“Liz – go to your room!”

What on earth does being banished to my room for being ‘naughty’ as a child have to do with my relationship with my wife?

Oh, just about everything.

I grew up in a household where expressing emotions wasn’t exactly encouraged.

There were eruptions, no doubt, but then… silence.

Disappointment, anger, and sadness were swept under the rug and in time, I learned to keep my feelings and needs to myself.

On the other hand, my wife grew up in a family with a lot of shouting. When we first got together, and I started to spend time with her family, I honestly couldn’t work out whether they were just having an easy conversation or a full-blown row!

Fast-forward to now, and when Kristin and I argue, my instinct is to withdraw and go quiet, while she tends to let it all out.

She’s also incredibly forgiving by the way, once she’s said her piece it’s over and done with while I’m the one that remembers something she said in the heat of the moment from 6 years ago, and will very helpfully bring it up in an argument.

We’ve worked incredibly hard over the last 10 years of marriage to reach a middle ground where we can resolve conflict in a healthier, more compassionate way.

The thing is, it isn’t easy to form healthier relationships as adults when we experience the opposite as children.

For most of us, the first models of our relationships tend to be our parents or caregivers – this shapes how we communicate our needs, resolve conflict and understand love.

If these foundational relationships are unhealthy, they can leave us at a total loss as adults, struggling to know where and how to set boundaries, when to walk away, or how to repair the inevitable ruptures that arise.

Consider your relationships for a second, whether it’s with a significant other, your friends or even your boss.

Is there a pattern of infidelity, staying quiet and not asking for your needs to be met, codependency, or being a people pleaser?

Recognising these patterns is the first step to then understanding your automatic reactions (like mine during a disagreement) and asking yourself –

Can I choose to react in a different way right now?

This is the stepping stone to breaking old cycles and building healthier and fulfilling relationships – the kind you wished you had as a child.

Got a question or a story of your own to share? Contact me – I’d love to hear from you!