Now that my husband and I had finally taken the leap to save our marriage through therapy, we were asked in our second session to broach the sometimes painful subject of our childhood. As a former therapist myself, I've been aware of how much my own upbringing has affected me as a person and a parent. I've also known how my husband's childhood shaped him, but he needed to hear about that from someone else other than me.
But you can only dwell on your past for so long, which is why I'm so happy that our therapist showed us how to move forward in our relationship by looking back.
Much of what we seek in a relationship is what we never received from our parents when we were kids, which is one thing to hear when you're an adult in a failing marriage and another when you're also a parent.
In my own case, I grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father who never really approved of anything I did. I'm not quite sure what was really important to him -- maybe his work or his booze -- but it certainly wasn't me. And as the oldest in a family with a younger sister who passed away as a baby, I was probably always making up for that loss as well.
I've heard all too often that women seek men like their fathers, which isn't the most encouraging news for someone like me. So when our marriage counselor took a different approach and instead said that we look for what we didn't get from either of our parents (not just our fathers), I was more hopeful.
It also made much more sense why some of my husband's actions bothered me so much. Because what I discovered is that his own behavior was from needs he never had filled by his parents. But they affected me more deeply than they might have because of my own upbringing.
So, for example, his tendency towards being an extreme people pleaser and his inability to say no thanks to a ridiculously negative and disapproving mother were making me feel less important to him. And if that weren't such a hot-button issue for me, I probably wouldn't have been as fazed by those things.
Suddenly, it was so clear how our formative experiences as kids have really had an impact on our ability -- or lack thereof -- to effectively communicate. We also got clarify on how our own actions were influencing our children.
This week, we're trying our best to consider where the other person is coming from when they respond to a choice we've made. And we're thinking about how we treat our kids so they don't have to deal with this when they're our age.
How has your upbringing affected your own relationship?
Image via bcmom/Flickr