When we are born we want two things… attachment and authenticity. Humans are wired for relationship unlike other species on the planet. For example, when reptiles give birth they leave the egg to fend for itself and it lives or dies based on the environment or predators around it. Whereas, mammals and humans cannot survive alone. When a bird lays an egg or a human has a child, they stay after its birth and nurture it, feed it and keep it warm and safe. We cannot survive without connection and protection as it doesn’t allow us to feel safe in our environment.
Why does this matter to a healthy relationship? Because these are our basic needs but they frequently come into conflict with each other. We are born looking for 3 things from our caregivers/parents… to be seen, heard and loved. However, many people who come into my office have not had any of these and this creates problems for the client in relationships. Without these 3 basic needs being met, we become unattached to our caregivers and feel unseen, unheard and unloved, and our primary goal as we grow is to find this in our world at any cost.
The other basic human need is to be authentic. When we are born, we are pure of heart and mind and we are expressing our emotions in response to the world around us. We cry when we’re hungry or need our diaper changed, we cry when we feel alone and want to be held and we express our anger in very profound ways, such as temper tantrums and refusing to do what we are asked to do. This is our preverbal (1-3 year old) authentic self trying to understand and navigate our world but this behaviour is frequently met with rejection and the feeling of abandonment.
We quickly learn that the best way to get the attention and attachment to our caregivers is to be flexible, be good, do well at school to please them, never cause trouble and suppress our feelings of sadness, anger and fear, and this suppression can lead to depression, and we develop coping strategies like people pleasing to ensure that we are never hurt or abandoned again. We quickly learn that this behaviour appears to give us what we need so we continue to do it for decades.
Now we are grown and go into relationship with another adult but we are still running our childhood coping strategies and therein lies the problem. We keep getting stuck in relationships and they frequently end the same way each time… badly. We can’t seem to get out of the loop of dating the same kind of person every time and expecting a different result. As Einstein said… “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, such as the same behaviour leading to unsuccessful relationships.
So now I want you to get a paper and pen and make two columns. In the left hand column I want you to write the name of anyone that you have ever dated or were in relationship with and in the right hand column, I want you to write down what issues you had with them, such as, were they too nice, too mean, very attentive, not very attentive, critical, defensive, disrespectful or stonewalling? I then invite you to notice the similarities of these partners in relationship with you. I know that you will begin to see a pattern that will give you some information about yourself and your coping strategies, such as people pleasing, perfectionism, addiction, avoidance, and the inability to commit. The first step to healing is awareness and we are only able to make changes when we become aware of the patterns. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.
Please visit my website and take my relationship quiz entitled How Healthy is My Relationship? https://tinyurl.com/y65cfdlx This will give you even more insight as to how healthy your relationship really is.