Preparing for Marriage – How well do I know my partner and myself?

Making the joint decision to marry is one of the most crucially important decisions we will ever make in our lives. Within the glittering romantic phase of our relationship we have been inseparably united on most issues. But as we get closer to our day of commitment we realise there are two uniquely different personalities entering this partnership, each shaped by different circumstances and events. So how well do we know one another and ourselves?

Family of Origin

Our family of origin is a significant influence in determining our set of values and who we have become. It is within our family of origin that we learned how to love, how to communicate and how to have our needs met. Consequently we carry the positive values of our family of origin into our loving relationship; equally we carry the struggles, the unresolved psychological issues and our family’s behavioural structure into our adult personalities. The biggest realisation for many of us is that we are not individuals distinct from our lived family of origin experiencing; rather we are continually shaped and influenced by it.

How well do we know ourselves?

Both consciously and unconsciously we bring the values and behavioural patterns of our family of origin into our loving relationship. Most frequently this occurs unconsciously. If we feel that our parents emotionally failed to meet our needs during childhood, there is likelihood we may feel that our partner is also falling short. If we constantly needed our parents’ love, attention and affirmation during childhood, there is a possibility we may seek to have these needs met by our partner. If within our family of origin the really important emotional issues were locked away and not spoken about, there is a possibility we may seek to replicate that behaviour within our relationship. The really big challenge for each of us here is to make the unconscious conscious. As we prepare for marriage, this is the starting point in the journey of getting to know ourselves. Frequently we tend to focus on the positives, but within this journey of self-awareness we do not discard anything, including those influences that originate within our negative or shadow side. Awareness of our negative feelings, our dislikes, our prejudices are essential in our search for self-revelation and understanding.

Awareness of Difference

By reflecting on various aspects of our family life we become aware that our distinctive backgrounds, circumstances, events, beliefs, behaviours and values have shaped us differently from one another. And while we might have back in our teens rebelled and rejected the values emanating from our family of origin, we now accept we inherited specific family traits, behaviours and values. The challenge that now confronts us is in owning and accepting our own behavioural heritage, affirming the dissimilar family of origin DNA of our partner and reconciling the differences of understanding and behaviour that exist between us.

Exercise:

Discuss with one another your distinct family of origin experiences! Who were the people whom you admire that have influenced you positively? Who are the people who have influenced you negatively and why? What are the positive learning and values you have taken from your family of origin? What are the negative values you can identify from your family of origin? Discuss with one another how much of your family of origin DNA you visit on your relationship!

Nota Bene:

The Accord marriage preparation course, “Marriage – A Journey Not a Destination” offer an extensive series of activities around family of origin experiences. For further information visit:

www.accord.ie