10 childhood wounds to overcome for a better marriage
The other day I wrote about how my past hurts came back to haunt my present marriage.
One great thing about good therapy (or decent coaching) is that it can help you see where your yesterday might be impacting your today.
If you’re an Attachment Parent, you’ve already subscribed to the idea that the bond that you’re forming with your child matters. You’ve chosen a parenting style that says it’s a good thing to let your child know that their voice is heard and that their needs matter to you. Your goal, above almost everything, is to make sure your child is Securely Attached to you.
But some of us weren’t blessed with families that placed much importance on protecting that bond. Some of us were raised in homes that taught us some not so healthy things about how to love or accept love from one another. And because we learned these lessons at such a young age, when our minds were so impressionable, it can be hard to unlearn them when we start our adult relationships. Even worse, we can accidentally pass them on to our children, trapping us in a sort of generation curse.
It’s hard to see where our past wounds and triggers are without the help of an outsider. It’s hard because to us this is normal, it’s all we’ve known. It’s also tricky because we hear words like “wound” and think, “My family was weird, but I wouldn’t call it a wound, per se.”
Our wounds might not be very dramatic. We might have really great relationships with our families. But that doesn’t mean we won’t still have wounds. Because wounds are simply part of being human. Wounds make us human and give us the ability to be empathetic and compassionate. Taking time to acknowledge and respect the wounds from your past could be the first step in finding healing.
To help get you started here are 10 common wounds that might still hurt:
Did you grow up in a house where everything you did/said/wore/felt/thought was wrong? This can be especially painful when the criticism comes from a parent because there’s nothing a child wants more than to please a parent. You might have grown a thick skin to criticism and dish it out on the regular to those you love because everyone needs to hear the truth, right? Or worse, the criticism during those formative years might have paralyzed you completely and you’ve spent your entire adult life trapped by the thought that “you’re doing it wrong”.
If you come from a family of Yellers it’s easy to believe that the only way to be heard is to turn the volume up. You learned that the loudest person wins. The loudest person has the power. The loudest person is in control. You might have learned to use your loudness to intimidate others and are learning that the loudest person might also be the loneliest.
Did important people leave you as you grew up? Did parents die? Did dad stay at work way past bedtime? Did mom grow distant because of bouts with depression? Abandonment can hurt us in many ways. We learn that we can’t trust anyone and we build strong walls that protect us from being loved and left ever again. You might be living in a constant state of indifference towards your spouse because it’s safer that way. Or you might be experiencing Koala Bear Levels of Cling at even the hint of not being your spouse’s priority. Both are sure to strain a marriage.
- Walking on Eggshells
If you grew up with a Volcano, someone who goes off for seemingly no reason at all, you might have learned the art of Walking on Eggshells. You have learned to be super aware of everyone around you’s mood, and you’ve believed that somehow you’re responsible for everyone else’s happiness. Your wounds tend to bust wide open whenever you realize you’re the only one in a relationship being careful.
Love, like everything else, is conditional. You must perform. You must be the best. You must not make any mistakes. Your parents are probably Asian (This is a joke. My mom is Asian.). Vulnerability terrifies you, and you don’t want anyone (spouse included) to see your ‘Ugly Side’ simply because you are convinced no one could love the real you.
- Hide and Seek
Problems came up in your family and everyone bounced. Dealing with conflict or hurt feelings can be really messy, and not all families are willing to get dirty. Your toolbox is limited when it comes to conflict and the only thing you know to do when things get uncomfortable is to head to the storm shelter and wait out the storm.
- People Pleasing
Your family operated like they were in a display window at Macy’s. You went to the right church, school, and parties. You learned that an outsider’s opinion mattered more than an insider’s, and to always do what you know you should. This external focus means all it takes is a side-eye from the spouse to send you into an emotional tailspin.
Get what you want with intimidation. Make other people feel small. Make other people feel stupid. Make other people feel unloved. Use when you’re feeling especially small, stupid, or unloved. You’ve either learned to become a bully or you’re shadowboxing with them all the time.
Somewhere you learned that you were a victim. That you were weak. That life happened to you. You learned this by example (you saw your mom wallow in despair) or by commentary (“Oh, you don’t know what you’re doing. Let me do it”). You might be the baby of the family. You’re understandably offended by the idea that you’re weak, but also terrified that it might be true.
- The Fixer
Your parents weren’t really parents so you stepped up to take care of the job. You’re a natural leader, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t resentful about your lost childhood. Unfortunately, your triggers are when your partner seems to be enjoying life at your expense which can make you feel (and look) like the ultimate killjoy.
Everyone has wounds. Why not start healing yours (and your spouse’s) today?