Relationship Patterns: how the past still runs you

by Relationship Coach Rinatta Paries on September 25, 2009

in Break-ups and Divorce, Marriage, Relationships, Singles, Women's Help

patternEver heard of a relationship pattern?  A relationship pattern is a set of negative events that repeats in your relationship(s) on a regular basis.

For example, if you are single woman, you may have a pattern of attracting unavailable men. These men may not seem unavailable when you meet them, may in fact seem to be people who are very much interested in a relationship, but yet within a short time turn out to be unavailable. You don’t go into a new dating situation intending to attract an unavailable man; in fact, you intend to attract only available once. Yet that is what happens repeatedly and you are seemingly helpless to stop it.

If you are coupled, perhaps you have a pattern of interacting in a certain way with your partner that creates distance or withdrawal either on your or his part. You most certainly don’t go into the interaction intending to create this pattern, and yet that is what happens and you are seemingly helpless to stop it.

Everyone has a relationship patterns, but did you know how these patterns are developed? They are developed in childhood and are based on your parents’ interaction with you. This is how your past still runs your love life.

The pattern of whom you attract or partner with is influenced by how you perceived the parent of the opposite sex parented you. The worst the parenting felt to you, the worst your partner choices as an adult.

The pattern of how you interact in a relationship is influenced and modeled on your observations of your parents interaction with each other. Specifically, you will tend to model your relationship behavior on your same sex parent’s behavior. The more stress you observed or sensed in your parents relationship, the worst your own relationships will be.

Alternatively, if your parents relationship with each other had no stress, you will tend to have a Pollyanna type view of relationships, expecting the relationship to flow smoothly and ignoring relationship stress until it’s too late.

So what are your relationship patterns and what can you do to change them?

To help you discover your relationship patterns I created a PatternTracker e-class that will take you through the process of ferreting them out. Working through the PatternTracker e-class will help you uncover the patterns behind your seemingly random partner choices and relationship behavior.

To learn what you can do about your relationship patterns,  listen to a radio show below. I was a guest on the Relationship RX show. The host of the show, Coach Lisa Hayes and I talked about all aspects of relationship patterns.


shannon August 3, 2011 at 10:14 am

I have reapeated patternswith relationship with men, with abusivness, abandoment, and unvailability. Not good and I don’ t know exactly how to fix that ! I would love to know and apply it to my life

Love Coach Rinatta August 3, 2011 at 10:46 am

Hi Shannon, thanks for your question. Please go to my Q&A website to ask your question.

Ivan Williams July 12, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Good article. It’s definitely possible that our relationships are based on what we see with our parents as we are growing up. But it doesn’t have to run or ruin your life. My parents started out great but grew apart as we grew older. I realized that they drifted apart because they didn’t communicate with each other. So now I make sure that even though my partner and I are busy with our own lives, we still talk and spend as much time together as we can.

Brian Yang July 3, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I’d have to disagree. I think depending on how conscious you are of your ego and emotions, you can learn from these experiences.

For instance, if your parents had a difficult relationship, you can learn from it and have more successful relationships.


m.r. merris August 19, 2010 at 9:51 am

the dance to fill the gaping wound in our left side. i tried to plug it once with some gray clay and it bled yellow clay mixed with blood. i don’t know what to say, keep trying and maybe you will find love? go to therapy for a better part of 40 years, off and on with nine therapists, get sober and clean for 30 and still screw up? sound funny, depressing and very, very ,very real. love, marriage and finding a publisher is all a crap shot from hell and the gods or God must grant you grace. go to the nearest 12 step meeting an or bar and watch the dance and cry and cry and cry. we all want to be loved for who we are and it is one of the hardest things to do. the only thing i have left to say is to pray for the grace to realize the freebie when/if it comes. in the mean time listen to the wind and be kind to all. . . it makes you feel better.
m.r. merris

Moana June 24, 2010 at 10:52 am

How does it work if you were orphaned at 18 months and raised by an Uncle who packed you off to boarding school? I’ve had therapy and I’ve had some good and some bad relationships. I don’t have a fear of abandonment and I kinda like my life the way it is. Analyse that :)

Mary W. Hopkins, Ed.D.,LPCI June 8, 2010 at 3:50 am

I agree that it is more complicated. I think what actually happens is that we marry or choose partners who have key characteristics similar to the parent we had the most trouble with as children. That may or may not be the parent of the opposite sex. In any event, if we still have unresolved issues with this parent we may subconsciously choose partners who will permit us a “second chance” at succeeding in a relationship that is, essentially, a surrogate for the failed parental relationship. Unfortunately, unless you bring all of this into awareness, chances are you will simply re-create many of the self-defeating patterns you experienced with your “problem” parent.

