I once worked with a woman who had an extensive history of childhood abuse.
She presented to therapy because her current partner was physically and verbally abusing her. It was causing her significant PTSD symptomology and left her just completely bewildered how she could find herself right back in an abusive relationship after vowing to never be abused again.
This brings me to the last blind spot in relationships, which is probably one of the most understood and studied areas of adult relationships. Sigmund Freud called this repetition compulsion, which is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
Freud suggested that when someone has a painful experience in their past, they are likely to be attracted to relationships where similar patterns are replicated.
Why you ask?!
Freud believed that, at a subconscious level, they are attempting to rewrite the ending and change ultimately the pattern. However what often ends up happening is that instead of changing the ending, the problematic patterns just gets repeated.
You see this blind spot plays out a lot in abusive relationships. Meaning that someone comes from a history of abuse when they were younger and then finds themselves in another abusive relationship as a grown up.
There is a desire to do it better and differently but also a predisposition to end up in the same problematic patterns unless significant work has been done to repair it.
Does it only happen in abusive relationships? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
Just take a second to reflect on your past relationships or even a friends. Do you see similarities in issues in those relationships?
Repeating the same pattern over and over again in relationships is a very common blind spot.
Don’t get me wrong, this compulsion or attraction to similar patterns, isn’t necessarily at the conscious level.
These attractions may be happening under the surface somewhere. This is why it is so incredibly important to reflect on your relationships and look for patterns.
If you see a pattern among the partners you choose or similar issues crop up in your relationships, it is time take a look into your past and think about what may be impacting your relationship decisions, choices, and attractions.
Some questions to think about are:
- What key relationship in your life are you trying to do differently?
- What hurt are you hoping to repair?
- Or what ending are you trying to rewrite?
If you are able to identify answers to these questions, and the person with whom you had the difficult relationship with is still around, then consider a conversation with him or her about your past, and how it affected you.
The goal would be to work toward some sort of resolution for you or even just a cathartic experience of letting him or her know how you were impacted by that relationship.
If this is not possible, not safe, or not something that feels right to you, another approach would be to write a letter that is never sent to that particular person.
To put pen to paper and compose your thoughts, your hurts and the impact that relationship had on your life. The act of writing all of this down can be incredibly healing.
The next step would be to create goals regarding how you want to do things differently moving forward, and finally to establish a plan as to how to you will accomplish those goals.
This plan may include speaking with a professional, reading books, taking an online course, etc. But it should most definitely include gathering new information so that you can learn new ways of doing things in your relationships.
Here’s the thing, we all have work to do when it comes to our relationships.
And we all have a past that impacts how we act and think about our relationships. So take some time and reflect on yours and your relationship patterns.
Remember to write down some of the things that you notice that impact your relationship choices and set goals as to how you plan to do things differently.
We are shaped by our past but don’t have to be imprisoned by it!