During the second year of my Master's program in Counseling Psychology, we dove deep into family dynamics and family of origin work.
In one class—that I particularly liked—we had to draw a genogram of our family of origin AND our partner's family of origin. My husband (then boyfriend) and I were then guided through some exercises to understand the roles and reaction patterns we each fall into when things get stressful.
Through this exercise, I could clearly see how the patterns and established roles of women and men, mothers and fathers and the relationships between them, massively impacted me: how they formed my expectations, taught me how to show love, fueled my fears, mapped out unconscious behavior... the list is long.
I learned so much from working with my family genogram that I could fill books... the insights I gained were so vast and the tools that I gained, as a direct result, were so instrumental in stepping out of an unconscious reaction pattern and into the conscious creation of who I wanted to be as a woman in a loving relationship. I still use these insights into my family of origin today, to understand and work on myself as a mom and as a wife. It's huge.
Here is the truth that I know from having been trained in marriage and family therapy: we are all a product of our families.
The experiences we had growing up, the system that we were raised in, the silent expectations we formed, the communication (or non-communication) between our parents and the role-models we had often give us both inspiration and anxiety.
And by the way, it doesn't matter if you had the most incredible mother or one who presents a challenging relationship in your life (although the former is clearly the easier one to reconcile), you have to learn how to be YOU: the woman you, the mother you, the partner you independent of anyone else.
I've worked with mamas who have terrible guilt because their own mothers were so perfect and flawless that they feel like they can never measure up, and I have worked with women who have extremely complex relationships to their moms and as a result have a tremendously difficult time not feeling defensive, protective and personally attacked. Many women have difficulty trusting that they are unconditionally loved and that what they are doing is enough and valuable.
The better we understand the patterns that have formed us, the better we are able to leave the ones that don't serve us behind and replace them with ways of acting and communicating that actually further our peace.
The same is true for understanding our partner's families of origin and what kind of impact his/her family patterns have had on him/her.
My husband and I discovered, for example, that when things become stressful I jump into action mode and have an intense need to reinstate order as soon as possible. I have been like that since I was a kid: taking responsibility for everyone's well-being. I then process what happened later.
My husband on the other side, withdraws when stress hits and needs to process what's happening internally first before he takes action. You can imagine how these different reaction patterns can trigger a couple who is undergoing a transition (like parenthood). In this instance, it was me thinking my husband isn't doing enough fast enough and him thinking that I am adding stress.
Furthermore, by doing this exercise we could clearly see how these reaction patterns were formed really early on in our childhoods because of various factors such as sibling order, innate personality and the long-stemming roles of men and women, fathers and mothers in our families.
It was absolutely fascinating and has helped me and my husband understand one another on a much deeper level as we progressed into our marriage and then parenthood together.
More than anything it has prevented us from taking things personal and actually help each other be united and grow as individuals.
Understanding each other on this kind of a level has been a life-saver because parenthood is no doubt the most beautiful AND stressful thing we have ever done together.
I see so many couples who were once deeply in love, but when they become parents together they suddenly act like they are on different sides. And I get it, parenting is really freaking difficult. But I also believe that when we do the right kind of work and apply some key tools, we can improve our relationships massively.
Next week, I am going to open the doors to my group health & life coaching program Well Mama and this—family genograms, how to feel connected and united with your partner and how to revive the intimacy—are all topics we will cover.
I am telling you this because I want you to know that Well Mama isn't a surface program...we are going to go DEEP, because I want you to come out from this program feeling and seeing a significant improvement in the areas of your life where you most need them.
If you feel intrigued make sure you leave your name and email here and you'll be the first to hear all the details about Well Mama. And remember, enrollment opens in December, but we won't start until January so you can finish the holiday season and close out 2017, and then start 2018 on a new note together with an incredible community.
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