Like Parent, Like Spouse

"It's trite but true that a lot of young women look for a man who reminds them of their dad. Your dad fights monsters. I fight monsters. Your dad rescued your mom from a dragon. I rescued you from Arctis Tor. Seeing the pattern here?"
Harry Dresden to Molly Carpenter, Proven Guilty

Freudian Psychology has a theory that children who have a close relationship with their parents tend to look for those properties in a mate.

It happens that the first example of the male gender that a baby girl encounters is her father, and that forms her impression of maleness in general, up to and including the mate she connects with and, if she's anywhere near the Christian religion, her impression of God as "our Father in Heaven." If she has a negative father, she'll often grab up negative boyfriends as well, so it takes a certain amount of awareness to be able to break out of that tendency.

If her father is absent and an older brother (or another male father figure) is present and actively involved in her life, she bonds with him the same way, and looks for men much like him.

Straight women look to their fathers as a template about what to expect and desire in a man. Sometimes if they have a really bad relationship with their father, they can go the exact other way and choose a husband opposite to their father. Either way, their father remains a very important influence in the choice of a spouse.

The same goes for straight men using their mother as a guide when choosing a wife. Lesbians and gay men are likewise influenced by their same-sex parents, and people who grew up without knowing their parents at all will likely find themselves subconsciously looking for other templates.

Some people find this squicky, but it's just as common in Real Life as in Fiction. See also Father, I Want to Marry My Brother, Dating What Daddy Hates.

Sister Trope to Like Father, Like Son.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura has a crush on Yukito who looks like her father. She even lampshades it.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club it's lampshaded how Tamaki Suou and Haruhi's dad are very alike.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Misato drunkenly lets out that she broke up with Kaji when she noticed how he reminded her of her father, while he’s carrying her home; the reconcile and hook up again, and she becomes his confidant.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Katherine Armstrong tells Havoc that she wants a man more like her brother Alex. Played for laughs because her brother is huge, musclebound, and can generate pink sparkles when he gets hammy. Havoc's reaction is priceless.
  • Yuuna from Mahou Sensei Negima! is another example that got its own manga chapter.
  • Setsuna from Gundam 00 is an inverted example. While it's not really romantic love, he's drawn to Princess Marina Ismail in part because of her close resemblance to his mother. Made somewhat disturbing by the fact that as a Brainwashed and Crazy Child Soldier, Setsuna killed his mother and father.
  • Gohan from Dragon Ball Z marries Videl, the strongest young woman on the planet. His mother was the strongest woman in the world when she was 18. They were both Tsunderes and the daughters of rich martial artists, too.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn!: Tsuna develops a huge crush on Kyoko, whom he hardly interacts with or knows much about. One thing is very noticeable about her, however, she looks exactly like his mother. Even their personalities are very much alike.
  • Shikamaru Nara in Naruto. His mother Yoshino is obstinate and rough but also has a sweet side, similarly to the other two prominent ladies in his life: Temari, his final opponent in the Chunin Exam and most frequent ally outside the Konoha 12 since, and Ino Yamanaka, his Ino-Shika-Cho teammate. He and Temari deny any relationship despite being seen together so much. He and Temari end up married and with a son in the epilogue.
    • Naruto's father, Minato is shown thinking that Sakura reminds him of Naruto's mother Kushina, who earlier remarked that Naruto should marry a girl like herself. Naruto ends up doing the opposite, marrying Shy Blue-Haired Girl Hinata instead.
  • In Sailor Moon, it's pointed out that while Usagi's father initially doesn't like Mamoru very much the two of them are strikingly similar.
  • Minor example in Mirai Nikki - Yukiteru's first crush looks very similar to his mother.
  • Nagi of Hayate the Combat Butler has a crush on Hayate, who apparently looks very much like her mother and father. How much he looks like her mother is actually commented on by another character.
  • In Kotoura-san, Haruka's grandfather takes care of her granddaughter after the latter suffered Parental Abandonment, so he took the place of "parent." He is strikingly similar to Manabe, Haruka's boyfriend, for being honest guys—perversion included.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica - According to ancillary material, Madoka's idea of an ideal husband is someone cool like her mother. In the PSP game, Madoka's mom mentions that Homura reminds her of herself at that age.
  • A convoluted example occurs in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. Syaoran Jr.'s mother is his girlfriend's clone, reincarnated backwards in time to get married to Syaoran Jr.'s clone, who becomes Syaoran Sr., meaning technically he and his dad are the same person and his mom is an Expy of his girlfriend rather than the other way around. It's complicated, OK?

