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.
The only way we can keep from repeating what we learned as children, including abuses, is by processing and resolving any unfinished business of our childhood. That means going back and untangling the web of conflicts that don’t go away just because we have left home.
Families have an enormous power on us and our lives.
If we come from a supportive home, we will learn that disputes can be settled and we can set boundaries without hurting someone else. We learn how to engage with others even if it is imperfect. We will know that we can trust and get close to others without always having to feel suspicious and wary.
It is in our families where we develop a sense of worth and esteem, have our first contact with the values and principles that were important to our parents. We may modify or reject them later, but they are the basis of our first core beliefs about life.
We do not have to repeat the patterns we grew up with; but we need to be aware of them, take time to process and release ourselves from past neglect and abuses, and choose different rules and values to live by.
If you are constantly having relationship problems that repeat themselves over and over again, it might be beneficial to look back to your family of origin. Take time to explore and understand your relationship with your family.
- How do you feel when you return home as an adult? Do you find yourself feeling and reacting as you did as a kid? Are those good feelings or unpleasant ones?
- Have you been able to establish an adult relationship with your parents? If not, why not?
- Have you been able to get beyond the sibling rivalry of your childhood? Have you allowed old battle wounds to heal as you interact with each other now as adults?
- Do you find yourself reluctant to visit or phone your parents or family members? To what do you attribute those feelings?
- Do you find it difficult to understand or forgive those who may have hurt you? Hanging onto grievances only harm us. What will it take to let go of them? Forgiveness allows you to put the boundaries in place that may be necessary.
No family is perfect. Parents will never meet all the needs of their children. But even in imperfect homes, we can know we are loved no matter how strict the rules or how difficult the circumstances.
Also in the RELATIONSHIPS series:
Part 1: Relationships: Who Needs Them?