Why People Repeat Bad Relationship Patterns

People’s relationships with different partners show remarkable similarity in the middle, settled phases.

People’s relationships with different partners show remarkable similarity in the middle, settled phases.

People follow the same relationship patterns with different partners, research finds.

Once the initial honeymoon phase of a new relationship is over, it tends to settle into much the same pattern as with previous partners.

People who experience a lot of negative emotions in one relationship are likely to experience them with a different person.

The reason why people repeat the same patterns is, according to Dr Matthew Johnson, the study’s first author:

“Although some relationship dynamics may change, you are still the same person, so you likely recreate many of the same patterns with the next partner.

New love is great, but relationships continue past that point.”

The conclusions come from a study involving 554 people who were followed for years, through one relationship to its end and into the next one.

They were surveyed twice during each relationship and asked about their satisfaction with it, whether they could open up to their partner and their confidence in the relationship lasting.

Naturally, all relationships have their ups and downs, said Dr Johnson:

“Things get worse as a relationship ends, and when we start a new one, everything is wonderful at first, because we’re not involving our partner in everyday life like housework and child care.

The relationship exists outside of those things.”

However, the results showed remarkable similarity in the middle, settled phases of relationships, said Dr Johnson:

“There’s a lot of change in between, but more broadly, we do have stability in how we are in relationships.

It’s good in a sense that we as individuals can bring ourselves and our experiences into relationships; we aren’t totally trying to change who we are, and that continuity shows we stay true to ourselves.”

New relationships do not always offer a new pattern, after the honeymoon phase is over, said Dr Johnson:

“Just starting a new partnership doesn’t mean things are going to be different.

This research shows that chances are, you are going to fall into the same patterns in many aspects of the relationship.

Even if things are different, they’re not guaranteed to be better.”

The study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology (Johnson & Neyer, 2019).

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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.