At first glance, it may seem paradoxical for an individual to actively pursue an unsatisfying relationship. However, research has found an association between adult attachment patterns and early life experiences. These findings indicate that troubling and difficult childhood dynamics are unconsciously re-created during later life stages. For example, individuals who lacked sufficient affection and nurturance during childhood tend to be attracted to emotionally depriving partners. Those who were constantly belittled may find themselves dating critical or rejecting partners. The individual who yearned for unattainable parental recognition may become overly complaint in later relationships in an attempt to seek approval and to avoid rejection. Although these relational patterns are destructive and often leaves one feeling unfulfilled, they also feel safe and are somewhat familiar; unfortunately, they are all one knows. Dysfunctional childhood dynamics are often replayed in the hope of experiencing a different, perhaps more favourable, outcome. Sadly, however, relationship difficulties tend to mirror relational challenges encountered during early childhood.
Clients benefit from exploring their relationship patterns in therapy and from obtaining a holistic understanding of their relational dynamics within the context of early life experiences. A non-judgemental and safe therapeutic space provides the impetus for clients to examine and challenge their habitual ways of relating. With increased insight, clients are able to make healthier relationship choices thereby allowing them to break free from the shackles of the past.