Falling in love and entering a relationship are some of the most beautiful experiences a human being can have. However, forming a couple can be a bumpy road once the waves of dopamine and serotonin begin to settle…
For some people a committed relationship is a reason to experience stability, security and long-term happiness while for others the reality is far from that. To this second category it all feels like a movie they’ve seen before – great start, bad ending! One of the reasons why many people fail to develop a healthy attachment to someone else and build a lasting relationship is the chain of personal relationships they went through, a chain that can go as far back as early childhood.
In an ideal world, every baby would have a good enough parent to offer them all the love, care and security they need. Later on, people would find partners that understand, support and love them for what they are. In an ideal world people could still make relationship mistakes, but also learn from them in order to make better choices in the future. However, we live in a world far from the ideal where some of us never find that special one. Why? Because previous relationships can shape our understanding of and behaviour in current ones. Here’s a short intro into the dynamic of past and present relationships:
Parental relationships and old wounds
We start learning about relationships as soon as we are born. The way parents/tutors/carers attend to our needs, as well as the attention and the time they pay to us are extremely important in our development as relational beings. When we are babies everything that comes (or doesn’t come) from our parental figures matters. For example, a parent who is physically or emotionally absent can foster unpleasant emotions in their child, from making them feel anxious or insecure to feeling unworthy, unloved and abandoned. Although the child might be too young to consciously label their emotional experiences, they often end up developing a pattern of relationships that will be repeated in other significant human interactions, such as in a romantic couple. Old relationships model the future ones. Hence, they may look for partners who never treat them as a priority, who make them feel worthless and unimportant. Sometimes the person can experience such feelings even if their partner is present and loving, the reason being that they developed a certain pattern based on their primal relationship with their parents. The only model of relationship they know is a faulty one and they will try to repeat it every single time, even if they know and dread the outcome.
It’s important to note that old wounds, like the ones from early childhood, can impact us for a very long time. Without the right understanding and support, they can deprive us of the opportunity to enter and experience authentic happiness in a couple relationship.
Previous couple experiences
In Western societies, most of people don’t end up marrying their first love and living happily ever after. Usually, they have more than one love relationship and learn about the romantic couple as they go. On their way they can face betrayal, absences, cheating, miscommunication and even abuse. Such events have the potential to make them more suspicious when meeting new partners and can seriously affect the interactions with them. For example, someone can feel so hurt by being cheated on that they will start suspecting all men/women to be cheaters. On top of the trust issue they developed, they might unconsciously try to punish the current partner for something the previous one did. Unresolved business comes with us into new relationships and it has the potential to make everyone unhappy.
A mix of causes
Sometimes, a mix of primal and more recent wounds can make us pursue the wrong people or end up in the wrong relationships. Let’s say someone had the experience of an abusive parent. In many cases, this might unconsciously determine them to feel attracted only to people who could easily fit the shoes of the abuser they have known since infancy. In such cases, it is no surprise that after they leave an abusive relationship they start a very similar one. There are also cases when they don’t necessary enter a relationship with an abuser, but they might unconsciously try to provoke their partners to be abusive because they learned that in a love relationship – such as parent-child – violence is an acceptable form of expression between two people who love each other.
There are many other ways in which we are affected by previous experiences and it is a long journey to understanding what a happy, healthy relationship is. The process includes unlearning and re-learning thoughts, feelings and behaviours as well as healing past wounds that stop us from being authentic and romantically happy. Therapy can help identify maladaptive relational patterns, understand their roots and their impact in one’s life, make peace with the past, move on and get ready for a healthy relationship.
If you feel like you need support with all or any of these aspects, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Love is a blessing and we believe everyone deserves to find love and be happy with the ones they love.