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Why We Repeat Destructive Relationship Patterns

Have you heard the saying that you repeat what you know? Or the pain you know is less painful than the unknown? It’s not difficult to understand why we repeat what we learn as children. During those peak developmental periods of our lives, we rely entirely on parents and caregivers to show us the way. They share their beliefs and values and begin the process of equipping us with the skills to grow into productive adults.

In the best-case scenario parents and caregivers would be able to offer their children love, acceptance, appreciation, encouragement, and guidance. It is through these qualities we become strong, stable, and secure.

But during those vital years, we are also exposed to dysfunctional relationships, negative patterns, and behaviors that are learned and passed down from generation to generation.

We repeat what we don’t repair

Even when you know something is wrong or unhealthy, it’s hard to change; it’s always easier to keep doing what you’ve always done than to learn and apply new skills. This is especially true in stressful situations. When your nervous system is overwhelmed, your emotions feel out of control, and your body is flooded with adrenaline, it’s extremely challenging to behave in a different way. You will automatically shift into your default patterns.

There is no quick answer or fix to this. However, you can begin to look at some of those repeat patterns and explore where they came from and where they present themselves in our present life.

Think about some areas of everyday life these patterns may be present in:

  • Negative interactions with co-workers

  • Inability to create meaningful relationships

  • Think of one or two more instances where you have experienced difficulties in a relationship

Remember to explore with compassion instead of self-reproach. Remind yourself that you are in the exploration stage.

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