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The Impact of Family!

Our Family of Origin

The term “Family of Origin” refers to the family that you grew up in – your parents and siblings. It may also include grandparents, other relatives, or other individuals who lived with you during part of your childhood.

We learn everything from our family!

From our family we learn how to communicate, deal with our emotions, and get our needs met. We also learn many of our values and beliefs from our families. We often develop our sense of self in the context of our family of origin.

Our family of origin or our “family culture” shapes who we are, determines the thoughts that we have about ourselves and provides us with examples of how to behave as well as what to expect from other people in our lives, especially how to behave and what to expect in our relationships- including our intimate relationships.

When is our family culture problematic?

Our family culture may not be problematic in itself; however, many individuals seek professional support and guidance, to help come to terms with the past and the impact it has on us in the here and now. Alternately, individuals or couples may seek support to learn to deal more effectively with their family of origin today, or to prevent previous dysfunctional inter-generational patterns of behaviour from continuing, in order to provide a healthy marital and family environment.

Adult awareness will help you not to repeat negative patterns modelled during the formative years. Once you become aware of the patterns of your family of origin, you can change them.

Accepting the negative influences of one’s family of origin may be a very difficult task as we may feel loyal to our parents or families. However, an exploration of our family culture, does not imply fault per say, but rather it is an exploration of how our family culture unconsciously influencing our behaviour and our thoughts and may be creating ‘cultural clashes’, within our intimate relationships.

In a couple relationships, family cultures may create issues as partners bring their extended families into their marriages, whether consciously or unconsciously. Each one of us is a product of our family of origin, and the issues that we struggle with, our family of origin issues, contribute to our adult personalities.

Additionally, we may put our own unrealistic expectations on a partner that is unaware, unable and ultimately unwilling, to live up to them. Bringing unaddressed family of origin issues into a marriage can create relationship problems that are often confusing and overwhelming to both partners. In order to fully understand the behaviours we exhibit in our adult relationships, we must first become familiar with why we developed those behaviours in our childhood.

Below is a simplistic exercise to get you and your partner thinking about your family of origin and its impact on you and your relationship.

Family of Origin Exercise

In my family affection was:

  1. Shown warmly and often

  2. Rarely shown

  3. Other __________________________

In my family anger was:

  1. Shown openly and reasonably discussed

  2. Not shown- We didn’t get angry

  3. If you got angry you were supposed to go and cool off, shouting was not accepted.

  4. Other __________________________

In my family when my parents disagreed or fought:

  1. They yelled and screamed

  2. One usually/always gave way to the other

  3. They separated to cool off

  4. One or both used the “silent treatment”

  5. I wouldn’t know. They never fought in front of me.

  6. Other ____________________________

My childhood home was usually:

  1. Neat and clean

  2. Comfortably cluttered

  3. Other __________________________

In my family decision making was done by:

  1. Father or Mother

  2. Both parents in consultation

  3. Other _____________________________

In my family money was:

  1. Supposed to be saved and spent only on necessities

  2. Not spoken about

  3. Used freely for recreational pursuits

  4. Other ______________________________

In my family communication was:

  1. Open and free- we all sat around and spoke about our day or our lives.

  2. Not very open, but we spoke about the important stuff

  3. Strained

  4. Other ______________________________

In my family household chores were divided according to:

  1. “Women’s work” or “Men’s work”

  2. Who had the most time or skill at the chore

  3. Both parents took equal responsibility

  4. Other ________________________________________

Take the time to explore what you learned about life, love, and conflict in your family of origin so that you can understand how this influences your current relationship – for better and for worse.

If you would like to book an appointment to discuss your family culture or your family of origin issues, you can do so by booking an assessment session or a couple assessment session.

Dr. Lavina Ahuja is available for appointments and for any questions about relationship issues, especially multicultural relationship issues.

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