When you consider going into a new relationship, it is important that you become as aware as possible of yourself in past relationships. Many people are quite blind about the way they get involved in relationships. ‘I don’t know how it happened’, ‘it was inevitable’, ‘there was an instant attraction’ many will say! As if there were no choice points along the way. Why is it important to know about your patterns in relationships? So that you can improve the way in which you choose and cooperate with the attractions in your life AND so that you do not have to repeat the failures you have known.

Relationship PatternsPsychology has many theories regarding relationship choices. One of them comes from Harville Hendrix (author of Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples). Harville Hendrix would say that we unconsciously try to recreate our current relationships from our past relationships with our mom and dad in the hopes that we will be able to receive from this new relationship what we did not receive in our early relationships. I describe it to my clients as a kind of mulligan (in golf) or a “do over”. This unconscious drive to heal the past in this way is strong. Investigating your past relationships can be helpful so that you are not repeating what you do not want and that you are aware of how you personally get involved in relationships.

To become more aware of your relationship patterns, write down all the important relationships you have had in your life, beginning with your parents. Use a separate page for each person and write down what attracted you to these people, including what you saw as their strengths. Then write down the negative qualities you experienced over time. Finally, write down your feelings, both positive and negative as you were involved in this relationship. Circle each of the words that are the same or similar in each person and category. Using these words, you can write out the following statement, I am attracted to people who are _______ and who then turn out to be _______. During this process I feel _______. You are likely to notice that you have unintentionally repeated some family patterns.

What will you do with this information? Being aware is the first step. Noticing what you are attracted to and then how things turn out later can help you be more aware of your decision points. What do you need to watch out for? How do you get hooked in while you are not noticing? Make some concrete decisions based on your current life plan. How does what you are attracted to stand in the way of what you actually want for your life? Make some decisions about when you will call it quits in your dating so that you don’t find yourself trying to have a mulligan and wasting another couple of years in an unsatisfactory relationship.

This process is quite revelatory and helpful to your future relationships. Hope you find it useful! Go forth and be wonderful!

© Lynda Chalmers 2011

Disclaimer: The information presented here is intended for educational purposes only, not for diagnosis and treatment and is not intended to be a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional that is familiar with your particular situation. There is also no guarantee being made as a result of information provided or the counseling services offered.