The Complex Relationship Between Our Parent’s Marriage and Our Marriage

This post was written by Rhonda Wasserman

Original content by Ashley Berges

It does not matter whether you have been married for 5 years or 25 years. Most likely we are unaware of where certain patterns in our marriage have come from. We do not realize how our parent’s marriage impacts our marriage. Some habits we picked up growing up are unintentionally present in our marriage today There are three concepts that we need to take a deep dive into that we have grown up with that may have an impact on our current relationship.

The first concept we need to look at is that one parent in the marriage was constantly working. We know that bills must be paid and ends must be met. Sometimes it feels as though one parent was always working. It seemed like they did not have time for the family.

This is evident right now in a lot of marriages and relationships. One person in the relationship learned this from their parents. It felt like it was the father’s job to make sure all the bills were paid and food was on the table. A lot of men follow suit. They follow what their father did, not realizing the impact it has on the whole family. When this occurs, one family member seems to be home way more than the other. 

If you are in a marriage like this right now, how is this impacting you? This could leave the parent who is home more, even though they work, having resentment and feeling unfulfilled. On the other hand, the person who is working so hard may also feel unfulfilled, feeling like they do not have a life and all they do is work to provide for the family. This can bring a lot of resentment into the marriage.

One person feels overworked, the other person feels like their partner is never around and they have to take care of the kids. This could be a big issue in the marriage but one that never gets talked about. As a result, other areas of the marriage started falling apart. For example, intimacy goes down because the spouses are not even spending much time together. 

Another concept is that one parent is not attentive to the other. The couple goes through the motions but not aware of what is going on. This concept could be impacting current relationships. One person may be going through the motions while the other person is trying to be attentive. This can be difficult because if one person is attentive and one person is not there is a mixed match. As an observer, we can see how one parent does not listen to the other. We see over time, one parent gets angry about this and then stays quiet. People shut down when they feel the other person is not being attentive and not there. 

You may be in a marriage right now where you feel that your spouse is going through the motions. We might feel like they are not very attentive when it comes to our needs. We can’t expect someone to read our minds, but maybe we need to speak up.

On the other hand, we may be afraid to speak up because it may start an argument or conflict. We do not want to hurt our partner’s feelings. We do not want to tell them that we are not feeling fulfilled in the relationship. When the inattentiveness is happening, instead of addressing it we may change our focus to our work or our children. This can be an aspect that is happening in our marriage right now. Being able to pinpoint that and figure out how to open the line of communication with that is critical. 

The last concept to be discussed in this blog is that when you were growing up one of your parents may have been very self-centered, perhaps narcissistic. As a parent, we are supposed to be there for our children, but when a parent is self-centered it is all about them. Sometimes because of these types of personalities in our lives, we may have gone ahead and married someone self-centered or narcissistic. We do not want to call them a narcissist and diagnose them, but at the same time, we need to see if that is what exists in our current marriage.  

We need to look at how we are dealing with it. Remember, when someone is self-centered, they may be doing all these things and getting away with it. We may be helping them out, not feeling like we are an equal to them. Both people in the relationship need to feel like there is some sort of equality and general concern for each other.

We may have seen this play out with our parents’ dynamic and now we might see some sort of similar role played out in our current marriage. We need to recognize this and learn how to deal with it. Once we recognize it, how do we open up the line of communication to talk about it so that everyone feels heard and understood? 

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