Family Influences

By Mark Rivett

13 Relationship Tips

Couple and Family therapist Mark Rivett teaches you about the patterns you inherit from your family of origin and how these may influence your relationship.

Case Studies

Learn from case studies of couples Mark has worked with and how they navigated common family patterns.


Put into practice what you're learning with exercises to do either by yourself or with your partner.

What You'll Learn

The impact of family scripts on your relationship

How to manage and change these scripts

How to build a healthy boundary around your relationship

Course Tips

Meet your new instructor: Mark Rivett, Director of Family Therapy Training at Exeter University. In this first session, Mark explains how this course will help you to understand the influences that your ‘family of origin’ have on your relationship.
Drawing Your Family Tree
A family tree is a symbol-based diagram of the people in your family and a popular tool used by family therapists. Mark helps you to draw your family tree by drawing up his own as an example.
Learning From Your Family Tree
Mark helps you unpick your family tree by thinking about two things it may have taught you about couple relationships: how they should be structured, and how emotions should be managed within them.
Uncovering Family Rules
Family rules are what we learn from our families about ‘the way things are done’, such as how people should behave and feel. Mark discusses the impact that these rules can have in relationships.
Changing Family Scripts
Mark moves on to discuss family scripts, which are rules that have been handed down through multiple generations. He describes 3 ways that we can manage these scripts: replicate them, correct them, or improvise them.
Closeness and Distance
Mark turns back to family trees and gets us thinking about how our families handled closeness and distance. Were we close, distant, or hostile with our siblings and parents? What might this mean for our relationship?
Communicating Closeness and Distance
How do you communicate your needs for closeness and distance as a couple? Mark introduces the idea that some couples do this in a 'competitive' way, while others do it in an 'adaptive' way.
People Getting In Between You
Mark describes how family members can get in between you and your partner and that sometimes this interference is ‘invited’. He gives you a few golden rules for managing this process.
Gender Patterns In Your Family
Of all the patterns that couples inherit from their families, those relating to gender are probably the most significant. Mark discusses some examples you may have learnt and whether or not you'd like to continue them.
Gender and Power In A Relationship
One theme that is crucial when we think about gender is power. Mark reflects on how a gendered power imbalance can affect intimate relationships in negative ways.
Managing Differences
No matter who our partner is, there will always be differences. Mark discusses what we may have learnt from our families of origin about how to deal with differences when they inevitably arise.
Being a Unique Together
Mark looks at some ways that you and your partner can build a boundary around your relationship to consciously manage each of your families’ influences on it.
In our final session, Mark recaps on the course and talks about how, regardless of the family influences we have been exposed to, it is up to us to build strong, new, and personal relationships.

About Mark Rivett

Couple and Family Therapist

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