Even if it is not always obvious at first glance: Many people often only realise afterwards that they have come across the same type of woman or man over and over again. So you fall in love with people with whom the relationship is similarly problematic and complicated. Even if everything was new, unfamiliar and this time looked completely different.

For example, a woman may tend to look for men who correspond to a certain type, may be visually trained and self-confident in appearance, but behave increasingly unreliable or insensitive in a relationship. She may repeatedly find herself in an increasingly insecure, adjusted or suspicious role with the associated relationship problems. Despite the repetition, it is a disappointment for her again.

In my psychological counselling practice I often hear of such dynamics. First of all, it is important to understand how we come to be attracted to people who are of a similar type. Our relationship behaviour is always based on relationships from our childhood, i.e. with our parents or people close to us.

How does it come about that we are into a certain type of woman or man?

We humans are very conservative in our basic structure. That is, we prefer what we know. It always pulls us into old patterns that are familiar to us. This process often takes place unconsciously and can be observed very well, especially in the area of couple relationships: Even if the familiar type of person is not necessarily the best choice for us, as in the above example, and relationship problems arise with him, we choose the known evil above the probably better unknown. It’s just what feels normal to us. Like advertising, which works through repetition because it creates a familiar feeling in us, even if we don’t like the product itself that much.

This also affects same sex couples and couples where one or both of the couple are transgender. Relationships and our significant others now take many forms.

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What role does the external appearance of the partner play in this?

External characteristics only play a subordinate role in this dynamic when choosing a partner. (Although there are apparently measurable similarities between parents and partners, sometimes, more important than the appearance of the potential partner are typical interaction patterns and roles in which we put ourselves with him. For example, the feeling of being neglected or being kept small. This is often an essential point in psychological counselling or therapy: an unresolved inner conflict becomes visible in our relationships because our partner is ideally suited for us to project our issues onto him or her. The conflict with the partner is then the reason through which the underlying problem becomes visible.

Are there relationship problems in psychological counselling or coaching that are typical for the UK?

Relationship problems in a big city like Berlin are essentially no different than elsewhere. But there are special features when looking for a partner, as well as in the relationship. In the city, compared to village structures, there is a much larger selection of possible partners. Not only is the temptation greater to look for a new person again and again when relationship problems arise. The demands and pressure and the associated uncertainty with regard to the choice of partner also increase with the options. In this sense, the big city doesn’t necessarily make it easier to have a committed and well-functioning relationship, especially at the beginning. But that is only part of the influence.

Whether in the initiation or in a long-term relationship, in my practice clients report from the experience that the problems, although at the beginning it seemed as if something was different with the new counterpart, become familiar after a while Show dynamics.

How is the phenomenon of recurring relationship problems made understandable in psychological counselling?

Even Sigmund Freud said that we unsolved problems repeat until we have solved them. He speaks of the so-called repetition compulsion that comes from the unconscious or repressed in us. According to Freud, this is the reason why certain people keep coming and staying in situations that actually make them feel unhappy and unfulfilled. The explanatory model is based on the basic assumption that we have inner unresolved conflicts within us that arose in our childhood: the way we were treated as a child, so we deal with ourselves later. So when choosing a partner, in a certain way we look for teammates who fit the film that plays back and forth in our lives.

Example: A girl grows up under very neglectful conditions. The mother is an alcoholic, the father is never there. Due to these circumstances, the girl begins to take over tasks from her mother very early on. It takes on the caring role, behaves very sensibly and constantly puts its own needs aside. In this way, the girl ensures that the system in which she lives remains running.

By taking over the parental tasks, it develops coping strategies to somehow come to terms with the threatening situation. Of course, they also experience the emptiness and pain that the lack of affection, care and security from their parents triggers and they long to be cared for by themselves. Even so, as an adult, it is very easy for them to get into situations where they care about the needs of others. It is what it is good at, what it is familiar with and what, from experience, can ‘keep things going’. Just as it is familiar to him to come up short and to come to terms with it.

