Marriage is complicated, and no one teaches us how to do it. Except perhaps, our parents. So all through your childhood, you watched how your parents managed their relationship. And that set you up with expectations that are probably still affecting yours.
In fact, your parents’ marriage became the model for what your subconscious brain thinks relationships look like. Regardless of whether that works out well or not. Because your subconscious doesn’t care much about your happiness. It just goes with what’s familiar.
Your parents’ relationship even affects whether you want to marry at all. So if your parents had an unhappy marriage, you may find yourself uncomfortable with intimacy, and reluctant to enter any form of committed relationship. Forever choosing unavailable partners, for example, or constantly flaking out yourself.
Your parents’ behaviour set up your expectations for how spouses treat each other, and who does what in the relationship. The childcare, for example, or the cooking.
So if, as a child, you watched your parents being loving and kind to one another, you’ll tend to be kind and loving in your own relationships. But maybe you experienced a whole set of negative behaviours.
Such as a parent being insecure, controlling or abusive. And unconsciously find yourself acting in some of the ways that they did.
Like your parents’ relationship is probably still affecting how you deal with anger. Because all couples experience some level of conflict. And watching your parents solve their disputes, as you grew up, will influence how you manage problems in yours. Especially if your parents had a stormy relationship, and weren’t good at managing their emotions.
Your parents’ relationship is probably still affecting how you communicate. Because if you grew up watching your parents supporting one another, carefully making sure they both felt heard, and confidently identifying and communicating their needs, then you’ll use those skills in your own marriage.
But maybe your parents weren’t good communicators. Or they hid their conversations from you completely. Then you may become a poor communicator in turn. Or fail to realise that skills like listening and being assertive are important in a successful relationship.
That doesn’t mean that you’re bound to repeat your parents’ mistakes. You’re in charge of your own life, after all. But deciding what aspects of your parents’ marriage you want to follow, and which you want to avoid, means first becoming consciously aware of how they’ve affected you.
Start by recognising that all children create subconscious relationship templates, from the way their parents behaved. So it’s nobody’s fault that you did, too.
Think through your childhood memories of your parents’ relationship. Ask which of their behaviours were effective and which weren’t, and decide which you want to follow and which you don’t.
Because nothing’s ever set in stone. So go on using any technique that’s working well, and start trying to improve any that aren’t.
And before long your own marriage will start becoming much happier.