By Dr. Chaya S. Newman
(This article originally appeared in the Jewish Press on June 3rd 2009)
Anyone who has learned to drive can recall the need to check a hidden area known as blind spots. This procedure is particularly vital when changing lanes and can prevent potential collisions. It involves first checking the rear view mirror, then turning around briefly looking to either the left or the right to make sure that no car is hidden from view. Once this information has been secured, ideally one is free to change lanes safely.
While this practice takes place when driving a car, let me suggest that it could also be beneficial in our personal lives. Just as we could avoid unnecessary fender-benders, such checking could prevent possible areas of possible conflict that are not necessarily apparent on a daily basis.
This suggestion is based on the following premise. Unconsciously, people tend to repeat what they see when they grow up. Those who enter the teaching profession often teach the way they were taught. Parents discipline children the way they were raised. Especially pursuant to this site, people enter relationships and marriages only to reconstruct what went on in their homes.
For singles, a logical question arises. “But why?” one protests. “I want to find my bashert and you’re asking me questions about my family. I want to move forward. It feels like I am moving backward!”
While these concerns are valid, each individual’s personal foundations are built upon the messages and climate of the homes in which he/she was raised. For example, a child of a divorce or one who lost a parent at a young age has a different experience than one who grew up in an intact family.
In addition, people often take the messages and ideas of one’s home of origin and act on them. These messages and ideas color the way that one lives one’s life. Often times, they are completely unaware of the subtle, yet powerful ways in which these messages and ideas take charge of their life.
Finally, I assert that by uncovering our past and reflecting on it, we can be more knowledgeable adults. Rather than having our personal histories confine us, confuse us, or divert us from our primary objective, we can discover those blind spots that prevent us from having the types of relationships that we would like to have.
As I see it, the best place to begin this journey is by looking at your places of origins. To do so, I suggest that you follow these steps. First, read each question. Second, take time to think about the answers. Setting aside a day or so to reflect on them is certainly advised. Third, record your answers so that you can refer to them at a later time. Now, let’s start.
1. Paint a verbal picture of the emotional climate in the home in which you were raised. Without realizing it, parents may create the emotional environment in the home. Was yours calm and peaceful or was it frenetic and tense? Was there laughter or was it serious?
2. Depict the relationship between your parents. Whether we like it was or not, our parents were the first role models for us, especially in terms of relating to one another. What took place in your home? How did your parents speak to each other? What happened when one of them left to go to work? How did they greet each other when they came home?
3. Explain how your parents communicated with one another. Parents lay the foundation for the way that communication takes place. If there was yelling and screaming in your house, it is possible that you could pick up those same patterns. They are “normal” for you. Did you see your parents speak to each other? What did they discuss? How often did they talk to one another during the course of the day? Were there times set aside for discussion?
4. Describe the way in which your parents handled conflicts. As much as we would like to think that relationships are devoid of conflict, the reality is that all couples disagree at some time or another. Consider the way that your parents responded to this situation. What was the source of conflict in your home? How did each of your parents respond to the conflict? Were such discussions quiet or nosy? Were they held in private or in public? How did they resolve the conflict?
5. Review the way in which respect was demonstrated between your parents. Ideally, a marriage is based on mutual respect and admiration. It is evident to those in the family. In your home, did your parents show respect for each other? If so, what did they do? How did they communicate this respect?
6. List the messages that you internalized about marriage. By observing your parents interact, you probably learned a great deal about marriage. What were the ideas that were conveyed?
7. Elucidate the feelings that your parents instilled in you about yourself.
You may want to share these ideas with another person and get his/her feedback. If you are working with a coach or a Rav/Rebbetzin, he/she might be a good sounding board as well. I suspect that you will find a least one piece of information that you didn’t realize previously that can help you determine the type of person you are looking for, and the type of marriage you would like to have . Please feel free to share your comments and discoveries with me so that I can summarize the results. B’hatzlacha!
About Dr. Chaya Newman:
Born and bred in America, Chaya Newman is a teacher educator who lives with her family in Israel. She works in several post-high school settings teaching English as a Second Language, educational research, and graduate education courses.
She has a passion for understanding the reasons that motivate people to act and think the way they do. She also has applied the one of the main tenets of her dissertation, individual dreams and goals, to her work as a matchmaker on SYAS.
She began her work with singles almost eleven years ago, preferring to work with those over 25. She encourages them to use her as a coach and share any challenges that may arise in their search for their bashert.
Chaya can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; you should put "SYAS Column" as the subject of the email.