Most people choose their relationship styles based on those of their parents and the culture that they grow up in. In fact, people often don’t see relationship style as a choice. There is a mainstream cultural story and unless there is a reason to move away from that story – that is the way a relationship goes. For example, girl meets boy at a dance. Boy asks girl for her number. Boy and girl start dating and fall in love. Boy and girl move in together. Boy and girl get married and live happily ever after. Until very recently in many countries, this story was always boy and girl. Now this story can apply to all genders and all mixes of genders.
In the not so distant past in many cultures, the story was very different. Love had nothing to do with it. Marriages were arranged by the parents. The story there was that you learned to love the person that was chosen for you. That person was chosen for social and business reasons – to unite two families – rather than looking at simply uniting the two people who were getting married. There are still quite a number of cultures where many marriages are still arranged.
We often choose partners who are much like our parents or with whom our relationships will look like those of our parents. This happens even when we are trying to avoid repeating these parents! Why does this happen? We tend to be most comfortable with people and relationships that feel familiar to us. This includes the negative feelings as well as the positive ones. I like to say that these people smell right to us. We see their behaviour, habits and patterns as normal because they remind us of the ones we grew up with. Sometimes the similarities are obvious: For example, a person who grew up in a family where there was alcoholism chooses a partner who is alcoholic. Other times, the similarities are not obvious but the emotional dynamic is the same. For example, if you grew up in a family where your parents were children of alcoholics (or addicts of any kind), you might find yourself in a relationship with an addict or alcoholic because the dynamic feels the same. The behaviours, the way emotions are expressed and managed, communication styles all may be the same.
If you are interested in exploring your relationship patterns, spend some time looking at all of your relationships in details. Start with your parent’s relationship(s). Describe the relationships in detail covering longevity, how they communicated, how they managed disagreements, how emotions were expressed, how joy was expressed, how love was expressed, were there apologies, was there aggression, was there violence, did they have an active happy sexual life, what roles did they take, who was responsible for what? Take note of the changes you noticed over the years as well.
Once you have done this, do the same with your own relationship(s). Is there a pattern in the partners you choose? Is there a pattern in the relationship style? The way communication happens? Or the expression of love or sex? Note all the patterns you find in detail. Is there a thread that runs through all of your relationships that you would like to cut? Is there a thread that runs through all of your relationships that you would like to keep?
Once you have fully examined your patterns, as well as you can at present, you will have a better chance of creating the conscious relationship you desire and a lesser chance of re-creating any negative patterns. If you find this difficult to do on your own, do some sessions with a coach to help you through the process.
Choosing to create conscious relationships requires that we start by becoming more conscious of ourselves. We need to learn about our own emotional and relational patterns and resolve any issues left over from childhood. We need to make sure our emotional skills are strong and if they aren’t, we need to learn strong emotional skills. We need to gain excellent communication skills.
To engage consciously, you have to know what you desire and then you have to be able to communicate this well to the person with whom you want a relationship. You have to be willing to communicate the difficult stuff and to listen to it as well. You have to be willing to look at your expectations, desires, hard limits and points that are negotiable and then be able to communicate these to other people who are potential partners. The more present you are able to be when talking about relationship potentials with a partner, the more your relationship is likely to take the shape you desire. All of these are skills that you can learn and practice to make it easier to create and maintain conscious relationships.
When you choose to create a conscious relationship, you are choosing a relationship that is more likely to meet your needs. You are committing to personal growth and growth withint the relationship. Conscious relationships require regular communication, regular maintenance. When you spend the time to communicate well with your partner and review your expectations and the relationship, making sure to make changes when necessary together, the relationship you create is more fulfilling and often longer lasting.
Dr Lori Beth Bisbey is a registered psychologist, sex & intimacy coach, professional speaker and published author. She has been working with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups for over 30 years to help them create and maintain their ideal intimate relationships. She writes non-fiction about sex, sexuality, gender, relationships of all kinds, kink, non-monogamy, BDSM and authority transfer based relationships and sexual trauma in her own blog, for a variety of relationship websites, and for a number of print publications. She also writes erotic short stories.