Our present is impacted by what we have experienced in the past. This can change how we react to what is said or approach situations that seem familiar. This is true of romantic relationships as well. People often repeat certain behaviors even though they harmed previous relationships. This is known as repetition compulsion in psychology. Basically, it means that you are attempting to correct the past by putting yourself in similar situation to correct what previously happened.
Fortunately, there are signs to be aware of and look out for to know if this is an issue. These patterns can go back as far as the relationship with your own parents to affect current day relationships and our professional lives. If we are not aware of these patterns, you may be inadvertently repeating them.
Below are the signs to be aware of and correct to move forward:
Attracting a “Type”
If you grew up in a home in which a parent was abusive, an alcoholic, or even a narcissist, you are likely to attract similar people in relationships. This will continue until the parental issues are resolved. This is especially true for empaths who are natural “fixers”. The healing they desire never comes, but they can get trapped in a cycle.
Loss of Joy
When the things you once enjoyed are now dreaded because they are attached to a previous relationship, this is loss of joy. You may also feel guilty for taking joy in certain things because of the past, but there is no need. While re-trauma can be completely normal, allowing it to persist indefinitely is not. We all need time to heal, but if the low feeling sticks around, then it has become an unhealthy emotion.
This loss of joy is sometimes referred to as tainted pleasures and can attach to a song, a musician, even a piece of clothing. Work through the pain so your life can improve.
Issues with Physical Intimacy
Some of the signs of the past being an issue do not arise until trying to be intimate with a partner. Sexual hang ups can arise for various reasons, but they can stop you in your tracks or make you uncomfortable over time. This may be certain positions, a type of touch, or even how you view yourself. Even if it is just unexpected emotion, you are being affected.
Struggling with Communication
The inability to communicate effectively can be created by a previous bad relationship. Make sure to talk with your new partner and express things that bother you calmly. Allowing these things to build can lead to a blow up. Communication is key.
Poor communication in previous relationships can leave wounds that last into a new relationship. Identify your emotional buttons so that you can work to heal them. Allow your partner to help as a way to feel loved and grow closer.
Anxiety affects everything in life, but can quickly ruin relationships. Anxiety is often caused by having poor role models growing up. You may have learned poor conflict resolution and act impulsively because things are taken personally when they were not intended that way. Anxiety tends to lead to avoidance of issues. Learning proper communication skills can help alleviate anxiety.
Lack of Self-Respect
A lack of self-respect can be caused by an abusive or disrespectful relationship. When you find yourself constantly putting yourself down, think about whose words those really are. It is likely that you have taken on someone else’s view and made them your own. Realize you are in control and silence that voice.
Living in the Past
Reliving past trauma can be scary and vivid at times. It may seem like you are right back in the situation with the same sounds, sights, and smells. This may happen in nightmares or during waking hours. Visualization can help overcome these fears as you defeat or shrink the event in your head so you may move on.
For those who have had a traumatic or even abusive relationship, it can be easy to think everyone is out to cause harm. This causes you to be hyper-vigilant, constantly looking over your shoulder. The problem is, if you never learn to trust anyone, you will cause others to behave as if they cannot be trusted. Instead, we must learn to trust our gut instincts instead of the situations our heads create.
Lack of Trust
Those who have been cheated on in past relationships can carry that lack of trust into new partnerships. This can lead to being controlling or overly paranoid. You may check your loved one’s phone, stalk social media, and cross the line into invading privacy. This can easily lead to a break-up. Those who are untrusting often suffer from a lack of confidence. Try confidence building skills to help with a lack of trust.
Pushing Others Away
Sometimes those who have been in bad relationships or had childhood trauma, push others away as a form of protection. This is usually a fear of abandonment that comes out as a fear of commitment. You may pull away from others or require constant reassurance. This can become exhausting for others. This can also ruin relationships as soon as they begin. You may never get hurt, but you may also never be happy.
What Can be Done?
Time really can heal most wounds. If you are constantly jumping from relationship to relationship, take time for yourself to identify deeper issues. This time can allow you to work toward healing before damaging a new relationship. Learn to love yourself before trying to love others.
Remember that just because a previous relationship was bad, the new ones do not have to be. All people are different and do not deserve to be treated poorly because something went wrong in your past. Keep communication open with your new partner. Be open about past hang ups so you can work on them together if they arise.
Finally, stay positive. Relationships require work, but they can be worth it. We can learn and grow from every relationship if we are willing to stick with it and remain positive. Loving someone is courageous, but well worth it in the long run.