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The Real Housewives of Potomac's Ashley Darby let viewers into an intense therapy session where she discussed the link between her absentee father and her husband, Michael Darby. She wondered why she was having a fear of having to do everything right — and why if she didn't, she thought Michael would walk out on her.
"I see my husband as almost two different people, I see Michael as a paternal figure as well, too. I would be silly not to acknowledge that," Ashley explained, adding off-camera, "My parents divorced when I was about a year old and immediately my dad moved back to Georgia, I’ve never seen or spoken to him, ever."
She continued, "I don’t want anything to upset this balance of how I see my husband so I do tend to err on the side of caution on how to be a good wife to him."
Meaning she believes she has to do the right things so that he doesn’t disappear.
"One of the things that draws me to Michael is the fact that he is nurturing and authoritative in a way that I would imagine a father would be," Ashley adds. "But I didn’t realize the hurt I didn’t address with my dad has also spilled over into my marriage."
New York-based therapist Dr. Elizabeth Lasky, Ph.D., LCSW, told Personal Space parent-spouse comparisons come up all the time in therapy.
"It’s very common to repeat relationship patterns that we grew up with," she explained. "A previous relationship may color — or even set the stage — of subsequent relationships."
Parents have a major impact on the type of person we end up with in life, Dr. Lasky added.
"Our levels of attachment are rooted in our caregiver experiences so it wouldn’t surprise me to have traits from our parents, or themes of traits, show up in relationships," she said.
If you are aware of a pattern, you're one step ahead.
"Gaining awareness around this can be illuminating for people," she says. "Many of the people I work with are coming to me to avoid repeating family patterns. It’s definitely possible to change."
Psychology Today reports on the topic of emotional baggage we carry from our parents, saying, "When we get triggered by the past, we lose our conscious connection to what matters in the present moment, and we say and do things we would never do if we weren't triggered."
"Traumas can happen to us throughout life," PT reports. "But the childhood traumas are usually the ones with the most power, because that is the time when we are most easily overwhelmed by our emotions. And many of the traumas we experience in later life are re-enactments of our earlier traumas, that we seem to create to give ourselves a chance to heal."
Ashley tried to contact her father in order to heal, and is considering going to find him. In the meantime, therapy can help her separate those feelings from Michael.
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