Coming from an Unhealthy Family: How it’s Affecting Your Marriage

Coming from an Unhealthy Family: How it’s Affecting Your Marriage

Among couples who come to see me for marriage counseling in Raleigh, NC, one or both partners often come from unhealthy families. The behaviors, relationships, and beliefs of their nuclear families shaped them into personalities they are today. In short, people who come from unhealthy families are often products of their families, so their childhood experiences often affect relationships they build as adults.

I have a client who was from the beginning aware that his wife was raised in a dysfunctional family but he also knew that she is a good person who struggles to cope with her past. During our marriage counseling in Raleigh, NC sessions we are working on both their marriage issues and strains of an unhealthy family that his wife has brought into their relationships.

Can you Rise above Your Unhealthy Family?

Some people that come for my marriage counseling in Raleigh, NC say that they have risen above their unhealthy families to lead happy, fulfilled lives. On the other hand, others still feel entangled with the dynamics of their dysfunctional families.

If you grew up in an unhealthy family but haven’t developed healthy coping mechanisms, you could easily end up trapped in another unhealthy family as an adult. You may struggle with communication, trust issues, and have troubles expressing your feelings and needs in a relationship.

When the two people commit to a relationship with each other, they don’t just get each other. They bring their “baggage” into this relationship as well. And this sometimes includes the members of their unhealthy family that have always been a part of their life.

It is not always easy to spot the connection between an unhealthy family and marriage issues, though. For example, you and your partner have been stuck in the same pattern in your relationship where you are always accusing him of a lack of attention and affection. Each evening when you put kids to bed, he grabs his phone, drifting from you and the conversation. When you ask him if he’s OK, he gets annoyed. When you want to start a conversation, you hit the wall.  You constantly worry about his feelings and feel responsible when he is in the bad mood. And this pattern repeats for days, months, and years.

During the marriage counseling in Raleigh, NC, you may come to a knowledge that the root of the problem in your marriage isn’t in your relationship but in your childhood experiences. Your pattern of relating to others was shaped long before you met your partner – the way your parents related to you has imprinted certain thought patterns and behaviors. And if you’re coming from an unhealthy family, it is most likely that you had some hurtful experiences that resulted in an impaired attachment style, which now handicaps your marriage.

There are five attachment or love styles set in motion in your childhood that can harm your marriage:

§  The Pleaser

§  The Avoider

§  The Controller

§  The Victim

§  The Vacillator

One or combination of these styles can describe you as a spouse. So let’s delve into them a bit.

The Pleaser. As a child, you always tried to be good and well-behaved in order to keep your parents from being angry. You’re often anxious and always worried about other people’s feelings. That’s why you constantly monitor your partner’s mood and always try to avoid tension in your relationship.

The Avoider. Your family discouraged the expression of feelings and needs and you never really bonded with them. As an adult, you are distant and independent, not knowing how to deal with your feelings.

The Vacillator. Your parents used to connect in sporadic and unpredictable ways, giving you just enough connection to make you desire more. In your adult relationship, you are hypersensitive to signs of attention and rejection. You struggle with trust and cannot open up with your partner.

The Controller. You grew up with parents with serious problems such as mental illness or addiction. As an adult, you don’t allow yourself to be put in a position where you feel the same pain. You want to be in control so you don’t feel powerless again.

The Victim. You grew up as a submissive and fearful child, learning to tolerate mistreatment and abuse. You struggle with self-esteem and confidence and have intimacy issues which damages your mental health and your relationships.


Emotional injuries from your childhood can significantly affect your emotional health and your ability to build strong, positive relationships. In order to have a fulfilling relationship with your partner, you need to rebuild your idea of a relationship first. This involves facing your past and your pain and learning to accept comfort from your significant other.

I hope this information helps you learn more about how growing up in an unhealthy family can affect your marriage. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call at (703)-347-3200 for your free of charge 15-min consultation and/or to schedule an appointment in my Wake Forest office or online.


Irina Baechle,LCSW is a founder, owner, and a licensed therapist at IrinaBaechleCounselingLLC. She specializes in helping distant couples and anxious singles build truly connected and meaningful relationships. She currently offers online and in-home counseling services to residents of Virginia and North Carolina (and most countries abroad). Click here to schedule your free 15 min consultation. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Youtube for useful tips and resources.

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