I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the idea that when you choose to become involved with another person intimately it is somewhat like two people from different countries (or in some cases different planets) coming together to create a new country or planet. This metaphor was shared with me by my clinical supervisor, Dr. Emily Cook, and it has made a big impact on my outlook both personally and professionally. Each person comes into the relationship with their own culture, language, way of interacting with others, value system, and many other things that are personalized from their past experiences. Each partner is responsible for helping to teach the other their language and nuances of their family of origin while at the same time creating new ways to interact that mesh both individual’s pasts into one cohesive “new” language and country.
It can sometimes be tricky navigating through the murky waters of building your own family when each person brings so much from their past and their family of origin. It can seem impossible to bridge the gaps between your understanding and world view with those of your partner. While it may be more difficult for some than others, there are several important things you can do. There are some things you should keep in mind that take work and dedication but can help make your relationship stronger, creating a foundation for you and your partner to begin growing and building your own family with its own unique values and language.
Techniques and Tips:
Sometimes seeking therapy or a little extra support even from mutual friends can be helpful if this process seems to be causing a lot of tension for you and your partner. Being open minded, not making assumptions, patience, and staying curious can all help in navigating this new family that you and your partner are creating and can strengthen your understanding of yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Remember, it is your responsibility to help your partner understand you and your family of origin better if you want them to be a part of it.
Robin S. Smith is a psychotherapist practicing in Bethesda, MD. Robin created The Couple and Family Clinic Blog to provide useful articles on issues related to mental health as well as articles on local, national, and international news stories. Learn more about Robin on the About Page.