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Patterns in Love Relationships

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Do you enjoy loving your love partner? 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 becomes so obvious and so strong, so persistent and so overwhelming, so resistant to both willpower and to rational points 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 conflict. 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 behaviors that you feel attracted to, even if they are problematic. Perhaps outer circumstances and behavior will not be directly similar between your different partners through life, but you can recognize the patterns repeating in the way you feel inside and in the development of relationship. Love relationships are the key triggers of our toxic patterns, as well as the most important opportunity for healing.

When Love is Infatuation

In the experience that we call love (or, more precisely, infatuation), our healthy enjoyment and appreciation of other human being is mixed with transferences 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 once idealized our parents when we were 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 first stages of love; the completely irrational feeling that you’ve finally found the person who can fulfill your deep needs and enable you to feel accepted, loved and valuable. If you explore what details in the appearance and behavior of the other trigger that flood of emotions, you might be able to recognize a pattern and perhaps connect it to memories from your earliest years.

When Love is Parental

The second way of bonding is through trying to heal our toxic, unpleasant ideas about ourselves, while trying to get love in similar circumstances in which those ideas were created. Unconsciously, we are attracted to a similar atmosphere that our parents created within our first family, the consequences of which were never completely resolved within our subconscious. The child in us hopes to resolve the confusion and inner conflicts from past, searching for 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, to their expressions of feelings towards him, trying to understand what is acceptable and expected, adapting to even painful and confusing expectations, in the same way we often feel in initial, and sometimes even later stages of love relationships.

You can see many people who are otherwise smart, confident and able to distinguish unhealthy and unbalanced behavior, suddenly becoming aware of every their word or move, anxiously trying to anticipate attitudes and expectations of the single other person, starting to feel like their human value, fulfillment and future happiness depends 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 information about how you felt as a child toward your parents. I’m not saying that children feel like that in every moment and every age, some children are more naturally sensitive than others too, but keep in mind that there is a source for all of your emotions, and the source of many irrational emotions is in our irrational years of life.

Many times we can’t recognize or remember how sensitive we were as children to our parents behavior, how dependent of the, how much we needed their love, approval and acceptance. These feelings are normally long forgotten, because they happened in an age in which sense of 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 illusionary hopes and expectations in adulthood than, for example, adolescence. Still, in the right circumstances, if right triggers come together, the child parts of us wake up quickly and even mature people can find themselves overwhelmed with long forgotten emotions.

When Love is “What was Normal”

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 first family, even if painful. The most obvious examples are abusive relationships. People who repeatedly enter abusive relationships, will often tell you that they perceive healthy relationship as not passionate, not emotional enough. 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 unfairness, but still having 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 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 a perspective, or even to feel an identity separate of parents, will still be there, although maybe showing in very subtle ways.

Case Example “Cheri”

An example is Cheri, who grew up in a rather 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, wise and thoughtful. But with years of marriage, it became more and more obvious 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 was inclined to emotional closeness and withdrawal, unable to enjoy intimacy or clear communication, and passive-aggressive in situations of conflict or misunderstanding. So Cheri, even if she could recognize and avoid an openly abusive relationship, realized that she found herself in a relationship that reflected her feelings from childhood, although in a subtler way: her loneliness and sense of being unvalued and unaccepted, lack of intimacy and warmth.

Just like Cheri, many people have told us that they couldn’t recognize any similarities of their partner with their parents, not only in the beginning of the relationship, but during the first few years. Some people can control and suppress their unhealthy patterns for a long time … as long as it takes for a relationship to develop routine, daily stress, careless communication and taking one another for granted. But once those patterns emerge, we can, almost without exception, recognize behaviors that hurt us in childhood.

My family spoiled me and gave me everything I wanted. I couldn’t see how my painful and abusive partnership could be connected to them … yet I remember telling my partner, “The only people who ever hurt me so much were you and my father! Rijeka, Croatia

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 obvious signals indicate the opposite. This is probably the cause of the fact that, out of many people we meet, only rarely will somebody trigger intense feelings of infatuation.

It’s rare that there is a combination of potential partner’s qualities that we consciously desire and appreciate, behaviors which trigger the hope that our deepest longings can be fulfilled, but also the tiny and almost invisible signals that some patterns complementary to ours, can trigger emotional problems to surface.