WP_20140923_041As we’re about halfway between Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, it feels timely to write a column addressing how our fathers and mothers affect our lives and relationships.

In this column, I’d like to focus on: (1) How our Fathers and Mothers are (unconscious) models for our own adult relationships and (2) How we can become good fathers and mothers ourselves, whether we are single or married.

According to Freud, we model our adult relationships on those that our fathers and mothers had with each other. For many of us, this is not good news. However, it may explain why our past relationships may have emulated our parents’ relationship (for better and for worse).

This may sound simplistic, but I think there’s a lot of truth to it. In my own case, I sure played it out according to Freud’s predictions: before I came out, I picked women who were much like my Dad. Whenever these women met my Dad, they loved each other. After I came out, I picked men who were like Dad, and Dad and my boyfriends usually got along better than Dad and I did.

And, yes, I played out my Mom’s role with all these girlfriends and boyfriends: I was attentive to them, looked after them, and catered to their needs (much more than they did to mine). It took me a lot of therapy to see that I was imitating Mom and picking partners like Dad in my own relationships.

I don’t do this anymore, thanks to my own therapy, and now I assist others who want to break their own patterns and NOT have relationships like Mom and Dad’s.

If you are having difficulties in your relationship(s), look and see if your partner is like either your Father or Mother, and also question if you’re playing out your Mother or Father’s role. If so, you’re not alone. And, happily, you’re not stuck there. With awareness, help from friends, books, workshops and – perhaps – good therapy, you can break those old patterns and NOT play out your parents’ relationship.

And now, a bit of a jump over to point #2: you may wonder, if you’re single or not a biological parent, how you can be a good Father or Mother? The reality is that being a good Father or Mother is more about an attitude and point-of-view than it is biology. Lots of biological parents do a lousy job, and lots of us single folks have good parent energy that we share with the world.

What is a good Father/Mother? Someone who is protective, who wants you to be happy, safe and successful. Who does their best to model for you who you could grow up to become. It’s not about biology, it’s about intention and behavior. For example, do you do your best to protect younger LGBT people in the world? Or do you criticize and belittle them?

Once we get older, part of our life task is to mentor/help younger people. What good is experience and wisdom if we don’t share it with those who could benefit? If it’s our intention to help younger people have a better, happier, more fulfilling life, then we are truly being good Fathers and Mothers.

It’s all-too-easy to denigrate younger people: “They do this wrong and they do that wrong and they don’t do ——- like we used to.” This is not merely unhelpful, it’s quite destructive. Don’t go there. Instead, be a source of strength and encouragement. Live and demonstrate that Good Mother/Good Father energy with whomever you come in contact with. YOU can make a real difference in the lives of younger people.

As LGBT people, we often didn’t have biological parents who really “got” us. We had to struggle to find our place in the world. It doesn’t have to be that way. By being “good” LGBT Mothers and Fathers, we can give that loving, protective, nurturing energy to others. And, by doing so, we can redefine “Father’s Day” and “Mother’s Day” and make them a universal experience that we can all take part in.

I sincerely invite you to do so.