How Can Family Background Affect Your Relationships?
By: Rawan Eldabbas
Are you and your partner experiencing consistent obstacles in your relationship? Contrary to what you might think, differing interests may not be the cause. Believe it or not, you and your partner’s family background can play a major role in your relationship.
Effects of Family Background?
Hearing the term “family background,” you might think of your partner’s culture, religion, or political affiliation. While all these categories play a part, there are lots of other components as well. It actually relates to all of the various aspects of one’s environment in their childhood home which eventually informs how one views relationships, communication, and intimacy.
Parental attitudes towards their children has an important effect on their self-esteem and confidence later in life. Parents who participate in consistent positive affirmation can help instill healthy decision-making and greater self-confidence in their children. On the contrary, children who were often criticized and scolded due to harsh expectations frequently develop insecurities which may contribute to greater marital conflicts later in life.
Parents often stress common ideologies, such as particular gender roles, which can lead the children to implement them in future relationships. In cases where there are conflicting ideologies in a marriage, it is important to achieve a mutual understanding of each partner’s roles early on to ensure harmony and understanding.
Here are a few ways that your partner’s family background can affect different aspects of your relationship.
Attitudes on Communication
If you find that you or your partner lack communication skills, it is important to consider the reasons behind this. It might be difficult for one/both of you to express how you feel – possibly because it is a foreign concept. Maybe one/both of your parents never asked how you were feeling growing up. Maybe they didn’t prioritize conversations about personal topics, and that later caused discomfort confiding in the other. This is because a lack of emotional support early in life can manifest into a strong sense of emotional autonomy and a potential lack of sensitivity towards other people’s feelings.
As a way of understanding yourself or your partner, attempt to recognize this issue of communication early in the relationship, and find out the potential origin behind these habits together (in a non-blaming yet accountable way). While this can be a challenging task, being there for each other to tackle the problem’s source is a good start. This can help strengthen the trust within the relationship and help you both work as a team along the way.
Attitudes on Gender Roles
Parents may raise their children according to gender-based expectations. For example, one family may raise boys with less emotional affection (e.g., telling them to “ be tough”) while girls are supported when they are upset. Another family might assume girls are being dramatic when expressing intense emotions and that boys’ intense emotions must be warranted. You might also notice that some families highlight different responsibilities based on gender. For example, men are stereotypically expected to oversee finances and/or manual labor while women are stereotypically expected to oversee cooking, cleaning, and childcare. However, expectations are changing in many Western, industrialized nations such that women are now expected to work full-time as well as take on the bulk of the house and childcare.
Regardless of the specific messages, gender expectations these have a strong influence on your behavior in relationships later on as well as your expectations for your partner’s behavior. However, being mindful of these differences in expectations can help partners find a middle ground so that both partners are happy with their own and their partner’s roles as it relates to gender.
Attitudes on Intimacy
Do you feel as though your partner doesn’t show you affection, and it makes you feel upset or lonely? Or would you like to show your partner the affection that they need but feel unable to? You should know that both positions are completely normal but may indicate a distinct difference between how both of you were taught to perceive affection.
The desire to feel comfort and warmth from another person is innate. Unfortunately, some individuals may be more familiar with this than others. Children who constantly engaged in loving or comforting activities with their family are more likely to be emotionally expressive and secure. Whereas people who had harsh familial expectations or social limitations when they were younger may be uncomfortable, fearful or indifferent to forming connections with others. Growing up in a family that doesn’t display physical or verbal signs of affection makes it hard to know how to show love towards a partner. In their future relationships, the unfamiliarity with intimate conversations might even have a negative impact on their sex life, making it quite uncomfortable for them to engage in it.
Naturally, being with a partner who doesn’t engage in intimate behavior may lead you to question if they truly love you or if you are doing something wrong. However, they simply might not know how to show it. And as the less intimate partner, you may similarly wonder what is wrong with you or wonder why your partner needs so much attention and affection. Yet again, understanding and accountable communication will be crucial for you two in order to come to an agreement of how much emotional intimacy is expected and how to appropriately ask for more space or connection.
While your family background might not affect all these aspects in your relationship, it is important to understand the role that your upbringing plays in your understanding and engagement in romantic relationships. At the end of the day, understanding you and your partner’s family backgrounds can help create a different dynamic for your relationship as you decide which influences will serve you well and which ones you would like to improve for the health of your relationship.
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