We’ve all had the experience of our stuff being triggered through intimate relationships and friendships. But what about those dynamics that repeat themselves over and over again, or appear as a thread in a number of relationships?

These deserve a closer look. They are gems in disguise.

Repetitive patterns

These are the patterns that cause you or the other the most pain. They can come with total disbelief, like ‘how could you do that!?’ or ‘why can’t you do that!?’. It seems incomprehensible.

They’re also characterised by a lack of acceptance of the other’s behaviour and an inability to see the part you’re playing and how your behaviour may also be unreasonable. These conditions are the perfect breeding ground for drama.

1182557-bigthumbnail‘That thing’

These are the kinds of issues – projected onto another – that can drive you from one relationship to the next, to find that everyone seems to mistreat you in this way, or no one can give you what you deserve!

This endless and fruitless search for the ideal person who can give you ‘that thing’ you need, that you’re yearning for – will at some point need to lead you back to yourself. This painful, often meandering journey can be made a lot shorter with awareness and self-work.

High expectations

To give you an example, it’s been reflected to me several times in past relationships that I expect too much: that there’s too much pressure to open, be there whenever needed, put me first etc.

What I couldn’t see was how damaging these expectations and demands were – from pushing the other away because they felt they couldn’t live up to them, to the other’s wantings and needs being subsumed.

A lack within

More significantly, I couldn’t see that these expectations and demands were about me – more specifically, a lack in me. Because of something missing in my relationship with myself, I was trying to compensate for this and find wholeness through another.

In a desperate attempt to experience more of myself, I was ironically giving too much away and in effect losing myself! I was going about it all in the wrong way.


In order to feel valued and secure another’s love and appreciation, we can do crazy things – manipulate, yearn for, guilt trip, demand, withhold, punish – to name a few.

Really, deep down, it’s your own self-respect, self-valuing and self-love that you most need.

Without that, it doesn’t matter how much another loves you, it’s never going to be enough, the cracks will always show and what’s lacking will become the focus again. BUT you won’t feel this lack within yourself, because you’re too busy seeing it in the context of the relationship.

You’ll make the other person feel terrible for not being able to ‘make this better’ within yourself, when it’s only you who can change the situation.

What does that say about me?

So take a step back and look at the things you repeatedly find yourself saying to your partner, not only your current one (if you’re in a relationship) but previous ones too. Then ask yourself, what does that say about me?

What is it that I am missing and could give to myself rather than expect from another?

In short, any persistent relationship issue is pointing to something to address in terms of your relationship with yourself.

The willingness to love yourself

self_love_In his book, Learning to love yourself, Gay Hendricks talks about “Being willing to love ourselves means that we are greeting life with acceptance rather than resistance.”

It’s this willingness that is the most important thing – it can be a challenge to reverse years of looking outside to relationships to ‘solve’ an inner problem. But the actual act of loving or opening to whatever you are feeling or being in any given moment is effortless.

Read this blog post for more about loving yourself so you can truly love and be loved by others.

If this post resonates with you in any way, I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

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