Do You Always Love in the Way You Were Loved?

Do you love as you were loved in your childhood? Is it true that you're a captive of the kind of affection that your parents gave you in your childhood? Are you repeating the same patterns? We take a look.
Do You Always Love in the Way You Were Loved?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

They say that you love in the way you were loved. Is this true? Is it correct that your affective patterns in childhood determine the way you build relationships as an adult? Certainly, to an extent, you remain slightly conditioned -not determined- by these dynamics built with your primary caregivers.

The science of affection affirms that it’s extremely important to raise and educate children with love. In fact, as humans, we flourish and develop optimally as long as we received in our childhood the affection, validation, and security of enriching figures.

Nonetheless, a happy childhood doesn’t necessarily guarantee a happy maturity, nor the ability to build satisfactory relationships. However, it does give a certain advantage. In fact, a base substrate exists in the form of a brain that’s developed in a context of harmony and free from anxieties, fears, and unsatisfied needs. Furthermore, these kinds of people are skilled in socio-emotional resources.

heart-shaped hands to represent that just as they loved you, you will love
The way they loved you often determines the type of partner you’re looking for.

The way they loved you influences you

Sometimes, thinking about what your parents did (for better or worse) can make you angry. Nevertheless, your childhood doesn’t determine you, it only conditions you by having imprinted certain patterns of behavior and thoughts on you.

For this reason, it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to break those more pathological or problematic patterns that persist in your mind and limit your well-being. However, the way in which your parents treated you does have an effect on the types of relationships you build. They even have an influence on the kinds of people you fall in love with.

Hazan and Shaver (1987) argued that we love as we were loved. In this regard, Bowlby’s attachment theory offers an unrivaled frame of reference. In fact, falling in love, maintaining the bond, fear of abandonment, and breakups can be explained with the basic pillars of his attachment theory.

Furthermore, research conducted by the University of Michigan (USA) claimed that parents’ emotional connection with each other affects their children’s future. In other words, being witness to the relationship that your parents established with each other can also mediate the way in which you understand love in a romantic relationship.

The importance of attachment types

The idea that you’ll love as you were loved is directly related to the attachment theory cited above. Attachment is defined as the union established between caregivers and a child from birth. It’s a system of emotional ties which attends to the child’s needs of affection and security to ensure their survival.

This theory was developed by John Bowlby in the ’70s. It claimed that we all develop a model of interpersonal relationships in childhood based on the bond built with our parents. These bonds tend to determine us in adulthood.

Therefore, you relate to others based on the beliefs or expectations you have about how they’ll respond to your needs. As a rule, there are three types of attachment that can determine relationships. Let’s take a look at them.

Attachment and partner relationships: how you were loved as a child is important

  • Anxious avoidant. In this case, the child didn’t receive the attention and care of their parents. Their emotional needs weren’t met and their fears weren’t allayed. This shapes distrustful and distant relationships in adulthood. In addition, there’s fear of intimacy, as well as distrust, emotional distance, and clear difficulty in building stable bonds. In general, they tend to keep their feelings to themselves and solve their problems on their own.
  • Anxious ambivalent. This type of attachment builds dependent bonds. If a child had to face an anxious ambivalent affection this meant that sometimes they were attended to and at others, not. Consequently, in adulthood, their fear of abandonment or betrayal persists. In fact, it translates into jealousy, emotional dependency, and looking for love from the wrong people.
  • Secure attachment. This type of attachment involves enriching caregivers who are attentive to their children’s needs. It allows the child to build trusting and autonomous relationships. This means they usually choose their partners better. They also tend to build more mature relationships, based on trust and satisfaction.
Couple turning their backs to represent that just as they loved you, you will love
You usually believe that you give the best of yourself in your relationships. However, sometimes, more than offering, you’re claiming what you didn’t receive in the past.

It’s never too late to build healthier and happier emotional bonds

You love in the way you were loved. Indeed, just as you were treated in childhood, you’ll build your romantic relationships. Sadly, there are many people who build their affective bonds from need and lack. In effect, they seek in their loved ones what they didn’t receive in childhood.

Others might repeat patterns that they integrated by observing their own relationship with their parents, including abuse or dependency. There are also those who don’t know how to love because they were never loved correctly and weren’t appreciated. Is there a solution to these kinds of dynamics? The answer is yes, and it lies in being aware of them.

Learning to love correctly, healthily, and happily always requires learning to love yourself. Often, this means having to treat those childhood attachment disorders. These are the same ones that often lead to depression or anxiety or even traumas that are yet to be resolved. With this in mind, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for expert help if you feel you need it.

After all, we all deserve to love in a mature way and to feel fulfilled.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sarah R. Brauner-Otto, William G. Axinn, Dirgha J. Ghimire. Parents’ Marital Quality and Children’s Transition to Adulthood. Demography, 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s13524-019-00851-w
  • Simpson, J. A., Rholes, W. S., & Nelligan, J. S. (1992). Support seeking and support giving within couples in an anxiety-provoking situation: The role of attachment styles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(3), 434–446.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.