How many of you have declared, “When I grow up, I will live my life completely differently than my parents did!”? Well, you may live in a different kind of house. You may be pursuing a different career. You may even hold to a completely different child-rearing philosophy. But, at the end of the day, your parents are still with you… inside you.
We are so indoctrinated by our caregivers’ beliefs, worldviews, and actions. Case in point: The Notebook.
“If You’re a Bird… I’m a Bird” Born and raised in New Bern, NC, I am almost required to love Nicholas Spark’s books. The Notebook was published when I was a young teen and everyone was raving about it. Mom read it, but didn’t allow me to read it at the time. Years into my marriage, she was cleaning out her house and gave me several Nicholas Spark’s books. Since everyone and their sister had read The Notebook, and they had made a movie about it, I decided to indulge myself.
When I got to the end of the book, I was basically disgusted. Considering everyone else in the world seemed to love it, what was my problem? When I talked to Mom about it, she agreed! She didn’t like the book either. Come to find out, her mom didn’t like the book either. We are probably the only three women in the world who closed the book and thought, “Well, I didn’t need that image in my head!”
Our Parents Influence our View of what is Normal
Our connections with our parents definitely affect our relationships because whether we are close to our parents or not, they are in our heads. Their lessons, both good and bad, stick with us. They are our first teachers – the first ones to demonstrate, “This is what love is.”
If they yelled at us, we are prone to yelling ourselves. In order to keep from bringing a culture of yelling into our homes, we have to decide not to yell, and take measures to express our displeasure in more appropriate ways.
If they retreated from every conflict, we are likely to retreat from every conflict. We have to make a concerted effort to talk out our problems because it was never modeled for us. It’s not normal to us.
When my mom was angry with me, she would shoot me a death glare. Guess who else has a death glare? Me! It’s engrained, I guess!
When my Dad speaks, he often places his pointer finger over his mouth causing his words to come out in mumbles. When I was presenting something to my youth group a few years back, the youth leader told me that the class could not understand me with my finger over my mouth. ~smile~
They’re in our heads!
Our Parents Taught Us How to Treat Others
As children, we pick up on how to treat those around us by watching our parents. Do they hold open doors? Do they apologize when they bump into someone? Will they return the $20 bill the person in front of them just dropped?
We also pick up on how to treat others by the way our parents treat us. When our parents treat us with respect, we are more likely to treat others with respect. If our parents treat us with disdain, we are likely to grow up treating others with disdain.
We learn how to treat our future spouses by watching our parents interact.
Children pick up on so much and carry it forward into adulthood!
When you were a kid, did your mom insult your dad or build him up? Did your parents hug a lot or did they rarely show affection? Did they yell at each other or did they work their problems out quietly behind closed doors?
Even if you try to forget their lessons, they stay with you. This does not mean you cannot choose to live your life differently, but you will have to make a concerted effort to do so. If you don’t, you will likely slip back into what your family of origin has taught you.
Resolving Parental Wounds
If your relationship with your mom or dad has been rocky in the past, you can still try to connect with him or her now. If your parents are still with you, take a step and try to reconcile. It won’t happen overnight, but baby steps are better than no steps at all. It may not seem like it, but by restoring or strengthening your connection with your parents, you will also be blessing your relationship with your sweetheart.
How we treat our sweeties is often influenced by wounds from our past. Even if we desire to love them flawlessly, those unresolved issues rise to the surface when significant others touch a nerve. Reconnecting with parents, talking out past hurts, apologizing for wrongs, offering forgiveness (whether it is requested or not), and reconciling can help you begin healing. Restoration brings a peace to our lives that we take with us into our homes and other relationships.
Even if reconciliation does not happen, approaching your parents, saying what you need to say, and offering unconditional forgiveness can help you drop the weight you have been carrying in your heart – even if you have to do it as an exercise if they’ve already passed away.
As you heal, you will likely see a difference in how you interact with your sweetie or spouse.
There is no doubt that our parental connections influence our future relationships. We cannot go back and change our childhoods, but we can decide where we want to head as adults. We can determine which life lessons we want to cling to, and which ones we want to dissolve. But, before we step away from the negative lessons, we have to identify them!
Think about your childhood. What did your parents do that you want to continue in your future family? What did they do that you want to avoid? Once you know the behaviors and attitudes you want to leave behind, take steps to make sure they do not follow you into your future marriage. If you don’t guard the door, they will come in and make themselves at home!
How has your connection with your parents affected your relationships?