Codes of Love: Rethink Your Family, Remake Your Life with Mark Bryan

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Mark Bryan, author of the book 'Codes of Love: Rethink Your Family, Remake Your Life,' will discuss the 'coded' language families often use to communicate, and how understanding this language can strengthen relationships.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Event_Moderator Welcome to WebMD Live. Today we will be discussing "Codes of Love: Rethink Your Family, Remake Your Life," with author Mark Bryan.

Mark Bryan is a Harvard-trained educator and former member of The Dialogue Project at MIT who specializes in human development and psychology. In his new book, "Codes of Love: Rethink Your Family, Remake Your Life," Bryan reveals that families often communicate love in code, using words, actions and behaviors that not only obscure love but sometimes get interpreted as its opposite. He helps individuals crack their family's codes of love and discover renewed closeness. In this live chat event, Bryan will field questions from the WebMD audience about this important topic.

If you would like to ask Mark a question, just type /ask and your question.

Mark, welcome to the show.

Event_Moderator {question presented} What do you mean when you say that families often communicate in code?

Mark_Bryan That many times that words and gestures that are meant to convey love get misunderstood as criticism or control. It can be as simple as mom saying, "Mark, you put on some weight." My initial response may be she's criticizing me. When, if I look for the deeper meaning in her words and ask her, "Mom, why do you ask me that way," it may be that she is concerned about my health. Weight may be an issue in her marriage. When we get to the deeper meanings, we stop reacting in that old way. They can also be very complicated, sometimes reflecting multi generational patterns. Example, the mother whose daughter resents her and has held a grudge because she made her go to the prom 20 years ago. She doesn't know that reason it was important to the mother was that the mother's own prom, when her mother had bought her a dress, though they didn't have the money, she had gone to the prom and it had been her most cherished memory of her childhood. It's only when understanding that why the mom wanted her daughter to go to this prom that we finally see that it wasn't about control but about caring.

Event_Moderator {question presented} Why do families so often obscure their true feelings for one another?

Mark_Bryan I think it's because emotions--we're not taught to deal with emotions and we deal in different ways depending on our temperament, family heritage and our gender. It's also true that emotions are difficult to deal with. ...particularly when the risk of embarrassment or shame or our pride is high.

Event_Moderator {question presented} How dangerous is pride to healthy family relationships?

Mark_Bryan I think pride is dangerous for any of us. It's one of the seven deadly sins. It keeps us from being empathetic or walking in his/her shoes. When I'm prideful, I'll defend my position instead of inquiring and keeping an attitude of curiosity. Pride can be a hurtful emotion in a family because it keeps us from being emotionally connected to those we live with. One of the most important issues and common issues around pride is money. I think that for a man in today's culture, we have to realize when we're talking about the money he makes, we're talking about his identity, his worth in the world. Increasingly, that's happening with women as well. That's why money is the most loaded issue for couples who come into therapy. We need to realize that it represents different things to different people. When we can understand that, we can begin to discuss money in a less volatile way, when it's not so emotionally weighted.

Event_Moderator {question presented} I haven't spoken to my parents in eight years, and I can't believe I've let it go on this long. But how can I possibly re-establish contact with them after all this time?

Mark_Bryan To realize it's never too late. I always say that reunions shouldn't have to happen on a death bed. I planned the Codes of Love, Remember, Reflect, Reframe and Reconnect as a step-by-step process to getting back in emotional contact with our wider family. This is very important because the most important thing we can do in order to fully mature is to establish a person-to-person loving relationship with your parents. I never urge people to go home where it may be dangerous. I say don't go where angels fear to tread. The vast majority of us, even those who can say I hate my family, really are saying that over issues that are mildly to moderately difficult.




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