Our upbringing informs our relationships in a remarkable way

Given some reading I’ve done, The Defining Decade by Dr. Meg Jay, a lot of my conversations with friends have circled around how our upbringing informs our relationships. I’ve been lucky to have been going on walks with friends and getting to have conversations about on these sorts of things. It’s intensely personal but getting to college, you realize you get to decide how you want to live. You choose your classes, when you do homework, when you hang out with friends. The way we approach making friends and navigating social situations, both professional and personal, harkens back to the way we were raised. 

Randomly, I just talked to one of my hallmates who actually took a class based on this topic. It’s a small but interesting world.

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Think about it. Did you have parents who allowed you to ask questions and were open to you asking them? Were you told what to think and have since molded your thoughts to whomever you’re with? Our parents and our early childhood relational experience really have informed and molded our thought process. Here’s a curious question: what do you think about cohabitation? Are you for or against it? Think about why. 

One friend I talked to said her parents raised her to think it wasn’t good. Another friend said if people were committed to each other, it can make sense to live together. The messages we received about the way to interact with others informs the way we move in our own relationships. How we navigate it is based on whether or not we agreed with how everyone around us navigated it.

How do you interact socially? Maybe you’re the person who always waits for people to come to you. Or maybe you’re the one who always reaches out. What did you see your parents doing? I know, for me, my mom was always the one keeping up with her friends. I swear she has more best friends than I do. So I find myself reaching out and checking in on people. 

How do you feel about vulnerability? I did a post back on vulnerability ages ago, and I honestly still feel the exact same. It’s hard for me to open up to people partly because my parents were always (and still so) tight lipped when I had deeper questions. I once tried to ask my parents about how they met and all I’ve ever gotten was “on a plane.” Side note: how did you meet your spouse or significant other? I love a good story. But ever since my parents kept so many things close to their chests, I don’t think I’m supposed to share a lot. Because not a lot was shared with me.

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On one hand it makes sense that we learn so much from our families in a relational sense. And for some people, that can scar them. I think it’s important to name that we can see bad things in our families and learn to heal from them. On the other hand, why don’t we learn about this in school? In a more explicit sense? I don’t think there’s necessarily a perfect way to be social and move forward in relationships, but I do think that there are principles we all could learn from and be reminded of.

It would be helpful to know the signs of toxic relationships and how to seek help out of that. Perhaps learning about social norms from generations prior – what worked, what didn’t and why. Maybe looking at the psychology and sociology behind happy relationships. Thinking about communication strategies – some people use words and some people use actions. 

I just want to be the most happy I can be with the relationships I have. And that takes work. And time and effort. But I want to try and learn more about my experience with how my parents did relationships versus what I see around me now. 

Paramore’s song The Only Exception starts by saying “When I was younger I saw my daddy cry, And curse at the wind. He broke his own heart and I watched, As he tried to reassemble it. And my momma swore, That she would never let herself forget. And that was the day that I promised, I’d never sing of love if it does not exist.” A literal reflection on how Hayley Williams’s upbringing affected her view on love. This is what it means to analyze how our upbringing informs our relationships.

Another side note: Hayley Williams came out with her 2nd solo album and I will definitely be doing a post about it!

Our upbringing informs our relationships in ways we may not even realize until we reflect. But I don’t think that that’s something we are encouraged to do in society. Yes, we talk to our friends about our significant others. And we talk to our significant others about our friends. But I think we sit down with the people we love and ask them if we love them well. If we’ve showed up for them well. Or the mistakes we’ve made and how we could be better. I’m not sure we’re as open and honest like that. It could be that it’s just me. But then, I’ll have a better sense of the way my upbringing has shaped me.

Given my interest in this topic, I am actually taking a class called Sociology of the Family (YES, I finally finalized my schedule!). I’m excited to learn about our society’s past cultural norms when it comes to “family values” and how it compares to our values today. It’ll be the 1st class I have in person since a year ago! Which is wild. Anyway, we’ll be discussing the conservative, centrist, and liberal/feminist view of love, dating, and courtship this week, which is in line with what I’m talking about here.

Our upbringing informs our relationships in pivotal ways – how we communicate and perceive communication from others, whether or not we make initial contact, whether we make room for friendships in our lives or take a more relaxed approach (it’ll happen when it happens). I just want to take a more active approach in reflecting on our relationships and showing up as a better, more healthy person in those relationships.

What are your thoughts? Comment down below. Tell me stories about your upbringing, how you met your spouse, or your thoughts on cohabitation.

Signing off,


The gifs are linked here and here and here and here.

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