“I have a great relationship with my dad, so I suppose I looked for a partner who shares some of his good qualities,” says Wobschall, 22, head of marketing and public relations for a Minneapolis nonprofit.


Berkeley, California, psychotherapist Elayne Savage says familiarity is a big reason people may choose someone like Mom or Dad as a partner.

“When you grow up familiar with a certain type of person, you’re attracted to that same type of person because it feels comfortable, whether you like it or not.”

Physical Traits

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that a parent’s physical or intellectual traits may have some influence. A Hungarian researcher studied the facial features of 52 families and found a significant correlation between the appearance of men and their fathers-in-law and those of women and their mothers-in-law.


And in a survey of approximately 2,700 “high-achieving” men — those in the top 10 percent of their age income bracket and/or with an advanced degree — a University of Iowa researcher found they are likely to marry women with education levels and careers that mirror those of their moms.


Sometimes, people choose mates who resemble their parents not because of fond memories, but to make amends for an unhappy childhood.

“This is most common if you felt rejected or abandoned by a parent and still haven’t worked through it,” says Stephen Treat, director of the Council for Relationships, a Philadelphia nonprofit. “Your psyche wants to go back to the scene of the crime, so to speak, and resolve that parental relationship in a marriage.”

Women who felt abandoned by their fathers are likely to choose emotionally unavailable husbands, for example, and men raised by hypercritical moms will be drawn to wives who pick on them, he says.

It’s not a good idea. “You think you’ll be able to heal this way, but you’re probably no more equipped to deal with the situation than you were as a child, and the parental dynamic gets repeated in your marriage, usually with bad consequences,” he says.

What to do?

“If you want very badly to have a different and better relationship than the ones you grew up with, you can accomplish that if you go about it very consciously.”

Don’t jump in. “Ideally you should date for a couple of years before engagement — and not just long distance,” she says. “You need to be together on those days when your car won’t start … to see how you and your partner support each other.”

Don’t be afraid to disagree. “Assert yourself and see what your partner does with that,” she says. “Can they put their needs aside and follow your lead once in a while? Make sure your relationship has room for give and take.”

Talk about life issues. Some questions to discuss sooner rather than later: If we have kids, will one of us stay home? Who will manage our money? “Premarital counseling can get these questions out on the table in a civilized way, and prevent problems down the road,” says Swenson.

Source: CNN

I don’t have a link, but I also recall a study where women had to smell men’s T-Shirts ๐Ÿ˜› The results indicated that even based on only smell, women tended to choose men who shared significant genetic similarity to them. Here is a similar study:

It has been known for some time that the MHC complex (known as HLA in humans) is a source of unique odours that affect aspects of human behaviour, such as mate choice or individual recognition.

Women were asked to rate the smell on the basis of its familiarity, intensity, pleasantness and spiciness. Additionally, each woman was asked which smell she would choose if she had to smell it all the time.

Jacob et al. found that the women consistently preferred odours from men who shared some of their own HLA alleles. Amazingly, a difference in one HLA allele was sufficient for the women to distinguish between smells from different donors.

The results were clear โ€” the women’s choices were dictated by the alleles that came from their fathers but not their mothers. Furthermore, environmental exposure to HLA-derived odours did not appear to affect women’s odour preferences โ€” there was no association between their preferences and the paternal alleles that were not inherited.

The authors speculate that this preference might be important in choosing a mate and might have evolved to provide a balance between inbreeding and outbreeding to give an intermediate number of HLA matches to preserve optimal immunocompetence in the offspring.

Source: Nature Reviews

7 thoughts on “On Oedipus and Electra: Choosing Your Mate

  1. Known for quite some time now, most of these. Still, the facts are disturbing. And with more and more parents nowadays actually neglecting their children or abusing them, in turn leading to more of such cases in future due to the children passing it on to theirs, this is a serious sociological as well as psychological issue.

  2. Sakura,

    Oh, that is interesting: smell as a sedative ๐Ÿ™‚

    – – –


    haha Well, studies may contradict each other sometimes. That article does not cite the original study though. It would be interesting to see meta-analysis.

    – – –


    This may be a problem if a person who was abused as a child would choose a partner who is similar to a parent in hope of resolving childhood issues.

  3. @ Kitsune, poor hubby sleeps terribly. I always have slept the sleep of the dead.

    Don’t get me wrong I will wake up to noise, its just that I always seem to sleep deeply.

    That being said unless I can smell hubby’s scent I can have a hard time falling asleep. Once I get there I’ll be fine though.

    I think its a comfort type thing, I can smell him and that comforts me and then I can get to sleep.

    He usually wraps himself around me and I fall asleep that way so that’s probably why I need his smell.

    Since its very rare he’s away and so I get used to it I think.

  4. What a crock, it’s like we have the time or resoursces or even the stupidity of checking out people to get a familiar scent. Hello out there, the last thing most of us want in a mate is familiarity with our family members, nothing would be a greater turn off than an association with incest and i guess thats the real reason that all of us are so different. Geez enough with the animal studies already.

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