If you are in your first serious relationship, then chances are you have very little baggage that affects your current relationship. You see your relationship with fresh eyes and form expectations based on the actions and behaviour of your partner. If you have previously had a long-term or serious relationship before your current one, then you very likely have some expectations already formed from prior relationships.
Whilst this can be a healthy thing at times, for example, we know exactly what we value in a relationship and what we won’t put up with, it can also present with problems that perhaps we didn’t expect.
At times I work with couples who are in a new relationship and they find that problems that occurred in their past relationship are recurring. Sometimes those issues aren’t actually there, but past hurt makes you believe that it is what you have.
Human nature being what it is, we focus on the negative and watch for it. It is a self-preservation technique that we use and while this can keep us safe, it can also cause problems in an otherwise healthy relationship.
Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner cheated on you, treated you as though you weren’t a priority, didn’t listen to you and arguments erupted easily, where you weren’t appreciated or where you perhaps felt rejected on some level?
If you have had anything like this in a past relationship, chances are you will be on the lookout for it in your new relationship. While this is healthy, at times you may find you create a situation that wasn’t actually there because of your past experience.
At times we can be guilty of assuming our new partner is guilty of our previous partner’s actions and we react accordingly, leaving our partner confused as they have done nothing wrong. A good example of this is a person that has been cheated on in a previous relationship. It is natural to be deeply hurt and betrayed by this and we would be vigilant in the new relationship for any signs that this might be occurring. If your partner pays attention to how they dress one day when they normally don’t give it much thought, that can be a red flag to you. In reality though, your partner may simply have felt like making an effort that day, maybe they were feeling low and wanted to boost themselves by dressing well, maybe they were actually making an effort for you. Perhaps your partner normally answers text messages quickly and one day they take hours to answer. Your first thought may be that they are cheating. Other and more likely possibilities are that they were busy at that time, overlooked the message, or possibly didn’t think it required a response. If you then ask them to account for that and keep questioning it, they will be confused and perhaps annoyed.
These kind of minor things can erode a relationship over time and an otherwise healthy relationship can fall apart when there is in fact nothing majorly wrong with it. It is important to try and recognise when you end a relationship, if you have any issues from that time that may impact your next relationship. If you do, it is a good idea to work to resolve those issues before you start a new relationship so that those same issues don’t impact your future.
Another important thing to note is if you see yourself reacting to your partner based on these past issues. For example, if your last partner cheated on you be aware that you might get suspicious of your new partner. If you see this occurring or your partner flags it to you, then it is really important to address it and not expect that it will just go away. It is crucial that you allow your partner’s actions to speak for themselves and not judge them by past experiences.
If you find yourself doubting your partner because of the past, pay attention to your thinking process. Challenge your negative thoughts. If you don’t trust because you have been with a cheater, then watch that moment when you doubt your partner. Look for real evidence that your partner is doing the wrong thing, don’t allow your thinking to take off in a bad direction. So they dressed nicely today, instead of assuming they cheated, what might that be about? Look for alternatives that are more innocent because in all likelihood, that is the real reason for the change in behaviour.
If you struggle to gain trust with your new partner because of past experiences and you can’t overcome this thinking on your own, then seek help so that your new relationship can thrive.