Even though we live 60 percent longer than we did only a hundred years ago, Code argues that we overreact to everything: “from road rage and helicopter parenting to insomnia, depression, and excessive medication. Therefore, it should be no surprise that we’re overreacting to our spouses more and getting divorced at an alarming rate.” How do we break this vicious cycle? To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First says we need to recognize that “when we’re anxious, we may see things exactly backward. Our anxiety causes us to have “issues,” rather than our issues causing us to have anxiety.”
While Eclipse, the most recent movie in the Twilight saga, has popularized the phrase imprinting, Code writes that it’s actually just a “fancy word for how families “train” their offspring to behave through relationships.” And it is not as simple as passing one role down from generation to another. It’s more like a “monkey see, monkey feel” situation, with our kids picking up on all our anxiety. Although this instinct kept us safe during life in the wild, the contagious anxiety isn’t conducive for modern living.
“In life, our family has dealt us the hand we are playing. Some cards are aces, and some are just deuces. The problem is that we sometimes beat ourselves up or blame others if our hand is crummy. In fact, most of your hand was dealt before you were old enough to have any say in the matter. Your family has its habitual ways of acting, reacting, and overreacting, and your family members began to subtly, unconsciously imprint the family’s behavior on you from the day you were born.”
Still, Code maintains it’s not too late to take charge. “Many people tend to see their relationships and conflicts as random and accidental, almost as if “fate” acted on them. In fact, many aspects of conflict in our relationships are predictable, repetitive, and within our control.” Therefore, Code doesn’t suggest going in search of greener pastures; rather To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First makes the case that “chemistry” ensures that we are attracted to someone that “has the same level of anxiety as us. So opposites may well attract, at least in terms of outward personality traits, but the level of inner anxiety is the same in both spouses.” According to Code, Mother Nature has already scoped out the perfect mate for you.
The key to stopping a good marriage from going bad is “to learn how anxiety controls so much of our behavi or. The reason your partner isn’t already perfect may be more about your perceptions rather than his or her actual flaws. Once you learn how to control and reduce your anxiety, you will increasingly accept what used to bug you about your partner (and about yourself).”
Face it. Whether your Team Edward or Team Jacob, deep down you know that these beautiful movie stars are just people, equally as capable of “protecting” you from the truth or becoming jealous of another. Sooner or later, even a vampire shows signs of being human. So why not rise above the ugly behaviors of your instincts, as Code suggests, and train yourself to recognize when anxiety is causing you to attack or avoid your parents, spouse, and children. The happily-ever-after you create just may be your own.