     Comic Books 
  • In Gotham City Sirens, Harley Quinn's father turns out to be an incorrigible con artist constantly in and out of prison. His modus operandi is making women feel young and appreciated before taking them for everything they have, and he's smiling in almost every panel. Parallels to The Joker are quite obvious.

  • In Back to the Future, Marty McFly marries Jennifer Parker who is quiet, soft-spoken, and easygoing just like his father George Mc Fly.
    • Word of God used this explanation as to why Marty's mother Lorraine and his paternal great-great-grandmother Maggie McFly are both played by Lea Thompson, saying that all McFly men are genetically predisposed to be attracted to women who look like Lea Thompson.
  • Live Free or Die Hard had this at the end.
  • Pushed to the extreme in the French movie Itineraire d'un enfant gate: Not only does the daughter want someone like her dad and ends up having a son from a man her father's age, then marrying a guy trained by her dad to act like him, but it's implied that it's also the case of the son.
  • Star Wars - This trope may (read may) be one of the MANY reasons Anakin Skywalker was such a disappointing character. Everybody was expecting Padme to fall in love with a Loveable Rogue / Jerk with a Heart of Gold the way her daughter Leia fell for Han Solo. What we got was...well...
  • In An Officer and a Gentleman, Paula confesses to Zack that she loves him because he reminds her of her father, a Navy aviator.
  • Meta-example in Meet the Robinsons: Word of God says that they used the same character model for both Lewis' birth mother and adult!Franny. This is especially obvious if you notice their ridiculously tiny waists.

  • Animorphs: Tobias's mother Loren is a feisty, fearless, often reckless and smartmouthed blonde who falls for a guy outside her species.... hmm, I wonder who that sounds like.
  • Several characters from Harry Potter:
    • Harry's main love interest and later, wife Ginny is very similar, in appearance and personality, to his mother, whom he barely remembers.
    • Ron's relationship with Hermione is very similar to the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Lampshaded multiple times, when the narration (which is from Harry's perspective) describes Hermione as acting very much like Mrs. Weasley.
    • Fleur Delacour, who marries Ron's brother Bill, is also sometimes described as acting like Mrs. Weasley in the last two books.
  • In the novel Vamped, the girl's love interest and her adoptive father are getting a drink together. There's an awkward moment when they both look at their reflections and realize how similar they look...
  • Explicitly outlined in Raptor Red; her father defined what Raptor Red looked for in a mate. Since she's, well, a Utahraptor, the text even brings up imprinting.
  • In the Tortall Universe, the Yamani princess who has been engaged to Prince Roald was told that men whose mothers are strong and warlike want wives who aren't. Roald's friends think this is stupid. They're right.
  • In The Dresden Files, Molly Carpenter has a crush on Harry, which he attributes to this. People unfamiliar with the story of how Michael and Charity got together might not see the connection. Harry is a snarky Squishy Wizard while Michael is a pious and buff swordsman. They do not look alike or act alike. The trope comes into play because both of them rescued a woman from terrible danger and almost certain death. Michael rescued Charity from a dragon, Harry protected Molly from execution by the White Council. Molly wants a man that has the same virtues as her father, other more superficial similiarities are apparently superfluous. They are also both warriors who are willing to lay down their lives to protect their loved ones, the innocent, and the different codes of ethics they subscribe to. Michael and Harry are pretty darn similar.

    It's also interesting that Molly was dating a guy who superficially looks like Harry. In Ghost Story it's still going on and is full scale love and devotion.
  • Two of the protagonists of Stephen King's IT, upon growing up, marry people like their parents. Eddie Kaspbrak, the kid with asthma and a Beloved Smother, upon growing up, would marry Myra, a woman who is very much like her. Beverly Marsh, the only girl of the Loser's Club and whose father was abusive as hell, would marry Tom Rogan, a man just as abusive as her father.
    • Another King example: Misery. When Paul finds Annie's scrapbook, he sees a photo of her husband, who is the spitting image of her father.
  • In James H Schmitz's The Witches of Karres, young heroine Goth announces that she is going to marry the (adult) hero when she grows up. It is noted by several characters that said hero very much resembles her father. (They're distant cousins.)
  • Ayla from Clan Of The Cave Bear prefers the look of Neandertals to the look of humans, having been raised by the former.
  • At the end of Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson, the narrator starts to fall in love with a coal miner, who is several years older than her, when she realizes that he's the kind of man who would "sing to the oysters," a quirk of her fisherman father.

