At Accord, we frequently invite couples to envisage a situation in which a couple preparing for marriage have planned and built a beautiful four-bedroom home together. All the fittings and fixtures have been completed but the couple decide not to move into their dream home until after their honeymoon. In the days preceding the wedding both Maria and John move their belongings into two separate empty rooms, all to be sorted later. When they return from their honeymoon, they find not just those rooms but the two remaining rooms crowded as well. We then ask them to imagine what the other two rooms might contain. Many people smile and answer: “It’s the wedding presents of course.”
What do you think the rooms might contain?
We then give them a clue and say the contents of the other rooms are not physical but they are crowded nonetheless. Have you got it yet? The other two rooms contain the residue, the memory, the import and the impact of the totality of each partner’s life experiences. This is particularly relevant to our formative years and of the experiences and values learned from our family of origin. Within these rooms are contained our fears, joys, aspirations, attitudes, behavioural patterns, underlying assumptions, values, prejudices and expectations – many of which we have never verbalised, or, in many instances, become aware of.
This is sometimes called our psychological baggage. And just as all our homes contain lots of physical baggage neatly stored, they also contain lots of psychological baggage, perhaps not so neatly stored.
Difficulties sometimes arise when these doors one day unexpectedly open and our psychological baggage spills out all over our beautiful home and relationship. Because I can never be fully aware of what I carry into marriage, and because I can never fully appreciate the impact of past experiences on me and who I am with my partner, I can become angry, entrenched and disillusioned that my partner does not seem to share my ‘world vision’. Equally, our partners may ask themselves: “Who is this stranger I’ve married,” or, similar to us, may ask, “Why is my partner so different from me?”
But it’s never too late to become aware of who I really am, and to share this jewel of learning with my partner, while allowing and encouraging my partner to share his/her world with me. Understanding my family background will help me enormously to understand myself.
So in endeavouring to understand my family background, what are the crucial questions I might pose? How did it shape me? How did it influence how I think, speak and act? What values did I learn? What are my attitudes to work, to life, to family? What are my prejudices? Who in my family of origin, or in life, do I really admire? Does my behaviour mirror theirs?
Share with your partner the five most important attributes that have shaped you as a person in life! Then facilitate your partner to share the five most important attributes that have shaped him/her as a person! Then each of you discuss the five most significant differences between you based on your distinctive family of origin experiences!