So, you are doing some soul-searching and you realize, you have been doing exactly what your parents did in their relationship! There are plenty of examples of how your life may line up with this phenomenon. Your dad refused to talk openly about issues and so do you. Mom always seemed unsatisfied with her life and you feel the same. Dad was unfaithful – now you are. Mom paid minimal attention to you when you were a kid and you find yourself often ignoring your own kids. Parents were irresponsible with finances and now it seems like you’re always struggling financially – even when you’re making good money. The cycle stops now! Read on to find how to choose a different path for yourself.
You Can’t Look Forward
A unique problem to people who have negative relationship patterns role modeled for them – it is hard to picture what a good relationship looks like. No matter how many times you ask yourself or your partner asks, “What do you want in this relationship?”, the answer is inevitably “I don’t know.” You’ve seen great relationships on television and you’ve heard of people having a happy marriage, but it seems like an urban legend. Is it even possible? Absolutely a happy marriage is possible! But the secret is to stop forcing yourself to look forward, for now.
You Can Look Back
Take a look back at your own relationships – with yourself, with friends, with exes – it can be literally any interaction. What worked well in those relationships and what made you happy? Think about the times that the problem could have been worse but actually turned out okay. For example, maybe you could have kept something to yourself but you decided to speak up and it actually went well. Or, you could have ignored your kid(s) but you decided to play and engage with them instead. Possibly you and your partner could have mismanaged money but you actually saved or invested instead. These were times where you deviated from what was role-modeled to you from your parents.
What was unique about these moments and what made them happen? Think in detail about what made those exceptions unique. Knowing that these times existed helps to build your own confidence and motivate you towards change. Keep doing what you were doing at those times when you were happy or the problem was not as bad.
And Now – Make It A Reality
Another problem with having a negative relationship role-modeled is that it becomes your default. Without intentionally making changes, finding times that worked well, and committing to choosing a different path, you are bound to fall back into your default. Now that you have looked back at your life and noticed those times that went well, you can begin building off that. Now create a mental image of what you want your relationship to look like in the future. “Instead of doing this in relationships, I want to do that.” And, “This is how I could do that.” After, chase that image through creating habits that are consistent with your relationship goal.
We often have negative relationships role modeled for us by our parents. That does not mean that you need to be a victim of your circumstances. Rather than trying to build something from nothing, look into your past successes in relationships. Find what made you happy and do more of that. Finally, create a mental image of a positive relationship and create habits that will make that relationship a reality. You don’t have to do what your parents did anymore.
About The Author
Chris Cummins is a couples counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado. He focuses on working with with couples in high conflict and couples who are experiencing substance abuse. Living in Colorado, Chris enjoys hiking traveling and anything else outdoors.