For better or worse, your first model for Romantic Relationship comes from your parents or childhood caregivers. It’s not what they say about relationships that shapes you, but what they don’t say. Every family has unspoken rules. We don’t address conflict directly. Men sometimes yell and break things. Mothers worry about their kids constantly. Your family passes down these “rules” without realizing they are doing so–just as these same rules were passed to them.
This relationship model gets locked in by age 6, by which time most of your adult personality is already hard-wired into your brain. Your adult idea of relationships is a lot different than your 6 year old idea, but therein lies the problem. Share a bathroom and a grocery bill with someone long enough, and your 6 year old self is going to hijack the plane from time to time. This is why most couples find themselves, time and again, in useless “playground” arguments with their partners that go round and round. They might as well call each other “poopy face.”
Point is, your adult brain isn’t the only one sitting down at the kitchen table when you argue with your partner. Can you recall your parents fighting, or did they rarely express conflict? Did your parents yell at each other, or give each other the “cold shoulder” when tensions were high? From your child’s perspective, who typically “won” these arguments, Mom or Dad? Can you remember any familiar words or phrases your parents used when fighting? Words like selfish or useless or crazy or lazy? Do you ever find yourself using these same words when arguing with your partner?
If your parents were great at resolving conflicts, it makes sense to follow in their footsteps. But most people aren’t so great at resolving conflicts. To blindly play out an ineffective strategy just because your parents did the same will likely work for you as well as it did/does for your parents. Catching yourself “in the moment” is key. See if you can recognize the 6 year old inside your head next time you feel a full-on poopy face argument coming on.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.