“I come from a very troubled childhood. [I had] a father who drank heavily and who terrorized my mother and myself on an almost daily basis. He once held a loaded gun to my mom’s head,” writes a woman from Christchurch, New Zealand.
“Perhaps even as a baby I knew I wasn’t wanted, and that has stayed with me as an adult. My father used to tell me how he had wished I was a boy, and what a disappointment it was to have a girl first. My mother, crippled by polio, was in and out of the hospital constantly for surgery, and had a lot of illnesses during my childhood. I grew up believing I was a nothing, and if I could ‘do things’ for people they would like me and want me. I find it difficult to say no to people.”
“I am married to a man who shouts at and berates me, and I just hate that. About 8 years ago, after 20 years of marriage, I became close to another man who was also married. We have carried on an 8 year relationship on the side.”
“I seem to feel that I have to be responsible for everyone’s happiness. Because I’ve made a commitment to my marriage, I can’t renege on it. As you can imagine, I always have the guilts. This makes me think that my whole life has been and is a lie. I still have a burning desire to be looked after and loved just for me.”
What contributes the most to our training for how to be in an intimate relationship is what our parents’ marriage was like, what we learned about ourselves and how we were valued when growing up.
Resentment from the past invariably finds a way to reappear in our present intimate relationship. Whatever is unresolved from our childhood gets reenacted in our adult relationships. We continue the patterns in our intimate relationships that we experienced in our childhoods.
An intimate relationship is our emotional attempt to start over again, and to get our lifelong needs and desires met that were not met earlier. Most people unconsciously marry and reenact their childhood conflicts in their marriages, to correct old scores from their past or settle old wounds. We repeat what is familiar to us, and whatever you grew up with is what is familiar to you. This is why children of alcoholics marry alcoholics, reenacting the very things that they so desperately wanted to escape from as children. This is why we may choose abusive or insensitive marriage partners if we had abusive or insensitive parents, and/or why we are more prone to be abusive with our own spouses and children. This is also why some people choose the wrong intimate partners and abuse the right ones.
So, if you had a bad relationship with your father and if someone comes along who is similar to your father, without knowing the person at all, you will “fall in love with him (or her).”
My point is that the past is not dead. If we know something about your past, we can predict with rather remarkable accuracy what your present and future intimate relationships will be like. As incredible as it may seem, marriage is about childhood scripts and themes. Intimate relationships are the realm in which we work out our childhoods.