I’m having doubts about my upcoming wedding. I love my fiancé very much and wanted to get married and settle down together. But my own parents’ marriage – which was rocky throughout – has made me wonder if I would have the same kind. I guess it didn’t have as much of an impact on me when I was little, I wouldn’t notice them argue as much, but during lockdown things were tense between them. I know lockdown is partly to blame but spending more time at home made me question whether my marriage would be like theirs. My fiancé’s parents aren’t like mine, but I am worried.
K, Co Antrim
I’m sorry to hear that your parents seem to be unhappy together. It’s interesting that people might not notice how unhappy their parents are when they are children because they don’t know any other way of being. The environment your parents provide as you are growing up is your normal and it’s only as you have the opportunity to see how other people’s homelife is that you can start to realise that maybe your parents are not as happy together as they could be.
It can be unsettling to know that your parent’s arguments may have had an impact on you. Parents can provide the first blue print on how life is. Do you remember the first time you had a sleepover at a friends’ house when you were a child? It seemed strange all the unfamiliar routines, the different types of breakfast, the different ways your friends’ family organised themselves that seemed so unusual compared to your family traditions.
When a family manages together well, it can provide us with a useful blueprint for when we go on to have our own children & family. While this can be helpful, it can also lead to some challenges as we try to organise our own relationships and family life. We can try to recreate family life as we knew it growing up, because we felt that it ‘worked’. However, this can lead to frustrations and disappointment as the experience is not shared by the new partner, who brings their own blueprint and traditions of couple and family life.
The idea is to merge your different stories and traditions together to create your very own story together. Your story of life together will be unique to you both. You can take the best from both of the family traditions and leave behind the less helpful ways of being that you have witnessed or experienced growing up.
Your family do have an influence on you as you grow but you are not defined nor trapped by the experiences of childhood. You have an opportunity to make a life of your own that reflects your values and hopes.
Relate NI offer a pre-commitment course, which can be very helpful and supportive. Working with a relational counsellor it provides space to explore different aspects of relationships that sometimes people don’t necessarily consider until a relationship is well established, which by then can be a bit more of a challenge to make changes. You would have the chance to explore many facets of your relationship with each other, including; decision making, how you manage your finances together, how you communicate emotionally and sexually together and how you make plans together. It creates the possibility of setting in place helpful communication across all areas of a committed relationship from the outset.
For more information see www.relatni.org