Reparenting is when someone seeks a surrogate parental figure to role model after. Usually a subconscious need, people who require it are often unaware and would challenge the dependable trustworthy candidate as they would towards parents during the teenage rebellion stage. Reparenting and being a partner is a conflict of interest, it is not a matter of how loving, kind or helpful a partner is, although in their heads, they will make it solely about that, so it is up to the person on the other side to gauge if they're expecting two or more roles (parent/child/partner) instead of the usual one.
1. Emotional unavailability. Desensitisation, dissociation and numbing is a common survival method for them to cope with the intensity of their emotions. Unable to name their emotions, they cannot meet their own needs independently or ask you directly to meet their emotional needs. You have to play mental gymnastics, exhaust yourself doing a large amount of guesswork to coax the sullen hibernating bear out of the cave. They will see your full range of emotions as too much, unusual or unthinkable, they would be overly reliant on you to regulate and soothe them. Since research shows 90% of the time we're feeling something, this means they're easily overwhelmed and constantly in need of your help.
2. They're drawn to over care takers. Over care takers are in need of reparenting too and they tend to find each other, over care takers are overwhelmed by taking care of other people's emotional needs while not getting their own emotional needs met in return, so they're overly reliant on other family members, kids, friends or communities to pick up the slack, it creates a string of unbalanced relationships around them, they too are subconsciously driven to play this role. So they will tell you they're selfless towards a partner but they come across as selfish to you as a friend. They don't know how to spread themselves around in a healthy manner so they have a holistic support network of family and friends.
Well intentional people who ask them to leave since they're complaining so much will be accused of being unkind and unloving as well. Their problems are far more complex than leaving, so unless the relationship is abusive which it usually ends up being and they definitely should leave if that's the case, however leaving or staying itself doesn't help them sort through their wounds, leaving does give them a conducive environment for restoration so that is the main benefit, a crucial life saving one for some.
3. Attach a large amount of moral correctness to everything. They simplify complex conversations into rigid right or wrong, all good or all bad, partly due to the inability to process their emotions into insights, the older they're, the harder it is to quit. A simple disagreement turns into one about morality quickly, they don't know who to trust and deep inside they see the world as hostile and do not trust anyone. They can change their opinions of you drastically with one conversation, they're one foot in and one foot out, they blow hot and cold, you're constantly uncertain where you stand with them, their inability to be stable means they bring chaos to the table.
4. They hedge all their bets on a partner. They have this idea that when they get a perfect partner, all their problems will be solved, financial problems, emotional problems and physical problems, so they tend to spend a lot of time dating and pining away for the perfect partner, while their careers, finances and other relationships take a back seat. They tend to romanticise relationships, how XYZ (usually someone who also required reparenting and was a hot mess until they met someone) landed the female or male knight in shining armour who transformed them, without understanding how these people are often trying to make the best of an imperfect situation, how people do not always know what they're in for until much later or they're in the honeymoon phase which will pass and problems will surface subsequently.
5. They live in the past or the future. They have difficulty living in the now, being fully present with you, always talking about the past or the future, they have no urgency to change themselves right now. Even if they want to, they have no idea where to start. They often underestimate the reparenting process, the amount of resources needed, they only start to give you credit when they hit the OK it's starting to make sense stage, by then you have invested years of time, energy, money and emotional labour to get them to see it. The more whole, healthy and well you're, the more they think you're the problem. Since most people give up during previous stages, they remain the same throughout the relationship. By then, you're also trapped in the sunk cost fallacy, you have invested too much to back out, you already share a household, kids, forged an emotional bond or a trauma one (if it's abusive) as well as shared many precious memories.
Some people are aware they need reparenting and are actively seeking outside help, it will takes years for reparenting to be completed, that means the other party must tolerate them in the meantime, of course we all prefer to date whole healed people instead. It's not usually a matter of not wanting to help, it's that not many people have the resources to stick through the reparenting process.
Since parenting requires 16 to 18 years, reparenting requires addressing the various stages of development they missed, it also requires that person set down all childhood survival methods and compensatory defence mechanisms repeated over a lifetime, it's way easier for someone to see it as the other person is at fault, "you do not love me enough", "you're selfish" or "you're not allowing me to be me" to prop themselves up.
Since people who grow up in supportive families often judge those from abusive families, simplify it into a matter of strong versus weak as well, instead of acknowledging they kept their esteem intact due to a conducive environment, people who require reparenting do not get their support during any part of the reparenting process, they have no qualms refusing people with low esteem even if they really did have it better.
It isn't true that everyone with high esteem helps, they often do not, if they do, it's an act of kindness, when someone unrealistic cannot see that, it is as good as you didn't do anything at all.
It is common that they have to walk alone during that time, rely on their own resources, I know I did.
The more you invest in yourself, the more you're at the mastery end of Dunning- Kruger, the more you will refuse enmeshment because you earned it, you know how valuable and how difficult healing is, understanding doesn't mean you want an unbalanced relationship like this again.
Often people expect more from those who overcome than from those who didn't have to, when it is a matter of an impossible conflict of interest between these roles, they make it about lack of want or lack of ethics, this is also why advocates often get additional judgement and not less, also why a large percentage of people who did reparent themselves successfully do not want to be advocates, still people will not hesitate to tell advocates they're claiming credit or boasting.
Killing off advocates is a terrible idea, advocates play a vital role in healing that professionals and lay people cannot fulfil.
Even the people who require reparenting themselves idealise the reality of people who did it and make it a matter of "you have it good", "you must have more resources", when no, it's a matter of blood, sweat and tears just like what they have to go through, the world is unfair, it is just as unfair to others as it to them, no one got special treatment or additional benefits from anyone.
The reparenting role requires authority, just like a parent has authority over a child, this is not type of authority suitable for a romantic relationship, adults value autonomy to keep their seperate selves intact. Even those who can fulfil this need learn their lesson down the road and start having boundaries, their sex lives always suffer, because it's subconsciously incestuous to sleep with a "child" even if that is an emotionally immature adult in the 40s and not a matter of physical age, sex is then viewed with shame and disgust, this makes for an unfulfilling sex life and cheating usually happens.
The overly reliant one who requires reparenting uses sex as a form of dominative control, indicative of helplessness in his own life, the overly care taking one emotionally distance via killing off her sex drive or refusing sex, she see no lost leaving the relationship even if he's rich or successful, emotional needs are basic needs, wealth or career success cannot compensate for it. Over caretakers do have an easier time healing because they grew resilience, are more flexible and have higher amounts of empathy, overly reliant people do not have those qualities.
There's always a power struggle happening when someone requires reparenting and no matter how helpful you're, you will be the scapegoat for all the pain they don't want to face and they can still see you as a replacement evil father or evil mother after all the help rendered, it is a thankless task with no rewards.
Alternatively, it takes a village and if within a community, we can each take a little slice to reparent someone, it can also happen, which is what feminists and all female communities are doing for women who require reparenting. As long as this isn't confused as romantic interest, there're clear boundaries drawn, no abuse is tolerated, since these are all enabling and will not help them in the long run. Not everyone in the community will understand either so this makes helping a tall task for various personal and social reasons listed above.
We can all enjoy dating without the burden of dual or triple roles as it should be, a fun relaxing getting to know, not a worrisome burdensome task of tension, power struggle and unrealistic expectations.
Honour people as they're, be unapologetic if you're not up for it and be honest to yourself about your limitations, your want to help can be greater than the resources you currently have, you're not required to bend over backwards to accommodate anyone.
Eshet chayil, God is a She.
Letting Go Art Print by by Alisha Lee Jeffers