It's hard to get through a relationship without making at least one mistake. And although it's painful to have hurt someone, it's important to learn from what you've done and move on. Unfortunately, getting over past relationship mistakes can be quite tricky. So, often, new relationships aren't immune to old mistakes either.
“You're not doomed to repeat past mistakes in relationships, but you can easily fall into the same patterns if you aren't aware of them and don't take steps to prevent making them again," board-certified psychiatrist and dating and relationship coach Dr. Susan Edelman tells Bustle. Messing up once is absolutely not a kiss of death for all of your future romantic endeavors, but not dealing with your hangups isn't a good idea either.
There's a myriad of reasons you may not want to address what lead you to cheat, lie, or hurt someone. Usually, it's because your mistake came from somewhere deeper, and accessing that place is even harder than admitting your mistake on its own. "Our mistakes and behaviors usually stem from something deeper than the experience on the surface," Lisa Olivera, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, tells Bustle. "Whether it stems from fear of abandonment, unworthiness, lack of control, fear of failure, lack of healthy relationship role models, or feelings of not being good enough, our behaviors tend to signal the need for looking underneath the surface. Until we understand the function of our behaviors, they become easy to repeat again and again." So if you identify any of these habits in your new relationship, it may mean it's time to take a deeper look at what brought you to this point.
Here are some subtle signs that mistakes from your old relationship are affecting your current relationship.
1. You Refuse To Argue
Maybe, in your last relationship, your arguments weren't the healthiest. That doesn't mean it's healthy to avoid arguments altogether with your new partner. "If a partner strives for perfectionism or refuses to engage in heathy arguments out of fear, it will affect the dynamic of their current relationship," Olivera says. So if you're constantly in defense mode, unable to let your guard down, think about where that's stemming from. Chances are, it's a good idea to find a new way to approach things.
2. Or You're Arguing About The Same Things
Having toxic arguments can also be a bit addictive, if you're not dealing with your feelings in the best ways. And having the same arguments over and over again might be an indication that you're making the same mistakes you were in your past relationship, even if it's not obvious on the surface.
"[Be wary] when there is frequent conflict over the same issues that came up and caused conflict in a past relationship," psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman tells Bustle. "There are many possible examples here ranging from lifestyle issues like being inconsiderate of the other’s person’s need for downtime, never pulling your weight on shared responsibilities — to having a negative and critical attitude that creates tension and general unhappiness." If you notice a pattern, open up to your partner about it. You two might be able to fix things more easily once you can put a name on it.
3. You're Getting Similar Reactions
If you notice that your current partner is reacting to your behavior in similar ways to your ex, it might be a sign that you're behaving in similar ways — even if you haven't noticed you're repeating yourself. "[Check in if] you’re getting the same reactions and responses from different partners" Olivera says.
You may feel that you're more trusting with your new partner, but they still might be receiving vibes that something is awry. This kind of imbalance can lead to a bit of déja vu. "When a new partner expresses the same concerns with a behavior or dysfunctional dynamic that occurred with a past relationship, [take note]," Coleman says. They likely aren't making things up.
4. You Have Relationship Déja Vu
If your relationship feels eerily similar to your last one, in any way, your old mistakes might be catching up to you. Whether you're making the same mistakes, or simply unable to get past your hangups, things can continue to operate in a rut. "An unhealthy pattern repeating itself is a sure sign," Coleman says. "Also if there is a lot of comparing a new partner with an old one, [or] responding to them as though they are that other person — then old mistakes are still there." So reassure yourself that your new partner is, in fact, an individual. And treat them as such. It can be a liberating and healing experience.
5. You Aren't Dating The Kind Of People You Deserve
If you've made a mistake picking the right partner before, that kind of inclination can continue to haunt you. This can be apparent if you've found a new partner, but part of you knows you still aren't with someone who deserves you. You can sometimes tell you haven't forgiven yourself for past mistakes by looking at the behavior of the people you choose to be around. "[For example, you may] fall into a pattern like getting into relationships with people who cheat on you," Dr. Edelman says. "You may be drawn to the same kind of problem in your relationships." No one deserves this, though. Regardless of what you've done in the past, it's a healthy decision to put yourself first.
6. You Count On Your Partner To Constantly Reassure You
Partnership is about balance. If you've entered a new relationship desperate for your loved one's approval, but are unable to reciprocate, you might still be dealing with the repercussions of past mistakes.
"If a partner clings to their mistakes and allows themselves to be defined by the mistakes they’ve made, they might show up in new relationships feeling automatically unworthy, unlovable, or not good enough," Olivera says. "This creates a dynamic of the partner needing constant reassurance, potentially living in fear of repeating the mistake, and being highly critical of themselves, which often puts the other partner in the position of being the one doing the reassuring, the reminding, and the holding." Both partners must be willing to examine the relationship dynamic, and communicate honestly about it, to be able to move forward.
7. You Overcompensate By Trying To Be Perfect
You may have made one glaring mistake in the past, but even if you never repeat it, you'll still inevitably mess up again in the future. If you're telling yourself that this isn't the case, it may be seriously hurting your new relationship. "Often, partners try to overcompensate for mistakes, which leads to an unrealistic expectation of never making mistakes again," Olivera says. "That fear of making a mistake again increases anxiety and puts a lot of pressure on both partners. This can lead to tension, words left unsaid, and built-up resentment." Practice patience with yourself, just as you would with someone you love. Walking on eggshells may be a mistake in-and-of itself.
8. You Are Unable To Forgive Yourself
If you're going to thrive in a new relationship, you must be able to forgive yourself for what you've done in the past. Until then, the mistakes you've made can haunt your new relationship in all sorts of ways. "If a partner is constantly guilty, worried, or ashamed about past mistakes, it will affect the dynamic of their current relationship," Olivera says. "Until the partner addresses those underlying emotional experiences, they will continue to show up in relationships. These things can be worked through, but it requires conscious effort and the willingness to look at the patterns holding the relationship back from being whole and truly connected." So whether this means a couple heart-to-hearts, or a trip to a counselor, moving past this roadblock is a group effort.
Whether or not you are repeating the same mistakes, if you haven't properly addressed your actions and the feelings about them, they're likely going to show up in your new relationship. Luckily, working through your past issues is totally possible. And with the right partner, it can be a transformative, loving process.