How many nights, as a child, did you lie in bed listening to the eruptions of your parents’ dysfunctional relationship, and swear to yourself that when you grew up, you would never allow yourself to be caught in the same tumultuous life? Maybe you’d never even get married. But time passed and the childhood terror faded. Suddenly you found yourself in a mirroring replica of your own childhood all over again.

While it is our hope that this has not been your growing up experience, it is unfortunately an all too common reality for many.

We all grow up as children in environments watching and learning from the adults around us. We all grow up with moments we cherish and with moments we rue. We may not know it, but we are watching the adults deal with life and we are taking notes.

We tell ourselves that “when we grow up” we are going to do this and we are going to do that. But when we grow up we reach into our bag of how to deal with real life and all we find is what we have seen. We do not know another way! That is why at some point of our adulthood it seems like we have replicated everything we said we wouldn’t.

It is said that we marry our parents, whether good or bad, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can be open and honest, sharing our feelings with our partner, embracing the differences as well as the similarities, and we can enact change because now we know how to change. We know how to change because we are no longer children. We are adults who are ready to learn a new way and implement changes in our lives.

The new way is to bring our feelings and discomfort about how to deal with a given situation in our relationship directly to the partner with whom we may see as the source of our discomfort. We do not blame others for how we feel anymore and we are willing to do whatever is necessary to take responsibility for our own behavior.

If we can do just this then we are already enacting change. We are behaving in an honest open way we did not see the adults in our life behave with too often when we were children. We are embracing all parts of our relationship – even the confusions – in a vulnerable way that may have never been modeled for us.

We are now grown up. Now is the time for us to keep our promise and stop getting caught in the tumultuous life we once knew.


This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on their book “One in the Spirit: Meditation Course for Recovering Couples.”



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    Last reviewed: 3 Sep 2013

APA Reference
Leadem, J. (2013). When I Grow Up…. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2015, from


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Elaine Leadem, MSW, LCSW & John Leadem, MSW, LCSW are authors of many books, including One in Spirit & An Ounce of Prevention.
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