By Chandrama Anderson
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I have seen many couples over the years who want to “fix” their marriage. Above all, they want to continue doing exactly what they have been doing and somehow achieve a different result. They often think that if the other person recovers, everything will be fine.
You both recognize that some things don’t work well between you. But before you spend time and energy improving your existing system (which you may not have explicitly discussed and agreed to), ask yourself, “Is this the system we want?
It’s not necessarily easy to see, but a lot of how you interact comes directly from how your family of origin (FOO) interacted, and that was based on your parents’ FOO systems, and goes back through the generations. You’re in the midst of intergenerational issues (or trauma, depending).
I recommend that you begin by analyzing these cross-generational patterns without judgment or editorialization (my grandfather was an alcoholic vs. my grandfather was an alcoholic; the mean bastard). The goal is not to blame your families, but to understand where you come from psychologically and to shed light in the dark or dark places inside of you. Knowledge is power. It is the same interpersonally.
It’s probably best to let each person talk about their own family dynamics first (because saying things about your partner’s family may not go over well). After that, if you feel something important has been overlooked in your partner’s family system, bring it up in a curious way. For example: “I remember you told me a story about your parents. . . (fill in the blank nicely and calmly). Do you think this has an impact on your FOO system? »
One way to uncover patterns is to create a genogram that allows you to see inherited behavioral patterns and medical and psychological factors that run through families. It’s kind of like a family tree, except it also includes information such as marriage and, if applicable, divorce dates, major moves, occupations, birth order, drugs, etc. alcohol and medical issues, who was cut off from whom, who made the family decisions, who was the patriarch or matriarch, and how the partner’s needs/wants were met – or not, typical stories told about the person , etc. There are free genogram templates online. You can handwrite it on paper, that’s how I do it. The genograms I do are messy, with a lot of information written next to each person.
Your process of reviewing FOO systems that cross generations is going to take some time. Its good. Do not rush. This is important for your relationship because you are each driven by your different FOO systems, which can lead to conflict between you. (Unless you intentionally worked on it already). Usually, couples think that their problems are just them or that it is just his behavior that is causing difficulties in their marriage. However, it is much more likely that there are intergenerational systems and/or work trauma that arise between you. In other words, your partner isn’t just trying to piss you off! He/she behaves normally in his/her family system.
Okay, now you see and understand your intergenerational family systems. You may have many feelings about what you have discovered. Talk about it and support each other. Get outside support if you have even an idea that it might help (it’s not an easy job).
In light of all you now see and understand, what parts of your system are serving you both, and what are the intergenerational patterns being implemented without consciousness? Some cross-generational patterns can be healthy and helpful, so beware of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
It is your life together. Put systems in place that are healthy and helpful for both of you. Good systems provide you with the structure to make your marriage your top priority, continue to grow, achieve your individual and shared dreams, be authentic, care for each other, and build a better marriage.
Over time, review the systems you have in place. As life situations change, you may need to make adjustments (eg, having a baby, an empty nest, career opportunities, new dreams, etc.).
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