven’t worked through it…Your psyche wants to go back to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and resolve that parental relationship in a marriage.

Needless to say, it rarely works out.

It’s funny this article should appear just now, because the other day a friend and I were talking about the fact that, while we both have close and loving relationships with fathers we admire, neither of us has ever dated a man anything like him. We came up with a theory of our own: maybe, when you’re super-close to a dad, in some sense you don’t feel a need to replicate him, because you choose to believe he’ll always be there. Like, that niche is filled: no one else need apply. Childish and unrealistic, maybe, but it seems plausible. I talk to my dad several times per week; why would I need another version of that dynamic? – might be how the thinking goes. It should probably be noted that neither of us is remotely qualified to be advancing any behavioral theories whatsoever.

What’s inarguable is that for people of any sex, relationships with parents are huge, and probably enough analysis can unearth a huge number of complex theories about anyone. It’s a difficult balance to recognize enough about these relationships and motivations to correct persistently self-destructive behaviors and be mindful of repeated tendencies, yet be able to take your relationships at face value and move on. After all, being overly aware of the extent to which your parents influence your romantic life is pretty creepy, too – unless both the men in your life have Keith Hernandez moustaches, love of curling, aversion to crawfish, obsession with 18th Century French poetry, Moby Grape and similar verbal ticks, you’re probably okay.

Why You’re Likely To Marry Your Parent [CNN]

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