Defining Love By Our Parents Stories

Jasbina Ahluwalia discusses with  Abby Rodman, author of  Should You Marry Him? A No-Nonsense, Therapist-Tested Guide to Not Screwing Up the Biggest Decision of Your Life how people define marriage based on what their parents show them:

This is one of the last quotes that I’m going to share from your book. You have a chapter entitled, Theirs and Ours: Making Your Marriage Your Own. South Asian cultures are extremely family centric.

Defining Love By Our Parents Stories – Marrying the family

Here is the quote. “You and your fiancée unwittingly absorbed healthy and unhealthy ways of interacting from your parents. Think about what you learned about communication from them.

If you can’t objectively analyze what went on in your parents’ marriages, start by telling stories about them. When did you see them the happiest? What did they fight about?”

I thought that was a great tip. It can be hard to objectively analyze someone else’s marriage. You mentioned at another point in your book that you don’t really know what’s going on in someone else’s relationship. It’s a dynamic that two people share. As a third person, no matter how close you are, you can’t quite touch it to see what that is.

Telling stories about your parents can jog your memory. When were they the happiest? What were the issues that seemed to separate them? I’d love for you to give us an example or red flag from what you’ve seen things played out with your work with individuals and couples.



Abby Rodman

It’s a good question. I’ve always maintained that it’s not actually just two people getting married. It’s six people getting married. You’re bringing your parents into it and he’s bringing his parents into it.

Our Parents Stories: Acknowledging learned behaviors

There are ways that we learn of communicating that we learn from our parents. It’s not only in terms of how we talk to each other.

  • It’s also in terms of how domestic chores were divided
  • How money was handled
  • As well as how anger and disappointment were handled.

There are so many levels to what we witness in our own parents that we bring that right into the marriage with the expectation that the other person had pretty much the same thing.

The reality is, that’s not true. The other person may have observed a completely different dynamic with his parents.

His expectation is that the marriage will be similar to what he witnessed as he was growing up. It’s really important to be as detailed as possible. You have to break it down. Don’t assume that you’re on the same page.


Our Parents Stories: Negotiating behaviors

Negotiate. One of the things that’s so important, and what I want every listener to absorb, is that couples need contracts. This is a lifelong partnership that you’re entering into.

The point being that, if you’re going to enter into a business contract with someone, you would know what the negotiable points were, they would be negotiated.

What happens when two people marry is, sometimes, they don’t really want to do that dirty work.

  • That kind of negotiation is not that much fun.
  • It can be a little unpleasant
  • Maybe some sparks arise.

We tend not to want to do that, especially when we’re in the happy moment of getting married. It’s so important that you both look at your families of origin and how marital issues were handled.


Our Parents Stories: Love and its perception

I have a quick example from my book. A young woman came to see me who had tolerated very bad, poor behavior from her boyfriend.

In order to make up for his bad behavior, the boyfriend would come to her with grandiose gestures. He would bring dozens of roses and all kinds of big ways of apology. She couldn’t understand why she was forgiving him time and again.

Then we traced it back to her parents. In a slightly different way but very similarly, her father would behave in the same way.

Her father would also act badly and apologize to the mother with very grandiose gestures. That was a kind of pattern that she came to expect in a relationship because that’s what she saw in her own parents.

She was willing to accept that kind of behavior rather than step back and say, “Woah, okay. I’m doing this because I saw my parents do it.”


Tell Us:

Sharing our parents stories is so crucial. Did you discover any behaviors in your relationship and then realized it came from his or her parents? Give us your feedback in the comments section below.


The above is an excerpt from Jasbina’s interview with Abby Rodman.

The entire interview transcript is at: Abby Rodman Interview – Should I Marry Him: A Guide Not to Screw Up

Listen to the entire interview on: Intersections Match Talk Radio – Jasbina’s Lifestyle Show

Listen to the entire interview on Blog Talk Radio: Should I Marry Him – Abby Rodman

Listen to the entire interview on iTunes