Repeating Old Relationship Patterns: Why We Do It & How To Break The Cycle

Do you find yourself repeating the same frustrating patterns in your relationships, over and over again? 

Have some of your romantic relationships been dysfunctional in a similar way? And have they been eerily similar to your childhood relationships? 

If this resonates, don’t worry. Humans are habit-driven beings who go with what’s familiar, and relationships are no exception. And patterns that we witness or learn in childhood are some of the most familiar and more impactful as a result. 

It doesn’t make sense to repeat the patterns that once hurt you, does it? Why would someone who experienced emotional abuse want to go through it again? 

Well, it’s complicated, of course. To help shed some light, we will discuss why we repeat patterns, how to break them, and how speaking with a relationship coach may help. Read on. 

Do People Repeat Patterns In Relationships?

What Is An Example Of A Dysfunctional Relationship Pattern

Yes, they do. Although the repeated behaviors don’t have to be dysfunctional, most people learn many of their behaviors from their parents and caregivers. These behaviors are often habitual and automatic, which can make changing them particularly difficult, and sometimes virtually impossible. 

In addition to learning behaviors from your parents or caregivers, you can also pick up unhealthy patterns in your romantic relationships in adolescence and adulthood. Unfortunately, the impact of such behavioral patterns is often heightened if the relationship is abusive or otherwise emotionally challenging.  

What Is An Example Of A Dysfunctional Relationship Pattern? 

In a sense, there may be as many dysfunctional relationship patterns as there are people. Still, here are some examples that may ring true: 

  • Individuals with overbearing parents have deep fears of commitment.
  • Kids with emotionally distant parents are emotionally distant themselves however they can cling on to unavailable people.
  • People who were in a codependent relationship end up in another codependent relationship.
  • People with erratic or moody family members are drawn to similar people in their adult relationships. 
  • Anxious individuals with avoidant parents are drawn to avoidant partners, too 

The list goes on and on. You can probably imagine a variety of similar scenarios yourself. And it seems that most of them indicate the same thing – we repeat behaviors learned in childhood. 

Why Do People Repeat Relationship Patterns?

Numerous factors can cause us to repeat unhealthy or destructive patterns of behavior. Here are some examples: 

  • You repeat what is familiar to you regardless of merit. People tend to repeat familiar subconscious and conscious behaviors because they know what to expect from them. This is true for many other things in life, as well. It’s often easier to choose the familiar over the unknown. 
  • You repeat what you learned. The behavioral patterns, beliefs, and coping mechanisms you learned in childhood probably have a significant impact on your behavior in adulthood. Since they are so ingrained in your psyche, they can be incredibly hard to change. Beliefs, behavior, what’s “right” etc. 
  • You unconsciously repeat traumatic experiences. While it may seem counterintuitive, people who felt unloved, rejected, or hurt in childhood may recreate the traumatic experiences in adulthood. This may be an unconscious effort to master the experience and accept it. Unfortunately, this often means simply that you end up in similarly dysfunctional relationships without managing to change a thing. 
  • You sabotage yourself because you think you deserve it. Traumatized children often grow up thinking that they deserve punishment. They may be told that they are the reason why their family is so dysfunctional or they may be blamed in a less direct manner and internalize the shame. As a result, they may seek emotionally painful relationships in adulthood as punishment. 

How Do You Break Old Relationship Patterns?

If you have identified dysfunctional patterns in your romantic relationship, it may be time to take the first step towards breaking them. By exploring your past and its effects on your present, you can learn to let go of old patterns that no longer serve you. Try the following steps: 

1. Start By Being Honest With Yourself

Awareness, as a first step towards acceptance, is crucial if you want to change deeply ingrained behaviors. This means committing to honesty and exploring your own beliefs, values, and thoughts in depth. Journaling may be a good idea, too, as it can help you express your thoughts in a clear manner and gain a new perspective.

2. Explore Your Past

Since many of your dysfunctional relationship patterns probably come from childhood, exploring the past seems like a reasonable place to start. Think about your relationship with your family and how it may have influenced your personality and behavior now. Also, what was the relationship between your parents like? How did their relationship affect you and your siblings? Speaking with a professional about your dysfunctional family patterns can be helpful in creating a clearer picture of your childhood. 

3. Look At Your Relationship Objectively And Be Proactive

If you are in a romantic relationship and feel like you are repeating unhealthy patterns, you can begin to change them by first being realistic and proactive. This means trying to see your relationship in an objective light and taking action to modify the aspects of it that can be modified. If you keep thinking that you can’t get your relationship healthy and you have tried so many things, you may want to consider leaving it, if the dysfunctional behavior is taking a toll on your health.

4. Learn From Failed Relationships

When one relationship ends, it can leave behind a series of clues about the ways you could improve future relationships. You can reflect on what went wrong and try to learn from the mistakes. Remember, however, that both you and your partner may be to blame for the failure of the relationship. Regardless of who’s to blame, you can gain invaluable insight from unsuccessful relationships and learn how to improve them.

Speak With A Remote Relationship Coach Now 

Why Do People Repeat Relationship Patterns

Do you need help uncovering unhealthy relationship patterns? Or are you struggling to overcome feelings of guilt? Contact PIVOT today and let us help you understand the complexities of attachment and begin transforming your relationships. We offer a wide range of relationship workshops for couples and singles, all designed to help you heal and work on becoming a healthier, happier adult. Contact us now. 

© 2021 Lori Jean Glass, LLC | PIVOT