The unconscious memory of how our parents related to each other may have an effect on our own marriage. Find out how you can avoid it happening…
While it is natural to learn about relating by watching our parents and their relationship with each other, it is discomforting to think that we are likely to repeat their mistakes in our lives. As an adult, even though we are able to understand that our parents’ marriage may not be the best model for our own, the memory of their relationship serves as a benchmark, affecting what we come to expect from a partner.
Replicating their marriage
According to psychologists, we all tend to fall back on patterns of behaviour that feel familiar to us. Being something we know, we tend to feel comfortable with it: ‘better the devil you know…’ If your parents had an unhappy marriage, you need to watch out for these warning signs:
Your partner reminds you of your parent in many ways.
You find yourself wishing that your partner could be more like your parent.
You may have replicated your parents’ style of living, from the kind of house, make of car and even down to the kind of pet you own.
You follow family traditions strictly, without ever questioning them.
In the past, you have always asked your parent for their opinion on your various partners.
You forced your partner to do something so that he or she ‘fits in’ with your family.
‘Fixing’ their marriage through your own
You may be living out a wish‐fulfilment where you find someone who is a lot like your dad or mum and then try to ‘fix’ what went wrong with your parents’ marriage. This works on an unconscious level so you would not be aware that this is what you are doing. For instance, you find someone who resembles your father and then you try to mould him into the kind of man your mother always wanted him to be. This is doomed to failure as not only are you likely to encounter considerable resentment in your partner for not accepting him for the man he is, but you are also inheriting the battles that your mother fought. Unknowingly, you set up a pattern of disappointment that your child may also possibly inherit some day.
What you can do
Take a look at your past relationships and write down a list of the reasons why they may have failed. See if there’s a similarity with what was negative about your parents’ marriage.
Make a list of positive elements you’d want in your marriage that would be different from that of your parents.
Learn to accept your partner for the person they are and become aware of when you attempt to make them fit into a particular mould.
Understand that it’s not about blaming your parents, rather that it is down to you to break a negative pattern in relationships.
Be aware that trying something different from what your past experiences have led you to expect, will feel uncomfortable in the beginning but will get easier with time.