Believe it or not, a lot of the habits, traits and mannerisms we show in the ways we love others have to do with what we learned as children, and what we've been conditioned to project even when we don't realise it.
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Relationship expert and TEDx speaker, Paula Quinsee says "our upbringing plays a large role in how we select a partner and the types of relationships we forge with others.
We have an unconscious bias based on the traits (both positive and negative) we take on board from our primary caregivers (i.e. our parents) and this creates our blueprint going forward of what love and relationships should look like."
This influence from our upbringing not only determines how we process and express love, but it also plays a role in how we choose our loved ones. "Everyone has a ‘type’ that they consciously and subconsciously look for when it comes to attracting a partner – ultimately there is some truth in the cliché that we marry someone like our mother/father as we identify with those traits in our partner that we experienced in childhood from our caregivers," says Paula.
But how do you know which parts are traits brought in from your upbringing?
According to Paula, the first seven years of a child’s life is where the emotional foundation is formed – this is where we learn how to communicate, connect, express ourselves, manage conflict, trust, be vulnerable, claim our individuality and so much more.
"Those traits and behaviours are then reinforced throughout our lifetime throughout the environment and constant messaging we are exposed to and play out in our adult relationships," she adds.
Paula explains that these traits are easy to pick up from the feedback you receive from your partner and loved ones. The comments they make about a particular communication style, conflict management style, defensive behaviour and insecurities or fears are what can give you an idea of what your love styles are and how they affect your relationships.
A few examples that Paula shares of these pieces of feedback could be:
- you never listen to me (this person is potentially feeling unheard, invisible, unacknowledged)
- you’re always busy/at work (this person is potentially feeling like they are not a priority, important or valued by their partner)
- you always walk away so nothing ever gets resolved (this person is potentially feeling their partner shutting down on them to avoid confrontation)
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Is there something that can be done about it?
For any and every pattern that was learned, it can be unlearned and replaced with a healthier, more practical habit. But for any change or shift to occur, says Paula, we need to become aware of our behaviour, where it stems from and the impact it is having on others (our partner, colleagues etc).
"Once we have that awareness we can consciously start to replace that behaviour with new behaviour – all behaviour is learned behaviour and can be unlearned. Ultimately we cannot change anyone else, only ‘self’ so it always comes back to developing a healthy relationship with self by understanding our behaviour and being willing to make shifts. We need to start building a healthy relationship with self and healing our inner child."
Likewise, while you're working on yourself, your partner can be there to support and encourage you to be and do better. "By gaining a deeper understanding of why our partner is reacting in a certain way or gets triggered by certain things, we can support them in ways that helps them to heal and together find fulfilment in each other and our relationship," Paula adds.
"At the end of the day we are all human and we all have some form of childhood wounding – there is no such thing as the perfect person or perfect relationship but rather how perfect can you be for each other."