Each generation makes the same promise to themselves: “We’re going to live our lives differently than our parents!” It’s so common to see high school seniors chomping at the bit to graduate, leave home, and start their own lives. Who among us hasn’t said, “I’ll never do ____ the way my parents did it!”? It’s funny how every twenty or so years another group of crusaders emerge from their nests determined to be completely different than their parents.
One of my favorite college professors basically told us to get over it – i.e., we are our parents. I actually believed her, but I had no idea how right she was. The older I get the more of my mom and dad I see in myself. My dad goes out of his way, often inconveniencing himself, to make sure no one else is inconvenienced… and guess who else does that? That’s right! Much to Eric’s constant annoyance, I worry way too much about the possibility of slightly aggravating, annoying, or inconveniencing another person. It’s well and good to consider others needs above my own, but balance is important.
Additionally, my mom has a look. Many mothers have this look. Even after thirty years, that look still makes me sit up straight and swallow hard. ~smile~ So, what expression crosses my face when someone upsets me? You guessed it – the maternal look of impending fury.
On our last trip to see my parents, Eric and I were able to convince my parents to take a personality test and I was a bit surprised by the results. My dad’s results on this particular test were extremely close to my results. Eric showed me their scores after he graphed them and my response was, “Wow… now I know why I am the way I am.” Our parents, guardians, and caretakers are the first people to influence us and we soak up a lot of our understanding of the world in our first few years. Genetics forms a lot of our personality (nature), but much of our personality is also developed by our surroundings (nurture).
In some ways, Eric and his dad couldn’t be more opposite personality-wise, but when Eric makes certain jokes or is in the presence of some technological gadget (e.g., an iPad), I feel like I’m looking at a younger version of his dad. Eric has his own personality, but it is clear that he has been influenced to his core by his parents, grandparents, and northern Californian culture in which he grew up. All these factors make up my sweet hubby.
If you’ve read our blog here for several or more posts, I’m sure you’ve heard me place a lot of emphasis on getting to know your sweetheart extremely well before committing to get married; and, the longer I’m married, the more important I think it is to learn and study each other thoroughly before tying the knot. The more you learn about each other on the dating side, the less surprises you will face on the wedded side.
Don’t get me wrong – you will always have something new to learn about your spouse, but the more you can learn about each other before marriage (e.g., money habits, spiritual beliefs, political leanings, communication style, maturity level, conflict resolution style, etc.), the better! One way to learn about your future spouse that is often overlooked is by getting to know his or her parents. Watch how they handle money, conflict, or not getting their way. Do they overspend just to keep up with the Joneses? Do they scrimp and save even when they can easily afford what they want? Do they scream at each other openly? Do they rationally discuss everything? Do they treat each other with respect? Even though it’s not fair to assume that your boyfriend or girlfriend will act exactly like his or her parents, understanding the family culture and the habits and views of his or her parents can give insight into how your boyfriend or girlfriend may handle upcoming life circumstances.
People are complex creatures. Families are complex organisms who share small living spaces. It’s impossible to live with others and not be affected by them because no man is an island. I would challenge you to get to know your sweetheart’s family as well as possible before becoming a permanent part of their team (remember: you do not marry an individual, you marry into that person’s family). Not only will you get to know your significant other better by doing so, but you’ll show his or her family that you are interested in being a part of their lives which may ease their fears about “losing” a son or daughter.
How are you like your, or your significant other like his or her, parents or guardians?