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Patterns in Love Relationships


written by: Kosjenka Muk





Do you enjoy loving your significant other? Seemingly paradoxically, for many people love is a source of pain rather than bliss. There is no other adult relationship in which the depth and strength of our needs, imprints and beliefs from childhood become so obvious and so strong, so persistent and so overwhelming, so resistant to both willpower and rational point of view.

The explanation is in understanding that a big part of what we call loving feelings is nothing but surfacing of the deepest, earliest memories which are the foundation of unresolved inner conflicts. We go through our lives constantly seeking for resolution of those conflicts, even if unconsciously.

Perhaps you will recognize that there are particular types of personality and behavior that you feel attracted to, even if they are problematic. Perhaps outer circumstances and behavior will not be obviously similar amongst your different partners through life, but you can recognize the patterns repeating in the way you feel inside and in the way the relationship develops. Love relationships are the key triggers of our toxic patterns, as well as the most important opportunity for healing.

In the experience that we call love (or, more precisely, infatuation), our healthy enjoyment and appreciation of other human being is mixed with transference and bonds. There are usually three common types of unhealthy bonds.


First are our subconscious hopes and needs from childhood, which can make us prone to idealize the other person, just as we idealized our parents when we were small children, hoping for happy, warm relationships which would give us security, protection and a sense of self-worth. Remember the feelings of hope and elation in the first stages of infatuation; the irrational feeling that you've finally found the person who can fulfill your deepest needs and make you feel accepted, loved and valuable. If you explore what details in the appearance and behavior of the other triggered that flood of emotions, you might be able to recognize a pattern and perhaps connect it to memories from your earliest years.


The second way of bonding is through trying to heal our toxic, painful beliefs about ourselves, while trying to earn love in similar circumstances in which those beliefs were created. Unconsciously, we are attracted to a similar atmosphere our parents created in our early family, the consequences of which were never completely resolved within our subconscious minds. The child in us hopes to resolve the confusion and inner conflicts from the past, searching for a person to love who would replace the parent(s).

Same as, in the earliest years, we judged ourselves according to reactions of our environment, in the same way as a child is sensitive to every signal from parents, trying to understand what is acceptable and expected, adapting to even painful and confusing expectations, this is how we often feel in initial, and sometimes even later stages of infatuation.

You can see many people who are otherwise smart, confident and able to recognize unhealthy and unbalanced behavior, suddenly becoming aware of every their word or move, anxiously trying to anticipate feelings and expectations of a single other person, starting to feel like their human worth, fulfillment and future happiness depend of a person who they don't even know well enough.

Remember the feelings of irrational confusion, pain and reviewing your behavior because of some tiny little detail your beloved said or did, and you will have the idea about how you felt as a child in relation to your parents. I'm not saying that children feel like that all the time - some children are naturally more sensitive than others, too - but keep in mind that there is a source of all of your emotions, and the source of many emotions that don't seem to make sense is in our earliest years of life.

Many times we can't recognize or remember how sensitive we were as children to our parents' behavior, how dependent of them, how much we needed their love, approval and acceptance. These feelings are normally long forgotten, because they happened in an age in which individual identity, conscious memory and awareness, not to mention rational thinking, were not yet developed.

The more we grow up, the more realistic our perception of world (hopefully) is, so it's more difficult to be overwhelmed with exaggerated hopes and expectations in adulthood than, for example, in adolescence. Still, in the right circumstances, if the right triggers come together in one person, the child parts of us wake up quickly and even mature people can find themselves overwhelmed with long forgotten emotions.


The third type of bond+ is being attracted to behavior and emotional atmosphere that we learned to accept as normal and even „loving“ in our early family, even if painful. The most obvious example are abusive relationships. People who repeatedly enter abusive relationships, often say that they perceive healthy people and relationships as not passionate, not loving enough, even boring. It comes down to what we feel „at home“ with.


Some children, depending of their constitution and temper, within a particular type of family – often surrounded with exceptional and uninhibited violence and injustice, but still having some other people around who are models of healthy and loving behavior – might be able to recognize in quite an early age that violent behavior is not some strange way to love, or anything that can be justified with the child's doing. Such people might start their search for a partner with a strong decision to find a person healthier and more mature than the parent(s), and they can be successful to some extent. Still, patterns created in the earliest age, before the child was able to develop such a perspective, or even to feel an identity separate of parents, will still be there, although maybe showing in very subtle ways.

An example is Cherry, who grew up in quite an unhealthy family, but with a strong decision to choose a partner different to her aggressive, manipulative and narrow-minded father. She chose a man who appeared calm, gentle, responsible and thoughtful. But with years of marriage, after the relationship settled into a routine, it became more and more apparent that the gentle and sensitive appearance of her husband was hiding a cluster of suppressed emotions based on deep guilt and shame from childhood.

Because of those feelings, her husband slowly became more and more emotionally withdrawn, unable to enjoy intimacy or clear communication, and showing passive aggression in situations of conflict or misunderstanding. So Cherry, even if she was able to recognize and avoid an openly abusive relationship, had to eventually admit to herself that she was attracted to a relationship that reflected her feelings from childhood, although in a subtle way: her loneliness and feeling of being undervalued and unaccepted, lack of intimacy and warmth.


Just like Cherry, many people have told us that they couldn't recognize the similarities of their partners to their parents, not just in the beginning of the relationship, but during the first few years either. Some people can control and suppress their unhealthy patterns for a long time... as long as it takes for a relationship to enter routine, daily stress, careless communication and taking one another for granted. But once those patterns emerge, we can, almost without exception, recognize the types of behavior which hurt us in childhood.

"My parents spoiled me and gave me everything I wanted. I can't possibly see how my (painful and abusive) partnership could have anything to do with them. (...) I remember saying to my partner, "The only people who ever hurt me so much were you and my father!"
(quote from a client)


It seems that we all carry a deep unconscious sensitivity to subtle, almost invisible, signals that trigger feelings of familiarity and intimacy ... even if all the outer, more visible signals indicate the opposite. This is probably the cause of the fact that, out of many people we meet, only rarely will somebody trigger an intense feeling of infatuation.

It's only rarely that there is a combination of potential partner's qualities that we consciously desire and appreciate, behavior which triggers the hope that our deepest longings can be fulfilled, joined with tiny and almost invisible signals that some patterns complementary to ours can trigger the unpleasant memories to come out. That is the combination which triggers the most powerful infatuation and obsession with the other person.


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