Patterns get established early on in relationships. Once a pattern or habitual way of relating gets imprinted it can be difficult to break that pattern later on. For example, when you start dating someone, there are many patterns that emerge. These can include
Who calls whom and how often?
Who takes the initiative in making social plans and planning special dates?
Who takes the initiative in love-making?
Who withdraws during times of conflict and who engages?
Who does the cooking and who cleans up?
Who gets their way more often and who defers and accommodates?
Relationship dynamics or patterns are determined by a number of factors—personalities, past experiences, areas of competency, level of emotional maturity, and how the two personalities mesh together. It is both normal and necessary for these patterns to emerge. And they get formed very early on in phase one of a developing relationship.
For the most part, roles and responsibilities get naturally allocated in a way the fits the personalities and strengths of each partner. However, many times patterns that form early on can lead to resentment down the road when one or both partners become tired of carrying the load exclusively in certain areas of the relationship; they want more say and influence on other areas and require more reciprocity in how the relationship is managed.
If you are starting to date someone new, pay attention to what roles you and your new love interest are taking on as your relationship develops. Make sure the patterns that are forming are ones that you can live with in the long haul. If you start seeing that you are the only one that always plans your social activities, make sure you are okay with this role. If not, stop. Disengage from the task. Ask your significant other to step up and share the role with you. Don’t wait to see if he or she magically begins to share in this responsibility. Take the time to determine if there is enough reciprocity within the relationship when and where you need it.
If you’re in a long-term relationship and are dealing with patterns that are now ingrained in your relationship, stop and see if and how they still work for you, your significant other, and your relationship. People grow and as they do, they interest and tolerance to certain relationship patterns may shift. If your relationship patterns are still working, great. If not, there is work to be done. Established patterns are difficult to break. It will require commitment, cooperation, communication, and sometimes, the help of an experienced professional.
What patterns do you see emerging in your developing relationship? Which ones work and which ones don’t? How are you addressing the ones that don’t? How is it going? When you share your story with others, you empower both yourself and our community. If you find yourself struggling with any new or solidified relationship patterns, I’m here to help. For a private consultation, contact me via email or call at 310-379-5855 or 1-888-99PATHS.
Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
Create Relationships in Your Life That Work — learn more at www.julieorlov.com