Help, I Married Someone Just Like my Parents!

Help, I married someone just like my parents!

Often times we marry someone with very similar behaviors as our parents. While you may think this is the last thing you ever want to do, it comes with good reason and this reason can actually help you grow, both in your marriage and in all your relationships.

We learn at an early age various patterns from our parents, and then act them out with each other in our relationships. Whether the pattern is healthy or not, it is what becomes normal and comfortable. You might come from a family that is very loud, or maybe your family was withdrawn and distant.  Perhaps your parents demanded more than you could give and maybe they did not really care what you did. It is very easy to get mad at our spouse for repeating these behaviors, but remember that you chose your spouse and now it becomes your job to change how you react.  Once you learn to change your reaction, those behaviors from your spouse are either less bothersome or tend to disappear.

We are all likely to choose a spouse with patterns similar to our parents because this is predictable and comfortable

If your father could not speak up for himself, you might marry someone who struggles to speak up for himself. The point is without realizing it, we often choose partners with the same patterns as our parents, even if we hate those patterns.  

But, there is good news. The reason your reactions exist in you is because when you were a child you had no choice and no control other than to follow the role model of your parents. As children, we are either forced to do as our parents expect, or we simply fall in line because it is all we know. When you grow up, you marry someone with some similar traits as your parents and react to them in the same way you did as children. Once you become aware that you are now an adult and can change your reaction, you can start to respond in a new way.  It will not be easy since you might have 30+ years of responding a certain way. Responding in a new way is not easy but it is worth the work.  

For example, if your mother or father used to walk away from an argument, you might find your spouse has this same pattern, repeating the idea of avoidance. If you change the pattern and let your spouse know the importance of staying in the room, or recognize that you yell or cry when he or she walks away, this is an opportunity to look at your reaction. Your mother or father may need to prove they are right in an argument and your find yourself married to a person who does the same. What would happen if you stopped competing and reacted in a whole new way?  Perhaps you could simply observe, or consider not arguing or only saying what you actually know. Would you be happier in your marriage and in all your relationships? We all have learned patterns of how we react in various situations and only when we can slow down and look at our reactions can we begin to think about a new way of reacting that can change the course of struggling relationships.  So, yes, we may cringe at the thought of marrying someone similar to our parents, yet once we learn a new way of reacting we will realize that most arguments are a combination of a behavior and a learned reaction.

One last thought to keep in mind.  If your spouse is repeating frustrating patterns similar to your parents, this will create an immediate reaction in you since you have lived with the frustration of this behavior for a lifetime.  While you are working on new ways to react to your spouse, remember that you might be putting a lot of focus on those annoying repeated patterns.  It is likely your spouse also has many endearing and loving patterns that are worthy of your attention.

If you could change one reaction towards your spouse, what would it be?

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Lisa Fogel
Psychotherapist, LCSW-R
Lisa has an experience of over 25 years in psychotherapy and mental counseling. She supports people through depression, self esteem issues, relationship problems and anxiety with her therapy sessions. She practices mindfulness and psychodynamic theories to help her patients.
She is currently works as a private psychotherapist. Previously, she had been associated with the University of Rochester Medical center where she provided mental health therapy to groups and other crisis services.

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