You start a new relationship. Everything is great.
As time goes on, however, you begin to notice small things that make you feel uncomfortable. You start having little tiffs, then bigger arguments.
There are things that concern you, maybe you feel disrespected, or you begin to mistrust the person. Maybe there is anger, even abuse. No matter how hard you try to resolve things, you keep going around in circles. It all seems very familiar; you’ve been here before, you've had the exact same problems in other relationships
You’re thinking to yourself:
Why do I keep having the same relationship problems, over and over?
We often operate within our current relationships based on our experiences in former relationships, especially the experiences of our earliest relationships– with our caregivers.
Your parents and other caregivers were the first people who taught you what relationships were about. You paid great attention; this information became the messages that influenced the way you would see yourself, others and the world from then on.
Parents, teachers, other caregivers: they were the very first people in your life who taught you what relationships were about. Those people were highly significant - they taught you everything about the world in which you lived. You paid great attention, not only to their words, but also to their tone of voice, their moods, their body language, and how they behaved.
All this information became the messages that led you to conclude what life was about and what you should expect your place to be in the world. Most importantly those messages influenced the way you would see yourself in relationship to others from then on.
Some of their messages were, of course, wonderful—you were treated with love and affection, given attention, and regarded as a treasured and worthy little person.
But of course it’s only natural that some of their messages were less than helpful because they were most likely busy with life; perhaps juggling work and family and trying to fulfill their own needs and everyone else’s. So some friction will have occurred that left you feeling hurt, rejected and “not good enough”
They may even have been in abusive, unhealthy relationships themselves.
So for you; this is what you learnt relationships looked like. this is what you came to expect.
How Early Relationships Show Up in Current Ones
There are some big clues to identify when your early childhood relationships are showing up in current adult ones. Some typical signs are when you have problems with the following:
Looking at this list you can see these are emotionally focused issues. And all of them are based on not feeling good enough in some way. They will have impacted your relationships as you grew up, then reinforced those ideas with your next relationships, and so on down the line. This is why you may end up wondering why you keep having the same relationship problems
Why Can’t I Leave My Past Relationships in the Past?
All those early experiences have accumulated as information in your subconscious in the form of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, senses. they form the beliefs you have about yourself and others and what to expect from people. The subconscious mind actually dictates around 95% of the thoughts, feelings and choices you make. It’s often the case that you think a person is behaving towards you in a certain way but are they? Or are you perceiving their behaviour through the filter of those early hurts and let downs?
How To Find Out If Your Past Is Controlling Your Current Relationships
A helpful way to begin noticing your belief patterns is to answer the following questions:
When this person does or doesn’t ……… it makes me feel……….
A much earlier time in my life I can recall this feeling was………..
And I was scared/ worried that ……………….
Now I often expect that.............
Do You Keep Attracting the Same Type of Person into Your Life?
If you're approaching your relationships from unhelpful beliefs, it's likely that you have certain expectations about how relationships 'should be'.
Thus you'll keep attracting the same types of people into your life because subconsciously they seem familiar to you. This just reinforces the beliefs that you started out with - and so it continues on in a cycle.
A good therapist or counsellor can help you untangle the past and get clear on this. Once you do so, you'll be able to let go of the self questioning - “Is it me that’s in the wrong, or is it them?” Then you'll be able to work on the issues that belong to you, and , start attracting the right people into your life too.
Marléne Rose Shaw is a therapist, coach and self-help author; with over 25 years professional experience helping people become more confident, overcome anxiety and have happier relationships.