How Does Our Upbringing Impact Our Romantic Relationships as Adults?

Are we doomed?

As children our parents or guardians serve as our first role models. We observe their behaviors towards one another, and as we mature we inherit many of those same behaviors.

High incidence of conflict, violence, and hostility in a family can negatively affect children’s communication skills. As children age into adulthood, their communication patterns often persist and have the potential to impact their ability to communicate in their romantic relationships.

This is important as couples identify poor communication as one of the top reasons for marital discord. Poor communication should not be viewed one-dimensionally as the inability to express one’s feelings. Rather we should view it holistically, encompassing its negative impact on the levels of intimacy, jealousy and mistrust.

What should we do?

If we inherited inadequate communication skills from our parents, are we destined to have poor romantic relationships? The good news is no. A recent study published in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy showed that engaging in activities that promote emotional and physical bonding between partners can improve couple communication.

How do we do this?

Below is a list of 3 exercises that you and your partner can partake in to improve communication and foster intimacy:

  1. Cuddle Time

Switch up your regularly scheduled nighttime regimen. Shut off your cell phones, laptops and TVs and spend some quality uninterrupted time together. Talk, listen to music, or just simply lie together. The key is being present with your partner, this will help strengthen your connection.

2. Weekly Review

We’re all busy with hectic schedules. Sometimes an intimate talk over dinner isn’t feasible. But it is important to prioritize our relationships and not let them fall by the wayside. Schedule a time once a week, where both you and your partner block off 30 minutes to talk about your relationship. Explore your partner’s feelings about the condition of your relationship. Ask questions like, “are your needs getting met?” or “what can we do to improve?” This exercise provides an opportunity to share your feelings with your partner, and it also provides a chance to identify any issues that may be present.

3. “3 Things”

This brief exercise encourages dialogue and communication and is easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Ask you partner to share 3 things about any topic you choose. For instance, ask them to share “3 places you want to travel to together” or “3 things you are grateful for today.” It’s a quick and easy way to become aware of your partner’s interests, needs, and feelings. Not only will communication increase, but it may also help improve levels of closeness and intimacy.

Need more?

Feeling like you and your partner may need something more than these exercises to rebuild the communication in your relationship? You may want to consider reaching out to a family or couples therapist. A particular intervention that may be helpful is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. This therapy model helps couples identify the root emotions that may be contributing to their poor communication. Once those emotions are identified, the therapist works with the couple to address those needs collaboratively, and rebuild their emotional connection. This will result in the couple feeling bonded and better able to express themselves. Find out more about Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy here.