How Our Parents’ Marriages Affect Our Own


The summer after I’d moved to Los Angeles I needed a ride to the airport and a then-friend of mine named Kyle offered. He picked me up and we stopped for breakfast together on the way.

Over omelets and coffee, we struck up a conversation about our childhoods and family life. One of the largest differences in our upbringings was that of our parents’ marriages. I was flying back home to Texas to celebrate my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary; his parents divorced when he was 12 and each parent had remarried at least once. Whereas I’d only ever known one set of parents my entire life, he’d known four different pairs of parental figures throughout his.

Since we weren’t dating or considering a future together at the time, I viewed this difference as nothing more than an interesting observation into our past lives. Even when we later began dating, were engaged, and newly married, I still didn’t think much of this difference in our parents’ marriages. How could their marriages possibly affect ours? I thought. We were our own people, we made our own choices, and this was OUR marriage, not our parents’.

But then, a few years into marriage, we hit a really rough patch.

Everything seemed to be against us. Unemployment. Money troubles. Uncertain new roles as parents. Career and identity re-evaluations. Marital strife. Lots of fighting. Overall life discouragement. There were several times I doubted if our marriage could ever be happy again.

This was when I finally saw the impact that our parents’ marriages had in our lives. No, we weren’t the same people as our parents, and no we didn’t make the same life choices as them, and yes, this was our marriage and not theirs’. But the fact still remained that, when the only examples of marriage one knows in their life are those marriages that soured and dissolved, how can one not assume that eventual progression toward martial dissatisfaction is the norm?

This is not to say that if you are from a broken home that you are automatically doomed to re-create your parents’ mistakes. After all, you truly are your own person, who will make your own choices, and your relationship will be your own, not your parents.

But that can be easier said and than done.

I can’t claim to know all the answers or know what anyone else should do in their marriage or relationship. All I can tell you is what my husband Kyle and I did to work on ours.

Even though we once naively assumed that our parents relationships didn’t matter, we finally acknowledged that the marriage examples our parents had left for us did impact our individual expectations of how to handle our own marriage difficulties. It was only after accepting this could we then move on as a united couple, determined to fight our own way through our own marriage journey. Together. As our own people. Who make our own choices. In our own marriage.

The next time problems in our marriage come up, we no longer stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the things from our past that play a part in our current lives – but we objectively reflect on the current situation to see where we can make independent choices for ourselves, and not just follow negative examples we’ve known from our past.



Flickr/Michael Arrington

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