The Inheritance of Family Scripts of Receiving and Giving Love
Hello Everyone. Over the next several blog posts I will go over some dynamics that have the power to shift your marriage into a platform for growth, profound love and happiness.
Marriage offers the opportunity to continue the legacy of our inherited family dynamics of giving and receiving love. It also provides the opportunity for us to make positive change so that love can more easily flow between partners. This also shifts the trajectory for the generations that follow.
In this post and the posts to come, I’ll explore the concepts of ‘family scripts,’ ‘the family as a system,’ and ‘family roles.’ We will look at how these three concepts relate to how you experienced the ‘giving and receiving of love’ in your family of origin and how this may be unconsciously replicated in your marriage and what opportunities this offers you.
Let’s begin with looking at Family Scripts.
Much like a movie script, family scripts have the stage of family life, with it’s set of characters and roles that people play within the storyline. Characters have a typical way of relating to one another and scenes are usually repeated, sometimes for generations with different characters and variations of the same script.
Family scripts can include themes of tragedy, triumph, comedy, mystery, loss, love and etc. To see how these scripts play into your marriage, you must become intimate with the details of your family upbringing and family history. Once you know the members of your family and the dynamics of family life and relationships, the themes will begin to emerge.
The script that impact us the most are the ones we have in our family of origin (the family we grew up in). This script has been shaped by our primary caregivers’ family of origin and prior generations.
Adult children who are aware of some of the challenges of the past will often attempt to make positive changes to the script in their marriage and family. However, even with their best effort, it is natural that there is some degree of replication in the families of these adult children. One of the many ways that scripts are repeated, albeit unconsciously, is how love was given and received in their own families of origin.
The following questions may offer insight revealing the patterns of giving and receiving love in your family.
- How did my parents love each other? How did that impact me? What did I learn about how my parents loved each other? What expectations did I form?
- What messages did I learn about giving and receiving love from my parents?
- How was I loved by my mother? My father? (ie. how did they love me for who I was, how did they support my growth)
- How did my parents navigate distance and closeness in their relationship?
- How did each parent navigate distance and closeness with me. Did I have say in this?
- How was love withheld from me and for what reasons and how did I responded?
- Were there issues such as substance abuse, mental illness, illness or other events that impacted how love was given and received?
- How did I get my parents attention when I felt I was not getting it – being silly, productive, being depressed, acting out, etc?
- How was loved shared among extended family members to each parent?
- At what points did the need for ‘control’ by my parent(s) trump an opportunity for me to grow? How did I respond?
- How did I exert my independence within my family of origin? In what ways did I not?
- In what ways was the sharing of love nurturing in my family?
- What abuse occurred within my family – emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual? What messages did I learn about the giving and receiving of love? How did this impact me?
- Did you ever have perceived or actual experiences of abandonment or loss of a parent?
Some of these are hard questions. However, the family scripts of receiving and giving love influence us when finding and choosing a life with a partner. When family scripts are compatible enough between two people that result in love, joy, and there is a feeling of familiarity that makes the relationship function, we commit to the relationship and get married.
Once married, the stage is set for the scripts to become enacted. This is often in the fine print of the marriage contract with neither partner realizing it is there. These scripts work until they no longer do. Unless we have been engaged in psychotherapy or another self-awareness building format, playing our scripts largely goes unnoticed until marital difficulties arise. Couples can work these challenges on their own with the right support, investment in the relationship, conflict resolution and love. A couples therapist can also play an influential role in bringing awareness to a couple’s inherited scripts and working them through to create positive change.
Within the context of your marriage consider these questions:
- In what ways has my choice of a partner been influenced by family scripts?
- How comfortable do I feel with looking at the scripts of my family of origin and those of my partner?
- How comfortable do I feel about discussing these with my partner?
- How have I replicated my family of origin scripts with my partner?
- How are the challenges within my relationship based on family of origin scripts that I am replicating?
- What strengths do I carry into my relationship from my family scripts?
By acknowledging our family scripts we can see to what degree we have inherited them into our marriage. When we bring our awareness around them, we then have the ability to choose to make positive change. These are actions and changes that any willing couples can make.
© Joshua Watson
Photo Credits in order of appearance: Clive Einstein, Elina Elena, Laslo Major.