We’ve all made bad decisions or have done something that goes against our better judgment. Getting involved in bad relationships whether it be work, romance or friendship, is not specific to education, class, stature, income level, race, sexual preference or age. We all do it. The question is why do we do it? What is the common thread that allows us to repeat average relationships, or continuously attract unhealthy or unfulfilling people, even though we feel we already ‘learned that lesson’? Much of who and what we attract, even in love, is determined by the aptitude of the generation before us. If our parents only have an average skill set they can only pass along the same abilities.
According to many psychologists, our behavioral patterns, including how and whom we love, are developed by the age of six. As children our ability to communicate is minimal but the power to observe and mimic as a survival skill is deeply rooted in the genetic coding of our species. This means that the relationships we seek as adults imitate the dynamic we observed between our parents or caregivers (up to when we were 6). As we grew older and hopefully wiser, our parents may have tried to give contrary advice; “Do as I say, not as I do (or did)”, but unfortunately the observed behavior was much more powerful than their contradicting advice. For example, if when you were a child, the dynamic of your caregivers’ relationship was unsupportive and abusive, you most likely will attract the same dynamic even though you may know better. Our species mimics to survive and since it’s the only survival skill you observed at a young age, it the same one you’ll repeat when you encounter the same situations, and in this case, it’s a relationship.
The basic scholastic bell curve also applies to love. The majority of what we learn about romantic relationships falls into the average. Few people are actually taught the necessary skills to love, few are taught the extreme opposite, hate, and most of us fall into the center, having learned average skills in both love and hate. The bell curve shows us that love exists, and is taught as an average skill. If we only recognize an average understanding of love, we can only teach an average understanding of love. Our caregivers did not have the skills to teach us beyond their own average aptitude. On top of that, most of us haven’t realized that the same rules do not apply to everyone. Person A most likely defines love, friendship and work entirely different than Person B, yet we spend our lives living out a generational pattern we observed in our parents, and they observed in their parents. The value system that defines your mother or father, most likely does not apply to you.
Try to estimate how much time as an adult you spend in relationships. Now think about how much time your caregivers devoted to teaching you about being in healthy, fulfilling relationships. We’re they even equipped to do so? Could they have told you that the decisions you make and the people you attract are based on the fundamentals of establishing a strong set of personal values or beliefs? For most of us the answer is no. Our parents were busy working full time, grocery shopping, paying bills, cooking dinner, mowing the grass, and driving us to little league. So it’s no surprise that we jump into relationships based on the average skills we observed.
The first step to breaking the patterns, or average skills you observed, is to spend time identifying what it is you DO want. As mentioned earlier, the foundation to all of your decisions and actions are a set of values, beliefs or guiding principles, as defined by YOU. It’s also replacing the adopted relationship standards with a clear, specific list of qualities that you desire in all of your relationships.