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Family of Origin

Your family of origin is the family you were raised in whether or not this was your biological family. There are certain ways that you interact with your family of origin and environment. Each person in the family has influenced the thinking and behaviour of the other family members.

The most significant system a person will have is his or her family of origin. Whatever affects one individual will affect all of the family and vice versa.

Families can offer a safe place that provides a sense of belonging, nurturing and support. Conversely, family experiences can be detrimental to a person’s well-being, sense of self and self-worth when there has been neglect or emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse.

No family is perfect! Most often there are positive dynamics as well as negative ones in any family system. It is important to acknowledge strengths and growth areas in your family.

Non-abusive family experiences can still lead to struggles in areas of functioning and daily living. It is important to note that even challenging or difficult experiences can lead to adaptive coping abilities, character building and the acquiring of certain strengths.

You will have recognizable similarities to your parents in appearance, behaviour, values, mannerisms, temperament, personality preferences and ethics. Some behaviours are learned while others are inherited.

Family members impart values and ethics by modeling them. Children learn by observing the actions and verbal messages of their parents.

You learned positive values and ethical behaviour by being taught through words and demonstration in daily living. For example, if your parents spoke about the importance of being honest, how was this demonstrated in your home when you were a child? Can you recall specific values that were taught and expressed in your family of origin?

Family Matters

Your family of origin has impacted you and helped shape the person you are today. Whether the experience was positive or negative, you are in a family line and are the inheritor of family traditions, values and ways of doing things (such as communicating), being close to others and so on. This is true for your partner as well.

The environment or community in which you grew up has also impacted you in all aspects of your life. Both of you may have strong feelings about your ethnic or cultural heritage. Couples you need to respect your partner’s family of origin.

You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you.

Often times our view of the world around us, our perceptions of our partner’s actions and words, or even our consideration of what’s “logical” or “normal” is the result of being raised in a particular family. Our family of origin influences each of us far more than we are usually aware. Your feelings, moods, views of life, sense of what is right and wrong, internal sense of what’s important and what isn’t; all of this has been largely shaped by your family of origin. Even your idiosyncrasies may be the result of the home in which you were raised.

A good way to visualize how your family of origin has influenced who you are today is to imagine that through all your years of growing up you were packing your suitcase for a long vacation away from mom and dad.

The types of clothes you pack, what seems important to you to take on this long vacation and what seems unimportant, all represent the values, behaviours, thoughts, feelings and idiosyncrasies that you bring to your marriage.
A set of five vintage-looking suitcases and luggage sitting on top of the roof of a car.

Remember you will bring luggage filled with family “possessions” to your marriage. Unfortunately, you could spend the rest of your life carrying that luggage around, guarding the contents as if they were priceless jewels revealing only parts of them to your partner in defensive ways.

Some of your luggage is beautiful and worth keeping and some is harmful and should be discarded. If you are finding letting go challenging, consider speaking to a counsellor who will help you to unpack all of it and move forward with what will be beneficial.


Teresa Hartnett


905-528-7988 Ext. 2250
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Sarah Lintott

Office Administrator

905-528-7988 Ext. 2249
Send Email