I was talking with a friend today who finally (after years of prodding) started seeing a therapist a few weeks ago. She said it has been enormously helpful, and man, I'm in the wrong profession. As the recipient of such therapy, it's like I know by proxy what they'll say.
One of the first things she discovered was that she settled for a poor marriage and subsequent poor relationships because she learned early on from her parents, who I guess don't even like each other much, that dysfunction was normal and just what you do. That's a very, very familiar story for many family and friends. I think the scariest thing about that is the effect it has on your offspring. I think my kid will be OK, because I've been through enough sub-optimal relationships to get to a really good one, but yikes, how do you know if you're in your first try? If your approach to relationships is largely based on your parents', and your parents hate each other, stay together despite being miserable, or something like that, you're really screwed.
I wish I knew this around the time I was in college. I would've done a hell of a lot more dating. Not that I regret how anything turned out, because it is who I am now, but it would've been a much easier road if I had a lot more diverse practice when I was in my 20's.