"Please pass the ham."

As recipes and cooking may be passed down from generation to generation, so too are the origins of our capacity to love and to be loved. These family influences ultimately shape our unique, personal love maps.

There is a story that surfaced several years ago about a newly married couple. It makes a strong point concerning the development of love behaviors and interaction patterns within families.

In preparation for their first big dinner with both sets of parents and grandparents, the new husband was puzzled as he watched his bride put the ham in the oven. He inquired of her, “Honey, why did you cut the ham in half and then put it in the pan?”

She replied, “Oh, I don’t know…I suppose because that’s how Mom always did it. It must help it cook faster or something.”

At dinner that evening, the bride asked her mother, “Mom, why do you cut the ham in half before you bake it?”

The mother, baffled by her daughter’s question, thoughtfully replied, “I suppose it’s because that’s always how my mom did it.”  All eyes in the room turned on the bride’s grandmother for an explanation.

The grandmother, quite amused, chuckled and said, “When I was first married I didn’t have a pan large enough for the ham to fit in—so I always cut it into two halves and just kept doing it that way. I guess I just got accustomed to making ham that way!”

As this story illustrates, more often than not we don’t give much thought to our behaviors. We do them simply because that’s how we’ve become accustomed to doing them. We do them because this is what we’ve been taught, because it’s what we’ve so often observed.

So it is with much of what makes up marriage, intimate relationships, and family life—we love others and allow others to love us the way we learned from the families that raised us. We communicate the ways we were taught to. We parent the way we were parented. We argue the ways we were taught to. We manage finances the way we were taught to. We express intimacy the way we were taught to. We cope with stress and crises the way we were taught to.

Experience by experience, your love map is written. And this becomes a part of who you are. It becomes your set of expectations, it becomes your marriage script.

Now, all is fine and dandy if we marry someone who was raised exactly like us. But this isn’t reality, is it?

What are some ways that you and your partner differ in the ways that you love each other?

Photo Credit: What What (flickr.com)

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