Not only does learning about our childhood patterns help us to recover from divorce and participate in future relationships more effectively, it can also serve as a preventative measure for good relationships.

The Inner Parent

As humans we have many parts (angry parts, sad parts, jokester parts) they give us a variety of ways of responding to the people and situations in our lives. Ultimately the greatest benefit comes from relating to others from the adult. The adult part of us has the ability to wisely orchestrate other parts that are needed. It asks the question, “What is appropriate now?”

The Inner Parent

  • Our inner-parent helps us organize our world by rules and information. Knowing the rules saves us time and emotional energy in choosing behavior. The parent knows what to do. An authentic parent is solid, reliable and can be depended upon.
  • The other function of the parent state is to help us parent our own children. If we like the way our parents raised us we will most likely duplicate their parenting style. If we don’t think they did it right we must take on new parenting techniques, which can be challenging but worth the effort.

The nurturing parent:

  • Is very comforting to the people around them
  • Does things unselfishly for others
  • Gives of themselves freely
  • Gives praise, hugs and compliments to those around them
  • Is altruistic and very much concerned with the needs of others

The critical parent:

  • Is judgmental and moralistic
  • Has high expectations of self and others
  • Makes us feel guilty when we do things contrary to the adult ego state
  • Can be perfectionistic

Most of us have been on the receiving end of a critical parent-type at one time or other in our lives. Be it an actual parent, a spouse, a coach, a baby sitter, or other authority figure. Nurturing and criticism are both powerful behaviors that can affect us at deep levels. Ask a young child if they like their teacher and they will usually give one of two answers: The teacher is either nice, or mean. We have that choice in relating to others as well.

How these strategies affect adult love

We can bring both the nurturing and the critical parent voices to our adult romantic relationships with mixed results.

  • Nurturing one another after a hard day out in the world at large can be very healing to a relationship. Doing things for a partner that they should be doing for themselves is damaging for both. It creates dependence, irresponsibility and promotes addiction. We develop over-nurturing or caretaking behavior when we believe we must take care of our caregivers to get what we need as little people. “If I am nice, they will love me.”
  • Criticism rarely serves a relationship, although to critique what is working or not working can be useful. Criticism demeans the person. Critiquing takes a removed look at behavior without blame. Critical behavior comes by trying to please the unpleasable or perfectionistic parent. “If I am perfect, they will love me.”

What is appropriate now?

As with all behaviors, our parenting behaviors come to us by example. Also, as with all behaviors, if we become aware of the power and effect of each behavior we can CHOOSE the behavior that is most useful. To nurture your partner as a compassionate adult is very different than doing things for your partner to get love. To be an adult and yet accept nurturing after a crappy day is very different than needing to be nurtured to feel ok about yourself.

Remember that it is the adult that has the ability to wisely orchestrate the other voices. The question is always: “What is appropriate now?” Sometimes parent behavior (doing the nurturing) is appropriate. Sometimes child behavior (receiving nurturing) is appropriate. And it is always the adult that best determines which is appropriate now