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Excerpt from:

Sacred Psychology of Love
The Quest for Relationships
That Unite Heart and Soul

by Marilyn C. Barrick, Ph.D.

Chapter 15
Re-creating Parent-Child Patterns in Love Relationships
      Let's consider another important factor in relationships between men and women, the carryover from our relationships as children, particularly with our opposite-sex parent, as well as our parents' relationship with each other.
      During the absorbent mind stage1 in our first seven years, we sponge up everything that is around us. We don't think about it, we just take it in. Of course, we tend to model ourselves after our parents, and we also develop concepts about adult relationships from the way our parents interacted with us and with each other.
      As adults, if the relationships in our childhood family were loving and cooperative, we will be likely to recreate loving and cooperative relationships with those we love. If, on the other hand, family relationships were unloving or stormy, we are likely to recreate the same kind of problematic relationships with those we love. Why? Because what we absorb as young children goes very deep into our being. It's not that we consciously plan it that way, but childhood patterns have been firmly established in the unconscious and subconscious mind.
      Thus, men find themselves relating to their partners or wives the same way they related to their mothers. Women often relate to their partners or husbands the same way they related to their fathers.
      It's as though from the unconscious and subconscious levels we attempt to recreate our childhood relationships, either because they were very satisfying or because they weren't. Often we are still trying to figure out how to heal our painful past through current relationships.
      In a marriage counseling group I conducted some years ago, the couples were amazed to discover this exact problem in their marriages. The patterns most troublesome to each couple were almost identical to the problems their parents had.
      One couple, Rose and Sam, said it was the most difficult moment of all when Rose realized that Sam was shutting down and distancing himself the same way her father had with her mother. Sam, in turn, realized that Rose was the living image of his mother in her emotional outbursts, and that was very difficult for him to handle.
      The more emotional Rose became, the more Sam wanted to withdraw, and the more Sam withdrew, the more emotional Rose became. This was a repeat pattern from both of their childhood families. And Rose and Sam decided that pattern was going to stop on a dime! They worked hard to make that happen. And they are still happily married today.
      Sam learned to reach out to Rose when she was emotional, and that helped Rose to calm down. Rose learned to contain her emotional outbursts because she could see how devastating they were to Sam. They really loved each other and were very clear on what needed to change. And they were both excited to discover that they could change their reactions and receive support from each other. They began to feel empowered and to trust the love they had for each other, which was very real.
      When Rose and Sam and the other three couples in the group shared their stories, in each case the couples could see major dynamics of their parents in their own relationships. As Joan, one of the women, said, "It's almost scary to see how we have almost the same problems in our marriage that our parents did, and my grandparents, too. When is it going to stop moving down the family line?
      And Rose and Sam said, "When we decide to stop it!" They all agreed. These four couples became very supportive of one another. Once they recognized the destructive patterns being passed from generation to generation, they made a pact to support each other and have done so over the years....

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