Growing up, I was always told that "although relationships may come and go, family is forever," and, unknowingly, this adage has played a greater role in my life than I had ever realized. In determining both the individuals I choose to share meaningful friendships with, and those that I choose to be within relationships, one aspect of a person's character has always played a determining part in how I create an opinion of him or her: how he or she talks about, acts around, and treats his or her parents.
Some children start off as really close with their parents, push away from them during the teenage years, and then later return to being mom or dad's best friend again in adulthood. Others were not close with their parents as kids and later became their best confidants as they grew older. Some, unfortunately, were never close with their parents, and others just lost touch once they moved away or had families of their own. Whatever the situation may be, if a person grew up in a home where one's parents were far from perfect, yet did everything in their power to be really good ones, that in itself is reason enough to be thankful for, loving toward, and eternally appreciative of those that raised a person. Of course, in cases of neglect or abuse, it is understandable if an individual has an unkind thing or two to say about a parent, but for the most part, there is no excuse to speak ill of or treat one's parents poorly.
Everyone's parents can drive (and has driven) them nuts. Constant nagging about chores, school, and homework; asking about friends, teachers, and weekly schedules; refusing to let you out of the house in *that* outfit, or not wanting to loan you the car in high school; not buying you the latest and coolest things that everyone else has, or lecturing you on what to and what not to do in any given situation, whatever other countless situations and annoyances at the hands of a parent have momentarily plagued a household, each one has come from a place of care, compassion, curiosity, amazement, interest, worry, and, ultimately, love. When hormones are raging, frustrations are high, or time is of the essence, it's easy to get caught up in feelings of resentment or discontent over most often the smallest of things; but, is there any feeling worse than realizing later that you were unnecessarily mean to your mom and dad? Trust me, you're not always right (and this is coming from someone who always argues she is!)
When forming a new friendship or growing in a new relationship with any person, if you're not feeling awkward or know the person vaguely, then don't be afraid to ask questions like "So, what do your parents do?" or "How are your parents?" but if not, then actively listening to the other person's stories and anecdotes about their favorite memories, or even something that had happened just the day before, you can learn a lot.
A general rule of thumb is it can be pretty quickly determined what kind of person you're dealing with based on what first few topics they touch on in conversation with you. If the response is expletive-filled or laced with bitterness or indignation, without any apology or explanation, then chances are that there is little respect or regard present for those that have consistently done their best for that person for a great portion of their lives. If the response is warm, complementary, respectful, and most grateful, those qualities can likely set the tone for the way that the individual speaks of others in general.
So when it comes to determining whether to be friends with or to be in a relationship with someone, why does all of this matter? In short, because how they treat the people who love them most is how they will most likely treat you in whatever relationship you form with them. Numerous psychological studies have begun to take a deeper look at this, and have come to find that the Familiarity Principle of Attraction is one of the primary reinforcers of this idea. These studies have revealed that humans are attracted to what is most familiar, that repeated exposure only increases that attraction, and that this is due to the comfort, security, or safety that we may feel when around someone who emanates a loved one.
Not only may we be physically attracted to those that seem familiar, but also to behavior that is as well. Various case studies, however, have also shown that this may not always be a good thing. For example, it has been noted that individuals who grew up with one or more alcoholic parent tend to be attracted to partners with alcoholic tendencies, too. This is not because that quality is necessarily desirable or attractive, but it is familiar to that person. Similarly, women who have difficult relationships with their fathers, or boys who have issues with their mothers, tend to become friends with or romantically involved with individuals who treat them in a similar manner as that parent.
Of course, sociocultural, environmental, other psychological, and preference-based factors also come into play when determining who we see fit to spend our time with, but each person's life and personality was built on a foundation established by the teachings of family members, friends, mentors, and teachers. Listening to how an individual talks about these influential figures, how he or she may act around them, or how that person treats or considers them can tell you a lot more than you think. You deserve the world, so choose wisely.