Relationship Help Truism: We learn how to be in relationships (how to communicate, deal with conflict, etc) from the people who surround us throughout our lives. It’s long been observed that children often mimic what they witness.
Are you repeating relationship patterns you observed in your childhood?
If you grew up observing your parents being emotionally available, responsive, and compassionate to each other, you’re likely to bring these pro-relationship qualities into your marriage/relationship. If, on the other hand, you observed infidelity, deceit and intolerance, you may struggle with similar patterns in your own marriage.
Are you repeating relationship patterns that you directly experienced in your childhood?
Imagine the following scenario: Whenever you wanted attention from your caregivers, they were short with you or seemed indifferent and preoccupied. You had the sense that you were burdening them. Over time you learned that communication is futile and to adapt to this harsh reality, you began to ignore your own emotional needs.
Fast forward to the present. You’re in a committed relationship and you find that whenever your spouse/partner discusses how s/he feels about something, you become uncomfortable and feel impatient or even agitated. Your reaction (or lack of reaction) is very upsetting to your partner and s/he begins to pull away from you. The relationship enters a danger zone.
In this example, the long arm of how you were responded to as a child is having a powerful impact on how you respond to your partner. Your reaction to your partner’s emotional needs are similar to how your parents reacted (or failed tor react) to your emotional needs as a child. Patterns from your past are shaping your present day relationship.
Past patterns often become present patterns.
Relationship Help: Become mindful of your relationship patterns
Awareness of the emotional dynamics within your family of origin is the antidote to any destructive patterns that you may repeat in your marriage/relationship.
While there are many areas of your relationship that can be impacted by your past, for today we’re going to focus on just one area—emotional intimacy (feeling emotional close to each other).
Reflect on the questions below to help you become aware of any potential patterns that might arise or already exist.
Strengthen Your Relationship Self-reflective Action Step
As a child did you feel emotionally close to others in your family?
In what ways was intimacy expressed?
Or did it feel like your family was distant and disconnected—in this case, what happened when you were in need emotionally?
After answering these questions reflect on how these issues impacted you and think about your current relationship. Then answer the following:
Are you comfortable with intimacy in your current relationship or do you pull away from emotional closeness?
Note any similarities between relationships you observed in childhood and your current relationship.
Until next time,
Dr. Rich Nicastro