Can Looking at Your Childhood Strengthen Your Marriage?

Can Looking at Your Childhood Strengthen Your Marriage? - Parenting Like HannahWant to raise a child to be a strong Christian? Want your kids to stay away from drugs, alcohol and premarital sex? Want them to be emotionally and psychologically healthy? Read any books or articles on those topics and one of the top suggestions is usually for their parents to have a strong, healthy marriage. Just like everything else, it’s no guarantee, but the odds improve greatly for any children raised in a home where their parents have a strong marriage and parent together.

As a result, I am always interested in any new resource designed to strengthen marriages. So, I was naturally curious when offered the chance to review a classic in marriage books, How We Love (Expanded Edition), by Milan and Kay Yerkovich.

Originally published in 2008, this expanded version of the book has some new material and new diagrams. Since this is my first exposure to the book, I can’t really comment on the extra content. The current version honestly has some great things and some aspects that concern me.

First, the good news. The authors make a valid case that often the conflicts and issues we have in our marriage are the result of things that happened outside of the marriage – often during childhood or the teen years. They also have great tips for getting your spouse to share about his/her past in hopes of gaining valuable insight into why they say and do the things they do. I believe the method can create empathy and understanding in areas where there may have been only judgment and disapproval before.

Having said this, I believe the book is actually better suited for people who counsel others on their marriages (especially in a lay capacity) or who want to avoid common parenting mistakes. The authors are meticulous in describing common parenting mistakes and how they can touch the relationships of the adult the child eventually becomes. They also group and label several “love styles” combining what they see as commonalities into four groups – avoiders, pleasers, vacillators and chaotics  (controllers and victims). They then dissect these love styles and describe the issues they can bring to a marriage and how to work on each style’s weaknesses.

Which brings me to the bad news. While in theory I agree with much of what they share, I believe for someone in a struggling marriage, it is just way too much information. The origin of each style is presented in such a way that just about anyone who didn’t already have issues with their parents could now have major issues with their parents (at one point the authors throw in a basically “you can tackle those issues later”). After going on and on about how your parents probably messed you up in some way, they throw in a paragraph or so about how those issues may not have anything to do with your parents at all, but from the many other people who have touched your life.

I also don’t remember seeing anything about any possible genetic link to issues like anxiety. In general, the casual reader will come to the conclusion every problem they have is the fault of their parents. It’s just a bit simplistic to me – especially since a huge part of the book is devoted to going into great detail about all of the mistakes your parents probably made.

While there is some accuracy to their “love styles”, I believe they too are overly simplistic. In general, I am not a fan of labels. I have found with many people it just adds fuel to their conflict – “Of course you think that way, you are a (insert label).” I also found it disturbing that apparently there are no good parents or marriages. We all seem to be deeply scarred and/or flawed. While no parent or marriage partner is perfect, there are plenty of both who have done a fairly decent job.

When you finally get to the advice in the last part of the book, it is probably good advice for any relationship. Most of us could probably learn some healthier habits from the advice the authors give to each “love style”. In fact, that’s my advice to both readers and the authors. Unless you really want to dig deeply into why you or others may do what they do, skip the entire first part of the book. Don’t worry about which “love style” you may be. Read the sections on how to get your spouse to open up and share their past so you can understand them better. Then read the marriage advice for every style and make sure you are doing things that make you and your marriage healthier. (To the authors: Consider a tighter version next time. It would be an easier read and ultimately help more people as a result.)

In the end, this book may very well help your marriage if you can read the entire book. Fair warning though, it probably won’t do much for your relationship with your parents – and may hurt what was once a fairly decent relationship with them.




This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.


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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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