Everyone you meet comes with baggage;
find someone who cares enough to help you unpack.”
– Ziad K. Abdelnour

Our family history is revealed in many ways. It has an enormous impact upon the relationship with our partner, whether we realize it or not.

“You don’t respect me, you never have!”

Meet Ann and Ed.

In their first session, Ann complained that Ed did not respect her; he didn’t understand or appreciate how hard she had worked to raise their kids and care for their family over the years. She had given up her career to stay home with the children. Though Ann described feelings of resentment towards Ed, she was hard pressed to find specific examples of disrespect; it was more his lack of being effusive when he thanked her for all she did.

Ed was a hard worker, helped around the house, cared for and loved Ann. He was very proud of Ann being a wonderful mother and admired her desire to return to a career she had put on hold for years. Ann’s anger and resentment were a mystery to Ed. He often felt attacked and couldn’t understand where Ann’s feelings came from.

Ann and Ed had twin boys who would soon be leaving for college. They were looking forward to the empty nest and spending more time together; but Ann knew if she didn’t work through these feelings towards Ed, she wouldn’t be able to be close to him.

In reviewing Ann’s history, it was revealed that she was the oldest of four. Since her parents struggled financially and both worked, Ann was left to be the surrogate parent for her three siblings. Though Ann was a dutiful daughter and took on this role without question, she felt that her parents never truly understood the burden that was put upon her as a child. They lacked respect for all that she’d done. And she was still angry about it.

In a flash the light bulb appeared. The connection between past and present was clear. Ann’s sensitivity about having sacrificed her desires to stay home with their children meant that her needs were once again last on the list. Ann recognized that most of her resentful feelings harkened back to her past and didn’t belong to Ed. Unconsciously she felt her past was being repeated. Ed’s lack of expressiveness triggered those feelings.

Once Ann became aware that her strong feelings about Ed’s “lack of respect” were fueled by her anger and sadness about her history, she was able to let go of her resentment toward Ed. She took ownership that she had made the decision to stay home with the children and postpone her career.

When Ed understood that Ann’s complaints were in large part related to her unfulfilled childhood, he stopped feeling attacked and made more of an effort to show his gratitude and deeper feelings of appreciation for all that Ann did.

To plan for the future, since this could come up again, here is what we suggested:

When Ann expresses resentment, Ed’s role is to:

  • Not take it personally
  • Draw her thoughts out
  • Listen to her feelings and
  • Provide verbal reassurance he did appreciate and respect her

Ann’s role is to:

  • Be aware of her history
  • Ask herself how much of her feeling belonged to Ed
  • State specifically and behaviorally what bothered her
  • Talk in a more factual and less critical way

It was amazing for us to see how the exploration of a person’s feelings about their past, explained their responses in the present. This discovery set Ann and Ed on a completely different track and brought them together at a pivotal crossroads in their relationship.

Your relationship deserves the highest level of support. Relationship Experts, Bob and Lori Hollander are committed to helping individuals and couples build connection and deepen bonds in a world that often makes it difficult.

Call them at 410-363-2825 or email them today, info@relationshipswork.com.

Photo credit Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay