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What You Can Learn About Your Partner from the People in His Life

His mom, his college roommate, and even his exes can all say a lot about who your significant other is.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Mariel Hannah Photography

No matter how well you think you know your partner after all the time you've spent together, you don't really understand their full story until you've met the important people in his or her life. Getting to know your partner's family and friends introduces you to a host of childhood memories, family stories, and traditions that are important to the person that you love, explains relationship coach Claudia Six, Ph.D. "It allows you to get to know your so from a different perspective and on a deeper level," she adds.

 

"The people closest to us are often our mirrors," says Rudi Rahbar, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in couples and families. "There's so much of ourselves that we are unaware of, and it's the people closest to us who can see our flaws and faults and bring them to the forefront." To maintain a balance of who we are and who we want to become, we often choose partners who can bridge the gap—who remind us of where we came from, but also where we're going. Even if you live far from your partner's family and friends or the place he grew up, you can still do your very best to get to know them on some kind of level. If you do, you might be surprised by all of the things you can learn about your significant other. Here are a few, according to the experts.

 

Related: Things to Remember While Dating

 

From his friends…

"If they're high school or college friends, you learn that he is capable of long-term relationship that survive the test of time," explains Dr. Six. "You learn that he is loyal, not fickle and that he picks loyal friends who maintain relationships." You also get a sense of his ability to commit to others—something that may foreshadow his ability to commit to you. "If they're friends from work, you may find out that he has leadership skills you weren't aware of," Dr. Six adds, or perhaps why he's so exhausted after a day at the office. Is he so focused that he never takes a lunch break? Did he have a major presentation at work that he feels he didn't perform well? Understanding the dynamics of his work life and friends can be beneficial in helping you understand why he acts the way he acts when he comes home to you.

 

From his exes…

You're probably not hoping for the opportunity to run into his girlfriend from high school or college, and he's probably not hoping to introduce you. But learning about the kinds of relationships he's had before you—how they treated him and how he treated them—can teach you a lot about the kind of partner he is today. If you do get the chance to come face-to-face with an ex, broach any topics involving your partner gently, not confrontationally. "You may compare notes and feel validated in some of the things you struggle with in your mate, and have a bonding chuckle over it," says Dr. Six. Or you may find that he hasn't been entirely truthful about the details he's shared with you.

 

From his mother…

The ideal scenario is that your partner has a loving and healthy relationship with his mom—even if he's a "Mama's boy." This only shows that he respects women and that he'll likely respect you the same. "If, on the other hand, his mother is overbearing and intrusive, it'll explain your partner's strong need for privacy and space," explains Dr. Six. "From the stories she tells of him as a child, you'll know whether or not he felt safe and cherished, or neglected." Both can tell you a lot about him.

 

From his father…

The relationship between a father and son is a fragile one. If he's close with his father, and his father supports him in his decisions, he likely feels that support and it has helped him develop into the person he is today. If his father puts a great deal of pressure on him to be everything that his father is—or never was—it may explain his internal struggles. "If you plan on having kids, this may give you a sense of what kind of parent your spouse will be," says Dr. Six. "We tend to reproduce what we know, or make sure we do the opposite and give our kids what we didn't get."