    Live-Action TV 
  • It's spelled out explicitly in Heroes season 2, with Claire and her creepy stalker guy.
    • Particularly interesting example in that West is considered by Sandra to be personality-wise like Claire's adoptive father Noah, but his more obvious likeness (i.e., they can both fly) is to her biological father Nathan.
  • D.J. on Roseanne briefly had a bossy girlfriend eerily reminiscent of his mother. It forced Roseanne to wonder if the way she treated Dan was having a negative effect on him (though of course, not much comes from it).
    • In another episode Roseanne invokes this trope, yelling at Dan because she doesn't like her daughter Becky's boyfriend. When Dan asks why that's his fault, she responds that "girls always marry their fathers." This is portrayed as irrational, though it seems Dan and Roseanne's early romance was at least somewhat similar (Dan is described as having once been rather cool, in a rock band, etc.)
    • And much later, Mark (Becky's eventual husband) and Dan bond over the fact that they ARE so similar, with several characters commenting on how similar they are. (David, Darleen's eventual husband, does NOT follow this rule, being meek, book-smart and artistic.)
  • 30 Rock had an episode where Liz's much-younger boyfriend's mother turned out to be the spitting image of Liz, even wearing the same outfit. Creeped out, Liz ended their relationship.
  • Friends parodies this, where Rachel's father is visiting at the same time as her mother, and as the two hate each other, Rachel has to set them in separate rooms. When Ross tries to get Rachel's father's glasses, drink, and cigarettes, Rachel's mother notices, and advises Rachel see a psychiatrist as "you've chosen a boyfriend who is exactly like your father."
    Chandler: Rachel, what is the deal with you and doctors, anyway? Is, like, your father a doctor?
    Rachel: Yeah, why?
  • Scrubs:
    • Carla realizes she's exactly like "Mama Turk" and has a mini Freak Out as a result.
    • Justified by Turk, who actually admits this is WHY he likes Carla (who immediately gets up before he makes sure to explain), with him saying that their similarities ("smart, independent, always looking out for you") are actually rather attractive traits in a person, regardless of being shared with a parent.
    • Lady is able to overlook the Janitor's many, many eccentricities because she's attracted to his cleanliness. ("You also look like my father, but that's a whole other set of issues.")
  • Reversed in My Family, where Susan sets her son Michael up with a girlfriend that is exactly like her and no one notices until the father Ben points this out, at which point Michael is completely disgusted with himself.
  • House: Pointed out by House as the reason why Chase is attracted to a doctor he was responsible for hiring as part of House's diagnostics team, demonstrating this with a side-by-side comparison with a photo projection which shows an uncanny physical resemblance between the two women.
  • Kate's two potential love interests on LOST each remind her of one of her fathers. Jack represents the stand-up guy she thought was her father. Sawyer represents the rogue "stepfather" who turned out to be her biological father (whom she also killed).
  • Castle's mom and first wife are both redheads, and his first wife is a lot like his mom. Beckett also warns him that because of how much she adores him, his daughter is likely to end up dating someone like him. Castle is less than thrilled with the idea.
  • In The Drew Carey Show, Drew enters into a May-December Romance with a woman who reminds everyone else of Drew's mother while Drew himself is oblivious. Drew is thoroughly squicked soon after it is pointed out to him.
  • Press Gang: Spike's mom is a copy of Linda, Spike's girlfriend, down to her being played by the same actress in a flashback.
  • Frasier dates a woman who is the spitting image of his mother—Niles and Martin see it, but Frasier can't or won't. An old home movie eventually tips him off.
    • It gets better: Frasier is a Freudian psychiatrist.
  • In How I Met Your Mother Barney exploits this in order to seduce women. He even tries picking a girl up by just walking up to her and saying, "Daddy's home."
    • An episode is dedicated to this trope when Barney's brother expresses a dislike of his girlfriend Nora because she, in his opinion, reminds him too much of their mother. The episode later shows that Marshall and Lily remind each other of one another's fathers.
  • In one episode of Gilmore Girls Lorelai notes that Rory's current boyfriend Dean vaguely resembles Rory's father, Chris, and wonders if this means something (Chris is basically an absentee dad at this point). Sookie suggests this might just mean that Rory inherited Lorelai's tastes.
    • Ironically, Dean is almost nothing like Chris, but similar to Luke, Rory's surrogate father and Lorelai's eventual fiancee.
    • Rory's next boyfriend Jess is actually Luke's nephew and shares even more similarities with him than Dean did. So, Rory ended up with a miniature of her surrogate father/her mother's partner, and Lorelai with an older version of her daughter's boyfriend. The writers must love this trope.
    • Ultimately it's boyfriend number 3, Logan, who bears a resemblance to Chris. Made even funnier when Chris instantly takes a liking to him and tells Rory he approves. Lorelai takes a bit longer to warm up.
  • Discussed in Sex and the City. Carrie wonders if her father walking out on them when she was 5 is the reason she has such problems with men, until Miranda assures her that she has the same problems and her dad was home every day at 7.
  • Two and a Half Men:
    • In one episode Charlie dates a real estate agent who dresses, acts, and belittles everyone exactly like his mother. She even has two sons who act exactly like the titular two brothers as kids.
    • The father of Charlie's semi-stalker, Rose, is played by Martin Sheen.
  • On Parks and Recreation, Ron has two bitchy ex-wives, both of whom are named Tammy:
    Ron: Yes, my mother's name is Tammy. What's your point?
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • After psychoanalysing Penny, Leonard's mother tells him that if he wants to have sex with Penny he should use the same kind of cologne her father wears.
      • That said, Penny is nothing like Leonard's borderline-abusive ice-cold Freudian psychologist mother.
    • Similarly, Howard thinks it's hot when his fiancée yells at him and sounds exactly like his mother. (But then, Howard's relationship with his mother is rather abnormal.)
  • In The Class, Holly Ellenbogen's husband and father are both extremely Camp Straight.
  • In the revived Doctor Who, we meet Rose's father, an amateur inventor and entrepreneur, who underneath his irresponsible façade is actually a heroic man. (Similar to the Doctor, whom she falls in love with over time.)
  • Californication: Becca has some serious father issues. Her season 5 boyfriend Tyler is basically a younger version of her father Hank Moody, which is acknowledged In-Universe. Hank is an acclaimed writer but has troubles dealing with life in general. Becca's boyfriend Tyler has a brilliant literary mind, but unfortunately he is also a jerk who cheats on her and lies to her. Becca follows her mother Karen's pattern of constant forgiving him.
  • In From Dusk Till Dawn Scott accuses Katie of this: the preacher’s daughter dating a guy who texts her Bible quotes as a way of flirting.

