Somewhere, sometime, you were a child. That is an obvious fact, universally
acknowledged, yet frequently ignored or forgotten. You cried, you laughed, you
learned about yourself and the world around you. You had fears and favorites,
likes and dislikes. You were impulsive, and loving and stubborn. In short, you
were a child.
Then came the intensive rush to become independant, to become an adult. In
the process, it is possible that you deliberately pushed aside that "child
within" and mistakenly submerged important childhood experiences into your
subconcious. After all, you were done with all of that! Unfortunately, in doing
so, you planted seeds of much adult misunderstanding and unhappiness.
Childhood feelings and attitudes influence and, to a great degree, determine
the quality of our adult relationships. By gaining insight into the influence
your past has on your current life, you will shed light on troubling situations
and might be better able to handle recurring problems, especially in your
Can your childhood actually influence your marriage? The answer to this
question is only useful to the extent that it helps you understand and improve
your present situation. It is only important if it helps you answer: "Why does
my spouse react the way s/he does?" "Why do I get so upset?"
The first key to a happier marriage, then, is to examine the influence
childhood has on current behavior, so that you can use this knowledge to improve
The first key to a happier marriage, then, is to examine the
influence childhood has on current behavior, so that you can use this knowledge
to improve your marriage.
To accomplish this task, it is incumbent upon you to be familiar with your
spouse's childhood. Do you truly understand what type of childhood your spouse
experienced? Do you truly know in what type of home s/he grew up? You would be
surprised at how many people are totally unaware of the answers to these
questions despite their having been married for many years.
Why are most people so uninformed about their spouse's background? When
counselors ask this question, they are often told that before marriage both
partners didn't feel close enough to their prospective spouse to discuss such
things. Then, after the marriage, topics of conversation quickly escalate:
"Where will we live? Should we buy or rent? How can we save for a home of our
own? Should a mother work? Can we survive financially if she doesn't? How can I
get your mother to stop interfering?...With all of these important issues on the
front burner, when does a married couple find the right time, the right place,
the right mood to sit and share childhood memories?
In addition...if one is now in his or her 20s or 30s or 40s, why should one
care what his or her spouse experienced so many years ago? What relevance can it
have to today? We have left our childhoods behind us. Why not forget what was
and concentrate on the here and now?
Everyone of us has an inner, driving need to recreate the familiar...
Because of this... we sometimes bring along alot of childhood baggage, ready
to be "unpacked" in our new marriage. How many times have we called a friend and
cried, "I don't believe it! Despite all my attempts at rebellion as a teenager,
despite all my good intentions to the contrary, this morning I happened to hear
myself talking to my children and you know, it was frightening: I heard my
mother's voice coming out of my mouth!"
It is not frightening, but it should be recognized and admitted. Then you can
decide to make the kind of changes that will prevent it from happening in the
Conversely, we must often deal with situations we didn't experience in
childhood,and that too, is difficult. Adapting to new ways of thinking and
behaving is an ongoing process. Being aware of the difficulties this presents to
cultivating patience with ourselves and understanding why our spouse
deals differently with such challenges, is a vital key to marital
The point of dealing openly and honestly with your childhood experiences is
to learn how to improve your present adult life. Whatever you grew up with, who
your parents were, who their parents were, the kinds of lives they led, the way
they related to each other and to you has been handed down to you and affects
your attitudes, your goals and your behavior. What you learned from your
family still affects your life today.
By recalling impressions, memories and associations, you can open up your
range of choices. You have little choice about how to change your behavior until
you reflect on who you are and where you came from. Your options are different
if you can say to yourself, "This I want to keep and this I want to let go of;
this is useful to me, and this is no longer relevant."
The reason it is vital to find out about your family patterns is to discover
which of them you have absorbed, which have been playing out in your adult life,
possibly even without your awareness.
The reason it is vital to find out about your family patterns is
to discover which of them you have absorbed, which have been playing out in your
adult life, possibly even without your awareness.
We tend to hope that in our marriage we will continue with all the good
things we experienced as children and make up for all that we missed or that ws
negative. Although you may not be aware of them, you entered into marriage with
certain expectations about the way you were going to be treated. If these
expectations weren't met, if they currently aren't being met, you might feel
betrayed and disappointed.
Knowing that the child you were is still the child within is pertinent and
enlightening. This knowledge can evoke feelings of sadness, or conversely
feelings of contentment. All new information changes our perspective, demands
introspection and hopefully leads to improvement. Yet awareness is not enough.
It must be combined with conscious, continuous efforts to learn new ways of
Learn to recognize the feelings and needs of your inner child as important
and deserving of your attention. Separate them from your adult feelings. This
distinction is of utmost importance. It will clarify whether your child within
is threatening your marital happiness or helping you achieve your adult
Behavior rooted in childhood experiences can be altered, but only with the
information available to you on which you can reflect and act. Based on
understanding how childhood experiences influence your marriage, you can take
responsibility for changing that which is no longer useful. This is the first
vital key to helping you become the spouse you truly want to be in your