The month of October is filled with scary stories, decorations and Halloween parties. In this blog, I want to discuss something even scarier than your favorite horror movie – continuing the issues that plague generation after generation. What is even scarier is that these issues can be silent killers that are very hard to spot. Why? Simply put, that is how things always were. If you were raised in a family that always said “Children are to be seen and not heard.” It may be very difficult to give time to and respect for the emotional wants and needs of your own children. Grew up in a family where your parents, and perhaps even your aunts and uncles fought and got divorced? It may be more difficult to know the ingredients that make the recipe for a successful relationship. Recognizing these situations for what they are can make them seem a lot less intimidating. They are great opportunities for both growth and ending generations of communication failures.
As if these challenges were not scary enough, there may be lessons we are not even aware that we can improve upon. Perhaps you grew up as an only child, you may have a little more difficult time learning to compromise in a relationship. If that childhood included a single parent as well, it may be even more difficult. Did you grow up in a tough neighborhood? You may feel great for having made it out, and congratulations are in order to be sure, but realize you may have lingering issues trusting the motives of others or have difficulty letting your guard down. What served you in situations past, may hinder you moving forward. Discovering and healing these issues is not easy, but doing so will help you live a fuller, richer and more rewarding life going forward.
Solving these issues can be as tricky as the issues are, but they don’t have to be. Often, just realizing we have them and being aware of them can go a long way. Knowing you have and issue and admitting you have an issue does not solve an issue. Telling someone “I have trust issues because my last partner cheated on me.” can be helpful. It can help your partner understand some of your behavior and even adjust some of their behavior to account for that issue. Telling another party in a relationship that you have ‘communication issues’ and expecting them to just be understanding while you do nothing to change those issues is not only unfair, but it is unhealthy. Admitting a struggle we may have but doing nothing to address that challenge places the onus entirely on the other party. Any relationship involves two or more parties and so should any solution for a challenge in that relationship.
How do we overcome relationship challenges that may have existed in our family long before we were even born? The answer is many faceted as the challenge itself. The first step is always to come to terms with the fact that we have this challenge in the first place. This can take long time of reflection, discussions with our partner or every therapy in some cases. People can be very sensitive when it comes to discovering this. It takes suspending our egos and viewing it as a growth opportunity and not as discovering a fault. This can be easy to understand intellectually, but another to grasp emotionally. It also requires an understanding that fault and responsibility are completely unrelated. Although it may not be our fault that we picked up the bad habits of our parents or friends, it is our responsibility to address those issues.