Building Better Marriages

By Rob Furlong

Are past generations crippling your family?


The true story is told of a family in which three successive generations of women passed down an unusual instruction for a pot roast that involved cutting off its sides before placing it into the pot.

It was not until the daughter asked her mother about this that the grandmother explained that as a young wife she had to cut the sides off to make it fit in a small pot!

That humorous story does highlight that a family will pass on many things from generation to generation that often go unquestioned, sometimes with devastating consequences.

The following true story illustrates the disastrous consequences for people when a family has poor relational skills.

The grandfather in this family had made a habit of lying about his wife in order to save his own neck and this often placed her in highly risky and dangerous situations that threatened her honour.

Oblivious to the trouble that this had caused his father, the son fell into the same pattern of deceitfulness, mimicking exactly Dad’s example with his own wife. In time, his younger son fell into relationships with two women, sired children by both of them as well as with two others!

A pattern of a lack of respect for the women in their lives had been clearly laid down by three generations of men and it ultimately ended in division, pain and much unhappiness for the family of the third generation — brother was set against brother and the wives constantly competed for the love of their husband.

This lack of respect is often handed on in many families today being not so much taught as it is caught by each generation. If your son discovers your secret stash of porn or hears you speak in a demeaning way about the women in your life, don’t be surprised if he grows up with the view that women can be lied to, mistreated and are only good for satisfying his own desires.

The family we have been discussing also had a terrible problem with singling out specific children as the “favoured one” of the parents. This hurtful practice became progressively worse with each subsequent family unit until by the third generation their biographer wrote that the father loved his youngest son “more than the others” and that the brothers, in turn, hated their brother. It ultimately led to them faking their brother’s death and keeping this guilty secret from their father for twenty years!*

It has been well documented that Sir Frank Packer’s eldest son, Clyde, was his favourite whereas he referred to Kerry as the “idiot son”. Being raised in that environment shaped Kerry Packer in many ways, but as successful as he was you would not hold him up as a model for how to maintain or build relationships — he was capable of great loyalty but equally capable of great vindictiveness toward those he had fallen out with, often over trivial matters.

The family that we grew up in has impacted and shaped our lives in many ways — some good, some not so good — and this is particularly seen in the ways in which we conduct ourselves in our relationships with others.

How is the family that you grew up in, negatively impacting you, your own family and your other relationships today?

What are the patterns that you or those closest to you have observed over the years? What changes do you need to make and how are you going to go about implementing them? We shall address these questions next month!

  • The full story of the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can be found in Genesis 12-50.
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