  • The Lonely Island: Played for laughs in Motherlovers: Since they both forgot to get a gift for their mothers on Mother's Day, they come up with the brilliant plan to both have sex with their best friends mother. Since they are like brothers to each other. And they obviously couldn't do it themselves.
  • The Chromeo song "Momma's Boy" is about a man who likes a woman because she looks like his mother. The woman also likes him because he looks like her father.
  • The Police song Mother from 1983's Synchronicity.
  • I Want A Girl by Will Dillon and Harry Tilzer from 1911, mentioned in Western Animation below for DuckTales.
    • "I want a girl, just like the girl, that married dear old Dad"

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In the comic strip For Better or for Worse, April once claimed that Elizabeth's boyfriend (and eventual husband), Anthony, was exactly like their dad.
    • John himself compares Anthony to John.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • In The Bible, Isaac has a Perfectly Arranged Marriage with Rebecca shortly after Sarah's death; he gives her Sarah's old tent and she comforts him from his grieving. One Jewish tradition holds that certain miracles had occurred during Sarah's lifetime and only resumed after Rebecca showed up.

  • The Phantom of the Opera: Part of Christine's attraction to The Phantom is that he reminds her of her father.
  • Company: When Larry is explaining why he loves Joanne despite her snarkiness and abrasive behaviour, he mentions that his mother was a "very difficult woman", suggesting that this trope is in play.

    Video Games 
  • In the Star Fox comic by Benimaru Itoh, Fara Phoenix puts on Fox's mother Vixy's dress and suddenly bears an uncanny resemblance to Vixy.
  • Mass Effect - Ashley is a fourth-generation Military Brat (father, grandfather, great-grandmother) whose shown romantic interests are all fellow space marines. If she and Male-Shep are together in the third game, she mentions how much her dad would have liked him.

