Every new relationship is the opportunity for a fresh start. Many often find themselves falling into a rut of repeating their relationship history-including the mistakes. Recognizing your relationship patterns can help you to avoid lapses to previous behavior and bad habits. Remember, habits form over a long period and are not easy to break. Learning your triggers and how to side-step those earlier decisions can help you thrive within your new relationship.
Recognizing Relationship Habits
The first step to avoiding repeating your relationship mistakes is to recognize what your habits you've demonstrated in the past. If you've just gone through a break up or a divorce and are wondering why you keep finding yourself in the same situation, examine the following questions and answer them as truthfully as possible.
- What part did you play in the relationship? Were you submissive to your partner? Were you the leader? Who made the majority of the decisions?
- What issues did you find yourself facing repeatedly? Did you argue about the same subjects? Money? Time? Chores?
- What was a typical day with your significant other like? Did you spend a lot of time together? Or only a little? Did you argue every day or never argue at all?
- How did the two of you communicate? Did you share the burden of problems? Did you both participate in resolving your conflicts?
- Did they meet your needs? Did you meet theirs?
- Did you feel valued? Did you show them you valued their presence in your life?
- Did you feel you made sacrifices for the relationship? Did you feel they made sacrifices?
- Did you ignore your own instincts with regard to your partner? Did you feel uncomfortable with aspects of the relationship but allow yourself to be talked out of that discomfort by yourself or your partner?
- How did you address problems or issues with the other person? Did you feel comfortable expressing yourself?
Pay Attention to How You Feel
As you take inventory of this relationship, consider applying these questions to other relationships you've had in the past. If you find the answers mirror each other, you may find a pattern. Pay particular interest to the last question, if you never felt comfortable being yourself with your partner or able to address issues in open communication, you may have discovered a root problem to how you approach a relationship.
Also, note that if you did not feel valued, as a person with feelings and opinions, you are far more likely to allow your partner to decide those opinions for you. This can lead to disharmony and a lack of balance in the relationship. Not only will you increase pressure on your partner, but you'll also put pressure on yourself to conform to the ideal of what you think your relationship should be rather than what it is.
Lori Gorshow is a dating coach with a company called Dating Made Simple. She works with a variety of clients, including single men and women, families with adolescents, and pre-marital coaching for couples. As a dating coach, she has experience with individuals entering the dating world after a divorce, parents and teenagers struggling with social skills, and techniques to improve your skills in attraction, communication and self-esteem.
Listen to Your Gut
"We all have the ability to listen to those "gut" feelings; the feelings that tell us something is up and we should pay attention. All too often we don't trust our intuition, because the evidence is unclear." Gorshow said. "Even if you couldn't articulate what wasn't right into words, your intuition was feeding you information to warn you. Your "gut" or intuition is telling you that something is not right in this relationship; but your mind is trying to talk you out of trusting your gut by saying, "he can't be like my ex, this relationship is different." One of the reasons many of us choose the partners we do is because there are some qualities or characteristics that are recognizable to us."
Break the Cycle
This is particularly dangerous for those who have survived domestic violence. To break this cycle, Gorshow says, "You will need to move from being unconscious in choosing a partner to becoming conscious. You and your partner can work on this together and you can work on yourself individually. Should your significant other be committed enough and willing enough to work with you on the behaviors within the relationship that are controlling, demanding and not trusting, the two of you will then have an opportunity to have a mutually healthy and loving partnership. Plus, he will model for your children a healthy relationship so that they do not grow up and choose partners who will repeat what they have been exposed to through your relationships with men."
In this situation, you should meet with a mental health counselor who has experience with negative relationships. Therapy can give you an opportunity to address the unconscious triggers that leads you to choosing partners who mirror earlier, bad relationship choices.
Make a Commitment to Yourself
Identifying your relationship patterns is just the first step to avoiding repeating them. The next is to focus on making conscious choices where your relationships are now and where future relationships will go.
- Examine the patterns you have discovered and consider the reasons why you made the decisions in the first place.
- Examine each choice you made, from how you communicated to what issues you argued about and consider why those mistakes are your habit.
- Examine your commitment to yourself, and recognize that you deserve to be happy and safe in a relationship.
As you embark on a new relationship, keep these issues in your mind. Be conscious of the choices you make and recognize the moments when you begin to fall into those patterns again. It will not be easy, nor will you see immediate results. Reflecting regularly upon the relationship you're in can be done with a journal or a daily inventory.
Evaluate Your Progress
Keeping track of your choices and noting when you see the pattern re-emerge, can help you make alternative choices. Make note of your success as well as your failures in these choices. Reward yourself for those successes and learn from your mistakes. Ultimately, your success in avoiding the mistakes of your previous relationships lay in the choices you make for your future.