“I wish I had known just how much family patterns
could influence our marriage.”
“What families have in common the world around is that they are the place where people learn who they are and how to be that way.”
—Jean Illsley Clarke
After 14 years of marriage, Rachel wishes she had known “that coming from different family backgrounds made such a big difference. His mother did not work. She hired people for tasks, but in my family we did everything ourselves.”
Rachel didn’t discover the problem until she asked her husband to help with the household chores. When he said, “Just hire someone,” she was appalled. That was not her idea of how to use their limited resources. Besides, she took pride in her ability to do so many useful things by herself.
Over ten years later they still need to spend lots of time negotiating what tasks they each do and which ones they choose to have done by paid help.
As a child, you absorbed the background of your family without thinking about it. Since it was all you knew and experienced, you never questioned whether it was right, wrong or neutral—it was just the way things were. If you always slept in a bed, you quickly came to expect to sleep in a bed. On the other hand, if you always slept in a mat on the floor, or in a hammock slung between two trees, that’s what you expected to continue to do. In other words, as a child, you expected whatever you were accustomed to. And, to a large extent, you still do.
It can be either an exciting adventure or a horrifying experience to learn that others do things very differently. Whether it is exciting or horrifying also depends on your family background. If change was welcomed as an opportunity for exploration, you are excited at the prospect of doing something new and different. But if change was judged and criticized in your family, you probably tend to resist it, even if the change might be for the better.
In any case, it’s important to know that your family backgrounds do matter. If you don’t know how much you are influenced by your early family experiences, you and your husband may both be shocked by how different your “right way” is from his “right way.”
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