  • Used during the infamous Melna/Stonewater storyline of Dominic Deegan strip, where Melna realizes that she's fallen for a man who raped her when she was a teenager to try and save her life (long story) because he reminds her of her dead father.
  • Meta example: Kelly Turnbull, of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things fame.

    Web Originals 
  • The Nostalgia Chick's "Top 10 Hottest Animated Guys," which were chosen by the fanbase, mostly consisted of various types of "bad boys." The Chick concludes that all her viewers are just like her in that they're the children of alcoholics looking for someone to change.
  • Nullmetal Alchemist:
    Al: "She's (Psiren) amazing isn't she?"
    Ed: "Well yeah. Of the women who've seen my naughty bits she ranks up there."
    Al: "But she's special."
    Ed: "Uh huh."
    Al: "You don't understand. She awakens a fire within me!"
    Ed: "Lovely."
    Al: "I haven't been this enraptured by a woman since... (flashback to his mother smiling at him) Since..."
    Ed: "Since... since... (beat) Wait a sec! You're attracted to her because she reminds you of mum!"

    Western Animation 
  • Discussed in Home Movies. Brendan starts putting on weight, so Coach McGuirk tells him to go for the girls whose fathers were fat during their "impressionable years." McGuirk later on goes on a disastrous date with the school nurse, and one of the first questions he asked was if her father was fat. In another episode, he drunkenly tells his date "Y'know, I think it was Charles Darwin who said that men want to marry their mothers. So maybe that's why I like you, cause you remind me of my mother. Which is funny, because I hate my mother..."
  • In one episode of American Dad!, Hayley dates her father's CIA body double. The same episode implies that her insane anger issues stem from feeling like Stan never accepts her.
  • Discussed Trope in Futurama, after Mom slaps her sons around and plots world domination. "Someday I want to marry a girl like her."
  • In an episode of DuckTales, the Beagle Boys sing a song about how they want a girl "Just like the girl that married dear old Dad!"
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Principal Skinner muses, "I always thought I'd marry a girl like Mom... and didn't really want to."

    Real Life 
  • A lot of baby birds will upon hatching imprint on one of the first things they see. As adults, sometimes they go for their own kind, sometimes... they don't.
    • The (nonfiction) book "When Elephants Weep" details the case of Tex, a whooping crane who was hand-raised and, when mature, rejected male cranes for "Caucasian men of average height with dark hair." Whooping cranes are so endangered that it was thought vital to get her into "breeding condition," at which point she could be successfully artificially inseminated. So the director of the International Crane Foundation, who met the necessary criteria, spent many weeks courting her. It worked, making this a case of Interspecies Romance with emphasis on "romance" in the non-euphemistic sense of the word.
      "My duties involved endless hours of 'just being there', several minutes of dancing early in the morning and again in the evening, long walks in quest of earthworms, nest building, and defending our territory against humans."
    • On a related note, putting whooping crane eggs into the nests of related sandhill cranes and letting the sandhills raise them results in whooping cranes who are attracted to sandhills. The resulting hybrids are not viable, though.
  • This is very much Truth in Television, as psychologists have discovered. The idea is that when you are a child you grow up in a safe, loving environment that sets a template for the future. You look for people similar to your parents because they remind you of the safety you had as a child. Perfectly logical, and only minimally squicky.
    • Well, think about it in an evolutionary sense - your very existence is proof that your parents are a successful template to follow!
    • Mixed with Fridge Horror when you realize that this often applies to people who were raised by Abusive Parents. Contrary to common depictions of Abusive Parents who are not nice, many abusive parents have a nice side. Their children will love them for their nice qualities, but most likely won't be able to filter the abusive aspects out of their template of a perfect mate. So these people are made vulnerable to Domestic Abuse later on in life.
      • The other aspect is that abusers will often tell their victims, and may even believe themselves, that the abuse is for their own good. Warp a child's thinking that violent beatings are normal discipline needed for kids to grow up right, and the result will often be someone who goes on to be an abuser or marry an abuser.
      • Less than 1/5 of people abused as children abuse their kids. However, ending up with someone who would abuse your kids as a romantic partner is depressingly common for people abused as children.