KT May 17, 2010 at 7:47 am

While I think you are dead on about how some of our relationship patterns are created, I think there is more to it. Most definitely my partners have mirrored what I perceived my father to be. However, through therapy, I see that i chose people that treated me the way I was used to being treated…by my mom. My parents were divorced, but my dad was still in my life. My mom was, for lack of a better word, a shitty parent. When I moved out of the house and met my now ex-husband I tolerated all kinds of poor treatment from him because it was what I was accustomed to at home. According to my therapist we pick people that mimic what we knew in childhood as an unconcious attempt to finish up old childhood issues. I was apparently trying to resolve the issues I had with my mom through my relationship with my husband. But I can also totally see how he also was very much like my dad in many other ways. I think you are completely right. I just feel that it’s much more complicated than what you said.

Stephen Hedger February 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm

The biggest pattern I come across is the pattern of poor communication skills. E.g When David speaks to Sarah, Sarah will react to her translation of Davids words.
Sarah has years of experiences that can distort, generalise, and delete the original intention behind Davids words.
Sarah is now making David responsible for her translation of his words.
David is now likely to defend his original intention and now a disagreement is likely.
Discover the intention before you react and the ride will be a smoother one.
.-= Stephen Hedger´s last blog ..The golden rule for a successful relationship? =-.

Danielle December 22, 2009 at 8:14 am

I have realized this over the past year or so. I seem to be getting worse the older I get. I guess it is because I never realized it before and therefore never worked on fixing it.
After 39 years, it is a hard patter to change and I keep thinking that I will be alone forever because of it. Or just in one bad relationship after another. Because of me!
.-= Danielle´s last blog ..Santa, I have been a good little girl. =-.

Single Mom Seeking December 3, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Well, I don’t know how in the world I missed your very insightful comment on my current post. Thank you. I thought of you all the way through it….

I’ve been in a similar relationship pattern for most of my life: expecting disappointment, not trusting that I will be loved, you name it.

Thanks to therapy — and a whole lot of self-introspection — I feel like I’m truly growing out of this. It’s incredible.
.-= Single Mom Seeking´s last blog ..Remind yourself that everything will work out =-.

Love Coach Rinatta December 4, 2009 at 8:53 am

Single Mom Seeking, you are lucky in that therapy helped in the process of changing your relationship pattern. I suspect it was more introspection and perhaps your positive spirit that simply refused to settle for bad relationships. For many people out there, lifetime relationship patterns never change and therapy does not help.

This is frustrating for me to watch, as I know that what you have now – a really great relationship! – is available to everyone for the price of delving into personal transformation.

I am so very happy for you Rachel, because you are happy!

Momof2girls November 11, 2009 at 10:54 am

It’s obvious that we learn by repeating and observation. That’s how we learn to talk, read, and do lots of other things. Same goes for relationships. However, as concious and intelligent human beings, we can control how we apply our knowledge and develop new skills and patterns. We aren’t doomed to repeat our parents’ failures. Instead, we are empowered to make our own mistakes and learn from them.

Coachdad November 4, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Been married and divorced twice. Trying so hard not to fall into the same patterns I had in those relationships this time. Like, shutting down whenever adversity hits.
[rq=1092118,0,blog][/rq]Tough to admit

BigLittleWolf October 30, 2009 at 10:09 am

Given your premise of parental relationship modeling, where does that leave children of divorce, who are largely raised by a single parent?

Where does it leave them if the little interaction they have with the other (same sex) parent is problematic?

I’d surely like to think that some of us solo parenting have nonetheless raised emotionally healthy kids who may be cautious about relationships, but have some clues as to what are authentic behaviors and what are not…
[rq=1041214,0,blog][/rq]Halloween hell: Hershey’s in the pantry

Secrets To Lasting Love October 22, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Every one is a mirror of something. We can subconsciously or consciously form habitual patterns without really knowing why and some of these patterns can lead to doom

Dustin | Engaged Marriage October 8, 2009 at 12:50 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with your post as we have seen it in our own marriage. It really came to the surface just this past weekend when my wife and I attended our first marriage retreat since getting married eight years ago. The retreat setting and program really allowed us to focus on issues ranging from family of origin to the habitual patterns we all tend to follow after spending a long time together.

We came away with a fresh perspective and a renewed sense of passion for our relationship.
[rq=838463,0,blog][/rq]Have You Tried a Marriage Retreat?

Hayley September 28, 2009 at 8:11 am

That’s kind of depressing if kids end up modeling their parents behavior, almost like you are doomed to carry on the mistakes of the past.

Unless you are lucky enough to be born with a good same sex example !

At that means I cannot be entirely to blame for my relationship crashes


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