Breaking Destructive Relationship Patterns

By Sandra Bolan

It’s Friday night and instead of spending it with your significant other, you’re spoon-deep in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey that’s being chased down with a bottle of Prosecco, while you watch Bridget Jones’ Diary for the 100th time.

While you oscillate between Team Darcy and Team Cleaver, you wonder: “What went wrong? Why did we break up? What did I do? Will I be single forever? How can I get him back?”

Depending on how many pints of ice cream and bottles of wine you’ve consumed, you may even be curled up in the fetal position on the floor texting your now ex-partner everything from a tirade in all caps about how much you hate him or with an abundance of emojis proclaiming your never ending love.

This isn’t your first trip down Heartbreak Alley and it may very well not be the last.

These exes all look a little different but all of these relationships have something, besides you, in common. But what? What is the common denominator that has led to their eventual implosion?

This isn’t your first trip down Heartbreak Alley 
and it may very well not be the last.

To answer that question, you have to look back, way back, to when you were a child.

Believe it or not, our failed or toxic adult relationships are a direct result of childhood traumas, according to Life Care Wellness Center’s website. They offer a holistic approach to therapy. 

Think about it. Are you passive-aggressive? “These are people who often strike out with sarcasm they call a joke or ‘mistakes’ they claim were innocent. They don’t feel comfortable showing their anger because they don’t know what will happen if they do. … Protecting their already patched-up hearts in a self-defeating way,” according to E.B. Johnson, a writer and life coach. 

If you’re not passive-aggressive, are you perhaps a people-pleaser? If you can’t say no to people, and you’re overly generous with your time, it’s likely because you inconsistently received love and affection as a child so you seek it out as an adult, according to Goalcast, a website that empowers people to live life with purpose.

So, how do you move forward and embark on a new relationship that isn’t just another version of the last one, or the one before that, or the one before that?

Forgive Yourself. “You didn’t ask for the unhealthy relationships you’ve found yourself in. You’re not a masochist,” according to, which is dedicated to transforming your perception of yourself into a strength. “Your pain served a purpose and brought you to this place where you can recognize your own patterns, if you’re willing to look for them. In a way, those unhealthy relationships were gifts because they provided clues as to what needs healing in your life. So, give forgiveness a chance. That is the only way to wipe your slate clean,” according to Banu Sekendur, an intuitive coach and healer. One way to work through your early life is to journal. Many people find it helps them get in touch with past traumas and emotions in a safe, non-judgmental space. You can also seek out counseling.

Take a Hard Look at Your Behavior. This is not the time to have your girlfriends come together and tell you how amazing you are and how much of an idiot your former partner is. Your girlfriends can be helpful, but only if they are honest and point out some behaviors you consistently exhibit when you get into a relationship. Are you so dependent on your partner that you make him/her the center of your universe and drop everything and everyone like a hot potato when they call? Or are you too independent and it’s your way or the highway – for everything? Are you willing to make sacrifices, like not cheating on your partner if it’s supposed to be a monogamous relationship? You can’t live the life of a swinging single woman and be in a committed relationship. Do you communicate? Or do you let little annoyances build up until they become the elephant in the proverbial room that has you exploding over something else that is, in reality, not a big deal. You and your partner should be able to express your concerns without fear of it becoming a war of words.

Look for Warning Signs. What are those triggers/warning signs everyone else can see except you, when you’re heading into yet another disastrous relationship? Do you pull away from your BFFs? Change how you dress or wear your hair? 

Write Down your Relationships Goals. Don’t focus solely on the physical aspects of your dream partner, or how much money they make or the kind of car they drive. Focus on how you want to feel when you’re around this person. “When you identify the feelings you long for, you won’t get as easily lured in by the triggers you’ve identified,” according to

You’ll know when it’s time to move on.

Move On.This may sound harsh, but once you’ve cleared out the ice cream and wine sections of the grocery store, had a heart-to-heart with yourself and your BFFs, as well as forgiven yourself, it’s time to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and move forward. Hopefully, armed with the knowledge that you will not repeat the same mistakes in the future.

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