Thoughts about creating and keeping a happy marriage

Life is about relationships.

From infancy through our formative years our relationships fell into two basic categories, parent-to-child and child-to-child.

This simply means that all of our daily interactions during those early years, from the moment we woke up in the morning until we went to bed at night, were about how our parents and other adults in our lives related to us as children; and about how we related to other children in our lives. As each day passed during the first 18-20 years of our lives, these day-to-day, moment-by-moment experiences were unconsciously shaping how we would relate to others when we became adults.

Some of us had the good fortune to have truly great parents who showed nurturing love to us in positive ways virtually all the time. On the other hand, and sadly, some of us had parents who functioned at the opposite end of the spectrum, inflicting deep hurt through verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. These are the extremes.

My observation is that most of us had parents who fell somewhere in the middle. They showed a degree of nurturing love, but this was sometimes mixed with a fairly heavy dose of scolding and statements that implied disappointment or even condemnation.

The child-to-child interactions we had during our early years were largely influenced by where our parents fell on the parent spectrum described above. The more loving our parents were the more positive our relationships were with other children; and the more hurtful our parents were the poorer our relationships were with other children.

With no conscious effort on our part, as we interacted with other children we were modeling the words and behaviors we were learning from our parents and other adults in our lives about how to relate to other people, and how we would do so as adults.

What this means is that each of us spent 18-20 years developing deeply engrained ways of thinking and behaving that were totally parent-to-child and child-to-child focused.

By the time each of us reached chronological adulthood we had developed set attitudes of relating to others ether with a mindset of parent or a mindset of child. All of us have a lot of parent and child recordings in our brains that influence our attitudes and behaviors, but we each possess a strong bent to either play the parent role or the child role in our relationships.

It works like this. If our bent is toward the parent role, we want to be the one in charge in our relationships; we are usually quick to observe (and tell) others what they are doing wrong, and we tend to be intolerant with those who do not perform as we think they should. If our bent is to play the child role in our relationships, we usually feel content to let others be in control, especially if they will be nice to us, and sometimes even if they are not. We are quick to defer to others, and we behave in ways that show we want others to take care of us like our parents did; and we are inclined to cry (whine and pout) or get angry when things are not going the way we want them to go.

Nowhere are these parent and child life roles more apparent than in a marriage. I