How Your Past Affects Your Intimate Relationships
You are likely still seeking as an adult the needs you had when you were growing up that did not get met by your parents.
Intimacy is the realm in which we work out our unresolved or unmet childhood needs. The unmet needs, hurts or unresolved issues from your childhood usually, therefore, get reenacted in your adult intimate relationships. In this regard, your past is still very much alive, because it reappears in the present. This all happens unconsciously, outside of our normal awareness.
Your relationship with your two parents are your first intimate relationships in life. Your parents are also the role models who teach you how men and women treat each other, and what relationships are to look and feel like.
People grow up with the hope that some day they will find a way to make a critical or distant parent approve of and love them. Thus, in adult life, they find a critical or distant partner, fall in love, and then try to get their partner to be close and approving. If they find a loving, accepting partner, they are likely to become critical and distant themselves, repeating the very scenario they grew up with years back.
Family problems also tend to repeat themselves from generation to generation. The problems themselves are passed down transgenerationally, from grandparent, to parent, to child, to grandchild. That is why issues like alcoholism, infidelity or abuse tend to repeat themselves in the same family from one generation to the next.
We marry the person who has the behavior traits, temperament and personality type similar to what we experienced in our childhoods, so most of us are destined to repeat the painful patterns in our adult relationships that we experienced as children.
People tend to see their spouse in one of two ways:
- they act as if their partner is their mother or father, and therefore behave toward their spouse the same way they did toward their parents.
- they will behave similar to one of their parents, and treat their spouse the way they were treated by that parent.
If, therefore, someone mistreated you in the past, you will:
- tend to react toward your intimate partner as if they were that person from the past, or
- you will mistreat your spouse, under the mistaken notion that if you don’t, you’ll be mistreated by him or her.
We are just trying to work through the unresolved issues and unmet needs from our childhoods, in an attempt to get our lifelong desires met for approval, affection, attention and love. Your partner, typically, has no idea that they are paying for what you went through long ago.
We also may unwittingly teach our children to treat us the way our parents did.
To have a relationship with another person means you are also having a relationship with their past experiences and all of their lifelong pain, hurts, angers, fears and disappointments. Many people are looking for someone to make up for their past. They’re looking for the nurturing, approval and love that will, in essence, compensate for what they lacked growing up. Problems occur because an intimate partner can never make up for your past.