Past Impact on Current Relationships

Much of what we know about relationships came through childhood experiences. Those experiences taught us how to relate to people. We also learnt about relationships by what was modeled to us by our caregivers (parents). These personal experiences and modeling molded us. Our experiences and the modeling we were exposed to may have been positive or negative. As children, we saw how our parents interacted with each other and with other people including ourselves. These observations taught us what we believe to be the role of the father in the home, the role of the mother and so forth. Some people may have learnt what we believe to be the role of parents by what not to do (if our experiences were negative). When we interacted with our parents and when we observed them interacting with each other we stood before a choice: To adopt the modeling and make it part of who we are, or to reject it and adopt the opposite. Either way, it has shaped both who we are, and what we believe, with regards to relationships, finances, parenting, and many other topics.

The modeling we received may thus be a blessing or, alternatively, may result in negative baggage we carry into current relationships. Many of the issues harming current relationships find their origin in the past. We often mistakenly think that our spouses are the problem. Most couples who come see me for relational difficulties walk into my office blaming each other. The truth is that we come to the relationship with pre-existing issues. It just so happens that his issues coincide with her issues. Yes, we may trigger each other’s issues and we may cause pain, but that is because the wounds are there already. Normal pressure on a wound hurts. But it is not the pressure per se causing the hurt it is the pre-existing wound.

Our pasts leave us with some wounds and it also leaves us with tainted views or mindsets. These mindsets preprogram our thinking. It can even dupe us to project past experiences onto our spouses. We need to realize that our spouses are not identical to the people from our past. When we design hearts, we don’t play the blame game. It does not do anybody any good to blame a spouse for what (issues and mindset) you believe he/she brought into the marriage. Rather, we need to look into our past to help us to really get to know who we are and to understand how we think and function. Examining our pasts provide a starting point from which we can begin to design new hearts.

• Think back about how the past shaped you;
• Look for past patterns and experiences which repeat themselves in current relationships;
• Learn to spot when current situations bring back past pain;
• Forgive the past and try to heal instead of carrying it with you into the future;
• Separate your spouse (in your thinking) from people who have hurt you in the past;
• Separate your negative feelings about your past from current experiences (as far as possible);
• Do not blame your spouse for what really comes from your past;
• Work on dealing with your past, not your spouse’s.

We can, over time, learn to minimize the past’s negative impact on current relationships. We can cherish and build on past positive experiences and continue them in the future. Let’s dwell on the positive and heal the negative.