We’ve all been there. We meet someone new, we feel wonderful. For a while, we start to believe that not only could this be ‘it’, but that the experience of new love has in some way transformed us. We’ve become better than we were, we’ve become good, all of our past problems have melted away in the face of this wondrous new experience. But then, slowly but surely, the old doubts, worries, insecurities, and self-sabotaging principles start to creep back in. Whether we ourselves are responsible, or we seem to choose unsuitable people, we end up watching helplessly as our wonderful new relationship starts to pull to the same old pattern, and gradually starts to unravel in predictable fashion. Is there any way to change our pattern? Is there any way to stop the same old things from repeating themselves? Yes – but it takes self-awareness and a bit of effort.
This first step can be hard – but it’s very important. In order to stop yourself from making the same mistakes again, you need to know what led to those mistakes in the first place. This means looking honestly, critically, and analytically at your past. There’s no need to get all self-hatey about this, no need to wallow in any misery you unearth – try instead to step away and look at things as though from the outside. Don’t blame yourself for mistakes made, accept that they happened and try instead to suss out the reasons WHY they happened? If you’re prone to rushing relationships – why do you do this? Is it because you fear rejection and abandonment, so want to ‘pin down’ your loved one before they can run away? Is it because of other factors deep in your past? Or is it simply because you tend to move faster than the partners you choose? Working out the factors behind the decisions you make and the problems you find yourself with can help you to work through and eradicate them before they rear their heads again. This can be a long and involved process, sometimes going right back to your childhood, and it can take time. It can also be difficult. But developing this kind of self-awareness is crucial if you’re going to break free of toxic relationship patterns. If it helps, go and see a therapist to aid you through this, or simply recruit a friend to help you talk things through.
Work Out Your Expectations
One big problem which often leads to destructive patterns forming in relationships is the ‘Expectations vs Reality’ dichotomy. Many of us these days grow up with a highly idealised idea of what a relationship should be. Reality rarely if ever matches up to that dream. There is no Prince Charming or Dreamgirl – there are just humans, with human faults. If we can’t accept the fallible humanity of our partners, and can’t understand that reality is unlikely ever to correspond to our dreams, we will find ourselves frequently disappointed and resentful. Which in turn leads to recurring patterns of destructive behaviour. There is evidence to suggest that self-avowed ‘romantics’ tend to experience more trouble in relationships than their more cynical counterparts, simply because they believe too strongly in a Disneyfied dream. Relationships move through stages, and a lot of the work involved in making a relationship work centres around transitioning through these stages. When the initial rush of euphoria wears off, people with excessively romantic rather than realistic views of relationships may believe that the ‘magic’ has gone, and rush off to seek that rush elsewhere. Such people tend to skip from new relationship to new relationship, never letting anything deeper develop, and experiencing a lot of heartache in the process. Needless to say, this is not healthy. Of course, this is not the only way in which false expectations can sabotage a relationship, so, even if you’re not a hopeless romantic, it’s well worth examining your expectations of any relationship before you get involved.
It can be really tempting to compare your relationships with those of your family and friends. Do not do this. For a start, you’re not seeing half of what goes on with them, so you’re comparing their highlight reel to your blooper reel. It’s not a fair comparison! However, comparisons also put an unfair kind of pressure upon you and your partner to push your relationship into an unnatural form. All relationships are unique, and should develop in their own manner. Trying to make your relationship fit someone else’s format is always going to lead to problems. So stop comparing yourself to others, relax into your own relationship, and let it do its own thing in its own time.