Assumptions, expectations, and beliefs are born in the family of origin. This is where we learn many patterns: rules and roles within the family and outside it; how to think and feel about ourselves and others; who’s right and who’s wrong; and how to behave. Our families of origin shape who we are, determine thoughts we have about ourselves and others, provide us with examples of how to behave, as well as what to expect from others in our lives.
Most parents do the best they can and have no malicious intent to harm their children. Nevertheless, many unwittingly live by the dictum “pass it on” when it comes to damaging behavior. In other words, what was damaging to your parents as children is repeated in parental behavior to their own children.
As grown-ups we vow we’ll never be like our parents, but in lots of ways we are. That’s because children learn from parental and environmental examples. We divorce, keep an overly-clean house, insist on being right, or put the job ahead of everything else . . .
That each partner brings rules and roles from their families of origin explains much of why relationships are fraught with problems, especially in regard to communication. The core of what bedevils relationships starts with partners’ expectations and assumptions. Individual work is at the heart of couples work.
It’s why generations’ old behaviors perpetuate, handed down like a family jewel, even though the decades prove the behaviors are faulty. And why it’s foolish to expect magical and childish thinking to trump rational adult thinking when an issue touches an old, learned pattern.
Let’s face it; most families are dysfunctional. More to the point, they pass it on.
Each life is comprised of relationships, intimate or not. Problems appear when who we’ve learned to be tangles with who others learned to be. Getting called out can trigger all sorts of behaviors: rage, anger or defensiveness; lying or manipulating; withdrawing or going silent; being tearful or acting the victim; breaking from a job, friendship, or other relationship.