first significant relationships we have are usually within our
families. By seeing how people relate to you and to each other,
you begin to piece together a story of what relationships are
a child, you receive a variety of unconscious messages which you
carry with you into later life. Broadly speaking, these messages
fall into the following key areas.
Messages about trust
Are you the jealous type? Do you feel easily rejected? Do
you struggle to make a commitment? Many such issues can be traced
back to childhood.
you came from a family in which you felt safe and secure, you'll
probably find it easy to trust people as an adult. However, if
you felt rejected, or lost someone close to you, you may find
it harder to believe that others will love you and treat you well.
ability to trust is very important in adult relationships. If
things have happened in your past that have damaged your trust,
you may find you need the understanding support of your partner
to rebuild your faith in others.
Messages about communicating
If you find it easy to show your emotions, chances are you
were brought up in a home where you were encouraged to be open
about how you felt. You probably saw other people arguing - and
saw them make up, too.
taught you that conflict isn't the end of the world and communicating
is a way of making life better.
healthiest relationships are those where individuals can express
themselves honestly and appropriately. It can be just as damaging
to grow up in a family where disputes are ignored as it is to
grow up in an angry hot-house.
about authority and control
When adults grow up finding it difficult to cope with sharing
or competition, often the root of the problem is a family where
authority and control were badly managed.
you learnt as a child that sharing was fun, you'll become an adult
who enjoys sharing. If you grew up understanding that certain
rules were in your best interests, you're less likely to have
problems with authority.
all need to feel we have control over our lives, and a child who's
given responsibility from an early age is more likely to grow
up feeling self-confident about the decisions they make - and
Learning throughout life
As well as these key relationship areas, we learn what being
a couple is about from watching our parents. Even if you were
raised in a single-parent family, you'll have learnt from the
relationships your parent was in, or developed expectations about
what being alone is like.
your situation, you'll have picked up important messages about:
* How much time couples should spend together and what they do
* How couples sort out disagreements and what sort of things they
* How much affection they show each other and when and where can
this be done
* Things which men are better at than women and vice versa
* Who's in charge of earning the money and who's in charge of
* Who has the final word when making decisions
* Who's in charge of the house and home and who does what chores
* What sex is all about
* What men and women do when they're not with each other
* How men and women behave differently when they're angry or sad
* Who does what when something sad happens
* How to celebrate special occasions
* What men and women do that makes each other sad and happy
* Whether it's better to be in a couple than to be single
Remember, it's never too late to learn. Whatever messages you
may have picked up, it's up to you to decide if you agree with
them or not. And if you don't agree, you can develop new messages
this article has raised some difficult issues for you, then try
talking it through with a partner or trusted friend. Alternatively
you might want to consider seeing a relationship counsellor.