If you are lucky your parents brought you up in a happy and contented home. They gave you love and attention and enough independence to build a solid foundation upon which to build your own relationships.
Our first relationships in the home determine how future relationships will pan out. Our parents should give us a home life secure enough to build happy adult relationships. It seems, however, that this is often not the case. Almost everyone has had some level of pain or frustration during their childhood.
The way that we view our relationships as children leaves us with a blueprint for our future relationships. Early childhood experiences will determine everything from the partners that we choose to the way that we behave, and the behaviour that we expect from our partner.
We’ll use the coping mechanisms that we adopted as children to manage our relationships in later years. For example, if you learnt not to depend on others as a child you will continue with the self-sufficient patterns into adulthood. If one the other hand, you grew up expecting others to nurture and support you, you will expect the same as you grow older.
The way that our primary caregivers respond to us as children forms the basis of all subsequent relationships. Happy attentive parents who allow their children an appropriate level of privacy and independence create an environment where children feel secure and loved.
Where the primary caregiver does not form an emotional bond with the child. Where they do not respond well to the child’s needs and are even neglectful, the child may learn to become self-sufficient. This behaviour will continue into adulthood and the adult will remain independent and distrustful of others.
Some parents fluctuate between neglectful and overbearing behaviour. Some parents even expect the child to support their emotional needs. Children emerging from such an upbringing may become clingy and needful. They will take their childhood insecurities into their adult relationships.
We often make assumptions about the world based on our past experiences. We expect certain behaviours from people based on what our caregivers did. Often, we may choose partners that fit our expectations. If we had controlling and intrusive parents, we may choose a partner that manipulates and controls us. If we were ignored and left alone as children, we might find ourselves an unapproachable and aloof partner.
Both partners in a relationship will have their own relationship template. Both may engage in behaviour that incites the other to react in the manner that they have learnt as a child. In this way, the adult relationship may start to closely resemble the parent-child relationship.
If we recognise that we are repeating past behaviours, we can act to change the scenario. Because our current relationships are based on past experience, we have to understand the past if we are to create happier relationships in the future. To rewrite our future relationships, we must examine the experiences of the past, and analyse the actions and emotions that shaped who we are today.
No matter how difficult your childhood you can make sense of it and develop the security that you missed as a child. If you can come to terms with the problems and emotions that you had as a child, you can start to build a healthier environment for you, your partner and your current or future children.
By examining our childhood attachments and making sense of them, we can improve the life of every person with whom we share a relationship.