As we continue our series in relationships, we want to know how we can make our current relationships more meaningful and satisfying.
Exploring our past gives us information about what we bring with us into our present day relationships. We may not always find the answers we want, but we find enough clues to help re-direct, fix or change courses today.
Patterns are repeated from generation to generation.
Children growing up with an alcoholic parent are only too aware of how destructive addictions can have on the family. They swear they won’t repeat the same mistakes. Yet, more times than we want to recognize, children growing up in alcoholic families end up marrying an alcoholic or someone with an addictive personality.
We repeat what we are familiar with. It is what we know. To keep from repeating them, we need to have new information to work with.
Remembering those good times
We often forget the positive experiences we had growing up. There were those times when we knew we were loved and appreciated, complimented or encouraged. Who were involved in these affirming experiences?
But as we grab hold of understanding our past, we can let go of those parts that hold us hostage and keep us from swinging free into tomorrow.
My son was born without the muscles to hold up his head. A special brace was designed just for him so he could learn to walk and do all the things every kid does. It had a metal rod that went up the back and was anchored around his waist and around his forehead to hold the head up.
He never let his brace or lack of muscles deter him from grabbing hold of life and swinging into the unknown. He let go of anything that kept him grounded and swung freely.
Handicaps of any kind do not need to deter us. Difficult childhood experiences of neglect, lack of love, favoritism, alcoholism, rejection, abandonment or abuse can feel like handicaps. They can make us feel as though we are trapped in an ongoing cycle of shame, anger, self doubt or depression. But these nor any other handicaps need to keep us imprisoned to a past or unable to find hope for the future.
Let’s create a rope we can grab hold of and swing to a new way of doing things.
Years ago, I facilitated many parenting classes for Kaiser Permanente Health Education. We helped parents identify the needs of their children and the importance of establishing rules, structure and communication within the family.
If children know what is expected of them, they will know how to comply. They will understand the consequences of their choices, good or bad and know that they are making those choices.
When children are unsure, there is an undercurrent of not knowing what to do.
One way for parents to set rules and structure is to do hold periodic family meetings. In these meetings kids are able to give their input while parents make the final decisions. Here rules and responsibilities can be discussed and chores and household tasks set for everyone. It is here where the family can discuss vacation options and review different outside schedules.
Families not only have an influence on how we approach problems in life or the blueprint we follow, but it can have an effect on the course of our marriages.
It is important to remember, that regardless of our upbringing and past experiences, we are not prisoners of our past.
With knowledge and understanding, we gain personal power to make better and more appropriate choices.
While family dynamics help shape and mold us, there is another component that can have an effect on our relationships that few people think of.
Long term research confirm that our birth order and position within our family of origins has an emotional effect on our lives in predictable ways. It is a phenomenon that occurs in all cultures and countries.
Where do you fall within the structure of your family? Were you the oldest, the middle child or the youngest? How did you feel about your siblings? Did you feel lost within the family, or feel that others received special privileges while you always had to be the “good one”?
As we reflect on the families we grew up in, we read stories and novels about siblings that perhaps remind us of our own experiences.
If you grew up with a sister you may remember the fights, the tears, the camaraderie, the secrets, and competition. You may have looked up to or felt inferior by the other. Perhaps you felt you were treated unfairly and when you left home, you took with you long-standing quarrels that were never resolved; both going their separate ways, hoping their paths would never cross.
Darlene Dubay is a first time Northwest author who has published her first novel about two sisters, their estrangement, setbacks and personal tragedies. Over the years, the sisters went their separate ways, married and had families. Separated geographically, they live two different lives that are full of tragedies, losses and re-discoveries.
Death, betrayal, troubled liaisons, and new loves and relationships are woven into this story of two sisters who are trying to find themselves amidst the fateful events that have touched their lives in different ways.
Do you remember when you were a teen and couldn’t wait to leave home? You couldn’t wait to live life the way you wanted to and didn’t want anybody telling you what you could or could not do.
Kids often can’t wait to leave home, establish their own rules and leave behind sibling rivalry, jealousies and what they might view as ongoing conflicts with their parents.
But like it or not, we take our families of origin with us. We can’t run away from them.
And whether we like it or not, we often end up repeating the behaviors we saw modeled – good or bad – even if we desperately want to do things different.
For those fortunate to grow up in nurturing and caring homes, we will have the support of our families as we leave home. We still want to be on our own, but will be able to appreciate the sacrifices and values and discipline we had as kids especially when we start our own families.
But for those who grew up in less than nurturing environments, were subjected to emotional or physical abuse, leaving home represents freedom from neglect and less than favorable family dynamics. They want to remove themselves as far as possible from their family of origin.
What is the earliest memory you have as a child and the relationships you had? Was it pleasant or sad?
We are shaped and molded by people and events as we grow up.
The experiences we had as a child affect our relationships as an adult.
Max Lucado in one segment of “Traveling Light for Mothers” writes about a “wedding reenactment” they did at his church. In this staged drama the thoughts of the bride and groom were revealed to those watching as they stood before the pastor and the altar.
Each had armloads full of “excess baggage” of “guilt, anger, arrogance, and insecurities” they were bringing with them to this new relationship.
Each believed they were marrying the person who would help them carry or relieve them of their load, and would take care of them.
As they stood before the congregation, their “baggage”, typically unseen, was piled high around them.
Perhaps you have experienced misplaced loyalty, broken commitments and trampled expectations from those you considered friends, colleagues and spouses.
If you have been hurt in relationships, you may ask: Relationships – who needs them? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay out of any serious relationship all together?
And yet, we are social animals and require social interaction to survive. Consider this post from Jeney Cadell, PsyD who writes in her blog, How Healthy Relationships Change our Brains,
“We are much more interconnected than we realize. As technology advances and we are able to actually see into the human brain, we now have proof of this.”
Research is literally showing evidence that we are hardwired to connect with each other and “that healthy relationships actually soothe our brains.” Technology is allowing us to see what is happening within our brains.
We were not meant to face “the trauma and difficulties of life” by ourselves. Creating secure bonds is important for our health.