Relationship Patterns. We Inherit a Relationship “GPS”

Excerpt from the book: The Human Magnet Syndrome.

relationship patterns
toxic relationship

As much as we would like to, we cannot avoid certain indisputable facts of life. We will have to pay taxes, get older, most likely gain a few pounds, and always be connected to our childhood.  Sigmund Freud was right, we are, indeed, creatures of our past; affected more by our formative years (first five to six years of life) than by recent events and circumstances.  Although genes play a significant role in determining our adult selves, how we were cared for as a child is integrally connected to our adult mental health.  We can embrace our childhood history, or forget or deny it, but we cannot refute its impact on our lives.

The experiential landscape of our childhoods directly impacts our future adult relationship patterns. Specifically, the manner in which we were parented during our first five or six years, is directly connected to the quality of our adult relationship patterns.

If you were fortunate, you may have had a childhood that was absent of major trauma, abuse, deprivation or neglect. As a fortunate one, you would have had parents who made mistakes, but also unconditionally loved and cared for you.  Just by being yourself, despite your imperfections, you would have proved to your parents that all babies are perfect. Your healthy but not perfect parents were motivated to foster your personal and emotional growth, not because they had to, but because they believed you deserved it! The only requirement to receive your parents’ love and nurturing was to just be your genuine self – just to be. 

Consequently, you would have become a part of a multigenerational pattern of emotionally healthy children; you would have become a balanced and emotionally healthy adult.  If you decide to have children, you would perpetuate the positive parenting “karma” by raising your own emotionally healthy child.

The child of psychologically unhealthy parents would also participate in a similar multigenerational relationship pattern; just one that is perpetually dysfunctional.  If one of your parents was a narcissist, you would have been born with expectations that would motivate that parent to love you.  If you were able to maintain your parents’ fantasy, you would likely receive their conditional love and attention.  By maintaining your parent’s fantasies for parenthood, you would be their proud accomplishment – a trophy of sorts.  As a result of your ability to accommodate your parents narcissistic needs, as an adult you would develop codependency traits. As an adult, you will be attracted to a lover who would remind you of your narcissistic parent.

However, if you were unable to be your parents’ “trophy child,” you would trigger their own feelings of shame, which they would project onto you.  The child who is unable to make the narcissistic parent feel good about themselves, would be neglected and/or abused.  For this child, relaxing and enjoying the wonders of childhood would never come to fruition. Your lonely and/or abusive childhood would lay the foundation for your future poor mental health and the development of a personality disorder. As an adult, just like your parents, you would instinctively be attracted to romantic partners that would accept your narcissism.

All parents, psychologically healthy or unhealthy, provide their children with experiences that will result in a relationship guide for their adulthood. Children simply soak up their parent’s treatment of them. If blessed, they might be the recipients of a relationship pattern that will consistently guide them to the right person. The not- so- fortunate child may inherit a broken relationship manual. This manual will likely lead them astray in their pursuit of loving, safe and happy relationships.

Although the broken guide may seem permanent, the human spirit has remarkable therapeutic potential. Humans are capable of healing and transforming, as well as rising above the seemingly indisputable forces of our childhood. For that, we do not have to be the torch-bearers of our parents’ life sentence. We are all imbued with the capability to grow and learn from our mistakes. With hard work, can get a chance to “overturn” what once seemed like a “life sentence” of future dysfunctional relationships.

By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed, LCPC, CADC, CSAT
PsychotherapistAuthorEducatorExpert Witness

For more information visit: Self-Love Recovery Institute