You can do this by asking yourself and your partner questions related to the difficult problems in your relationship.
1. Difficulties in Conflict:
- How did your family handle conflict when you were growing up? Did you calmly talk about issues, avoid the problems, or yell at each other to work problems out?
- What were the unspoken rules of conflict?
- How did problems get resolved in your family?
2. Difficulties in Household Chores:
- How clean was your house growing up?
- How were chores split up and who did most of the cleaning?
- Who managed the household? How did you feel about the way they managed it?
3. Difficulties in Togetherness Compared to Separateness:
- Did you feel you could be completely yourself in your family? If not, what parts did you have to hide? How did you hide these parts of yourself?
- When you wanted to do something different than what other family members wanted to do, what happened?
- Who were you closest to in your family and why? Who were you more distant from and why?
Sometimes the intense difficulties we as a couple experience in our present relationship can help us to recognize clashes in the way our two separate families of origin operated. By learning about the roots of the problems, you and your partner can begin to create new family rules that work for both of you. This is not an easy task, but if approached thoughtfully is one that will create intimacy in your relationship.
A truly emotionally mature and intimate relationship occurs when both partners can wholeheartedly be themselves in an accepting and constantly adjusting relationship with someone who is different than them.
If you’re ready to start your personal journey into exploring the roots of who you are and how it impacts your current relationships, then start by reading “Family Ties That Bind: A Self-Help Guide to Change Through Family of Origin Therapy.”
If you want to go even deeper, I’d recommend reading “You Can Go Home Again”.
Finally, to truly grow up and become an adult who has intentionally defined their personal values and who can maturely love their partner, I’d recommend reading “Growing Yourself Up: How to Bring Your Best to All of Life’s Relationships.”
- The family tree created above is not an accurate genogram used in Family of Origin Therapy. Including the appropriate international patterns and adopted child signs would have been confusing for someone who is unfamiliar with the genogram signs. If you are interested in Family of Origin work as a therapist, I’d recommend “Genograms: Assessments and Intervention, the 3rd Edition” ↩
- A big reason Alex’s parents were so fearful of separateness is in part because both of his parents never talked about the losses they experienced and instead projected their fears and anxieties of loss onto unwitting Alex. McGoldrick, author of You Can Go Home Again, states that “how families deal with death is perhaps our best clue to their fundamental values, strengths, and vulnerabilities.” (p. 127)
If you want to transform conflict into the material to build a stronger and more connected relationship then read Kyle Benson’s conflict blueprints here.