Family Legacies: The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Every family creates legacies. There are different kinds of legacies; some we strive to maintain, others we struggle with. If we think about some of these legacies long enough we may come to see some as destructive, undermining our relationship: unnoticed detours to closeness and intimacy. The Online Merriam-Webster Dictionary ( defines legacy as:  “Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” We can see how important it is to be mindful of these legacies: the good, bad and the ugly.

Positive legacies involve family traditions we have experienced in our family of origin and want to bring into our own relationships, ways we celebrate: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, take care of sick family members, approach vacations, etc. These kinds of legacies truly are gifts from our ancestors, predictable rituals of connection and family life.

Recently, some couples I am working with addressed some painful, not positive legacies from their families: alcoholism, rage, and emotional aloofness to name three. These discussions were important because these legacies were unnoticed, unnamed detours, shaping behaviors, views, and perspectives of themselves and their relationships.  As we began to explore the impact of family history on the current relationship new awareness’s emerged, ultimately helping to these couples to see and understand their own reactions. Decisions to do things differently offered hope for change and tools to establish new rituals and traditions.
Consider with your partner what traditions (legacies) you want to maintain in your family relationships. Are there new rituals you would like to start?

See blog: Emotional Legacies: How Do You Feel About Feelings? (March 22, 2009)

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