April 3, 2024

Why we Repeat the Same Toxic Relationship Patterns—Over & Over Again.

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You’re in love.

You’re happy, you’re grateful, and you know in your heart that you can make this relationship work no matter what.

Everything looks fine, until you’re heartbroken—again. The relationship fails—again. The undeniable connection transforms into indifference—again. You’re alone and sad and confused and wondering what the hell happened this time; you did everything right.

It’s you. But maybe it’s them. Or, simply, it’s not meant to be. Wait—maybe, just maybe, it’s not you. It’s not them. It’s not fate.

It’s what happened to you; it’s your…childhood trauma.

So you double up on your inner work. You look for old patterns and break them. You consciously choose to behave differently. You become a new person.

And so, you meet someone new—again. You’re happy, you’re grateful, and you know in your heart of hearts that this time it will work.

So you do your bit. You ask them to do theirs. Everything looks fine, until the same old patterns show up—again.

It’s a new partner, it’s a new relationship, and you’re supposed to be a new person, yet your triggers and reactions look the same. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are or who you meet, it appears to you that all your relationships are doomed.

So when the whole world goes to sleep and blankets cover your tired, unworthy self, you wonder why you keep repeating the same toxic relationship patterns—over and over again.

Have you been there? I have. I have repeated toxic relationship patterns for as long as I can remember. And although I have always been aware of my childhood traumas and their impact on my adult life, healing them has been arduous.

The truth is it’s hard to admit that we might have failed again. We don’t have the audacity to look in the mirror and say “huh, look at you…miserable all over again.”

So we let go of all that heal yourself bullsh*t. We surrender to our dismal reality and expect our triggers and reactions to resurface any minute now. We accept them. We live with them. We welcome them with arms wide open.

I know what it’s like to feel like a failure just because you keep falling in the same muddy pit. But, what if I told you that you could avoid it? You could actually spot it and walk past it without tripping or falling.

The secret is simple. All you need to know is that we’re creatures of habit. Now that I have a child of my own, I understand how deeply we attach to our primary caregivers. We highly absorb the amount of love and attention that they give us and store it in the back of our minds up until adulthood. We carry what they give us deep in our cells, heart, and soul.

Although we might hardly remember how they have treated us or how genuinely they have loved us, we will, without any doubt, watch their love being manifested in our romantic relationships.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, called this psychic mechanism “repetition compulsion.” It’s an unconscious need to recreate early traumas. Because we are creatures of habit, we repeat what we know and love what feels familiar.

For example, if one of our caregivers was emotionally distant or unavailable, we might grow up chasing partners who exhibit the same emotional absence or unavailability. We think that their looks, attitude, or style attracts us, but it’s not. It’s a trait that they share with our parents, and since we seek the comfort of certainty, that very trait makes them look appealing.

The moment that the neurons in our brains make the connection, that person might feel like home to us; unfortunately, we repeatedly mistake this feeling of familiarity for genuine attraction.

While we think that we have found true, long-lasting love, the truth is we have only found another version of our parents. But we don’t consciously know it. Deep in the pathways of our brains, we think that it’s easier to do what we have always done. Depressing, right? Well, not really. The good news is that we can make a different choice.

We might not even have to leave the person we’re with or seek another relationship. It’s not about finding another person, really.

It’s about finding ourselves.

It’s about detaching from how our parents have loved us and deciding for ourselves how we would like to be loved and treated. It’s not about writing a whole new book; it’s about rewriting our current chapters. That’s all.

But that’s not an easy decision. It’s one of the hardest things that we might have to do in our lifetime. Creating new relationship patterns takes courage, awareness, kindness, patience, and lots of trial and error. We need to rewire our brains and become in control so we don’t recreate the past.

How do we do that? We focus on the present. We focus on our current triggers and reactions and understand where they come from. The only time that we have to access the past is when we need to discover how and where the abuse, hurt, rejection, abandonment, or absence has started.

We communicate with our partner about the importance of being responsive to each other’s needs and desires. Adults, just like children, seek safety and security. We want to feel loved instead of feeling neglected. We need predictability so we can get used to the feeling of protection.

Building new, healthy relationship patterns is a skill. So start with yourself, learn more about yourself and your childhood wounds, and extend that knowledge to your partner. Be aware that your partner might also be recreating an early trauma with you, so make sure to do your bit as you help them heal too.


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