Recently an old uni friend (Friend M) and I went bush walking in the Blue Mountains. The last time we tried this was in 1994 and it ended badly, so I don’t know what we were thinking. In an attempt to distract me from the physical pain of sustained exercise, Friend M put one of her observations about the human condition out there for discussion.
Friend M thinks that her male friends have ended up with partners who have the opposite personalities to their mothers; and her female friends are with partners who are like their fathers.
As Friend M hauled me up endless stone stairs (and I wondered what the hell Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson were thinking), she suggested we develop these observations into a theory.
I realise that this theory is based on observations of ourselves and her group of friends and relatives; so the field of research is narrower than it should be. And as longitudinal studies go (this one is only about twenty years old) it’s too short to yield credible conclusions (yes I know it has far deeper credibility issues).
Nor is it an original or new theory; apparently Freud and Jung developed something far more insightful on the matter.
But when I reached the point in our leisurely 4 hour bush walk that I was ready to cry or waste the time of the NSW search and rescue services, Friend M cleverly suggested that we test the theory against all of our friends, colleagues and acquaintances once more. We encountered a few couples who undermined the theory and so we excluded them from our research pool. As this was not a funded study, we figured we should be allowed to use any wacky methodology we liked, including excluding evidence we didn’t like.
It’s not a profound theory and there are many examples that disprove it. But take for example my Husband’s mother, my Mother-in-Law. She is a joyous, sociable lady who faces the world with unassailable optimism and enthusiasm. On the other hand, I am too happy with my own company; and I often feel uncomfortable in new social situations, sometimes even in familiar ones. Whilst my Mother-in-Law fearlessly expects the best from life, I am more anxiously braced for the worst. I have drafted contingency plans and cumbersome but still legally binding documents to deal with all manner of emergency situations. At family weddings, I have wondered what would happen if a terrorist attack took place, killing all of my heirs and their heirs and their heirs. (In such an event, my original Millennium Falcon has been bequeathed to my best friend K, who I know will treasure it as much as I do.) My Mother-in-Law is a lot more fun to be with at family weddings.
And take for example, my father and my Husband. Both are principled men who love exploring, studying esoteric subjects and watching Bond movies. They have both had responsibility thrust upon them but they handle it with fortitude and an endearing sense of humour.
In our assessment conducted over the life-threatening terrain of the Blue Mountains, our sample set supported the theory. Our male friends did seem to be with partners who were very different from their mothers - not that there was anything wrong with their mothers. And our female friends seemed to be with partners who were very similar to their fathers – not that their fathers were all necessarily shining paragons of humanity. It was just interesting to see a strong pattern emerging.
Is this only the case with me and my friends (and our faulty research) or are you the same – is your partner like one of your parents or the opposite? Are you like your mother-in-law or different? Do you think men seek partners who are not like their mothers and women seek partners who are like their fathers? Or is this one Dr Phil-esque generalisation too many?