A handful of people may think their parents had an amazing marriage, while many more think it had both positive and negative qualities and some don’t see much they want to replicate in their own relationships. Even if your parents had a good enough marriage, strategies that worked for them still may not be right for you and your partner. So, how do you avoid repeating those patterns you learned? Read on:

  • Awareness: The first step in making any change is awareness. This involves really thinking about your parents’ marriage. You can evaluate it differently as an adult because you now understand some of the stressors (financial, parenting, etc.) that they were facing and you can recognize that they were simply human beings doing the best they could.  Pay attention to your own relationship patterns. Are you repeating things you learned from them without even realizing it? Do you make assumptions, such as men mow the lawn and women do the cooking because that’s how your parents did it? Do you avoid conflict because you never saw conflict being resolved in your house? Or, alternately, do you blow up over everything because you believe that is the only way to be heard?
  • Make conscious choices:  Once you think about the relationship beliefs passed down from your parents, then you can consider which you think were healthy and which you want to let go of. For instance, maybe your parents were very loyal to each other and that is something you admired. However, maybe you’d always felt sad that they nit-picked at each other over small things. Try to remember that relationships are complicated and it’s not usually black and white.
  • Pay attention to your relationship patterns:  Now that you’ve thought about the beliefs that you don’t want to make part of your relationship, ask yourself if you do some of those things without even realizing it. Maybe you grew up in a family that wasn’t verbally or physically affectionate and you know you want that to be more present in your marriage. However, it may still make you uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar to you. You have to make a choice to make that part of your relationship and tolerate some of the initial discomfort of unfamiliarity.

Relationships are complicated and each partner brings in patterns from their family-of-origin. It is important to communicate about how you grew up and what you want to be different so your partner understands you. It is equally important for you to listen to those things from your partner’s point of view, then you can consciously create the relationship you want.