Children do everything possible to maintain a relationship with their parents

The unconditional need for attachment is inherent in all of us, because as children we are dependent on our parents. It only becomes problematic when the parents do not care enough or are not able to adequately address the needs of the child. The child learns to ignore their own needs and to blame themselves for the problematic relationship with their parents. It may come to the conclusion that it is not adorable or somehow not right. As an adult woman, the girl from the example case carries the conviction from her childhood that she is only wanted if she functions and takes care of. In addition, she is just very good at taking care of others and gets recognition for it and experiences control over the situation.

How does this specifically affect the woman’s relationship problems?

She will unconsciously reenact the ‘drama’ of her childhood. Perhaps because of her story she likes to look for unorganised artist types or unreliable, demanding or self-centered partners, whom she then takes care of and has a lot of understanding. The tragedy arises from the fact that if the woman stays in her coping pattern, she stays in her safe role, but never experiences that she is loved because of herself. She never learns that she can be weak and needy. The protective mechanism of the past becomes the prison of today. This creates a feeling of control, but also repeatedly confirms the conviction that she has to do something for love.

Could relationship problems and separation be avoided? Would we consciously look for people with a similar childhood history and coping strategies?

People with the same coping skills tend to annoy us rather than find them particularly sympathetic. Our coping strategies are closely linked and driven by our negative beliefs. This inner critical voice would then be more likely to be heard across the street. Often we also find people who would like to give us what we have to do without in childhood, not attractive or interesting. A person who is deeply convinced that they are not loved for their own sake will hardly know what to do with unconditional affection and the care of their partner. It just doesn’t fit their worldview. In a certain way, this would put us in a completely unfamiliar, strange situation and play an unknown game.

In relationships, it’s important to have a flexible balance

Ultimately, we need flexibility in roles and partners for a functioning relationship, who in principle take on both roles and can also do without their usual role. That basically everyone can be the strong shoulder, sometimes the needy one. Taking on the dynamic, active and independent part as well as showing the passive, supple, soft side. In my psychological counselling or coaching, I also support people in taking on roles that they feel unfamiliar and strange.

In a relationship isn’t one always more dominant or more attached than the other?

Trends in the roles are completely normal and ok. The point is that we don’t freeze in it. It is important for both partners to be able to stand on their own two feet as well as to establish a real connection with the other. This can be illustrated metaphorically as standing on two legs, the “binding leg” and the “self-assertion leg”. It is alive when we can ‘dance’. We humans have a need for both autonomy and attachment. So it’s about the balance, first in ourselves, and then together with the partner. If one of the partners always automatically adapts and subordinates himself and the other behaves very self-assertively and aggressively at the same time, in the long term this easily leads to hardening, increasingly extreme roles. And they become a problem in the relationship. We can easily imagine that if, for example, one of them hardly ever comes home and the other complains and reproaches about it, which is why the former has no more motivation to come home next time.

What role do relationships outside the family play in later relationship patterns?

Even if the relationship with mother and father is usually most relevant at the beginning of life, other caregivers may also have a major influence on the development of a growing child. There is, for example, the possibility that the relationship with the parents is safe and stable, but the child later has massive problematic experiences with classmates or friends. Attentive teachers, grandparents, or neighbours can also facilitate a positive bonding experience
However, parents are responsible for their child when they are not yet adults. For parents, however, the following also applies: It is absolutely not necessary to always respond 100 percent to the needs of your children. It is completely sufficient to be sufficiently good parents who are for the most part able to answer the needs of their children with empathy. Dear parents, you don’t have to do everything perfectly!

Is there any reason to hope for a functioning relationship if the relationship with the parents was problematic?

Because of a difficult childhood, thinking “that’s just the way I am” is not productive. As an adult, it is important to take responsibility for yourself. It is helpful to focus on what you would like. Nobody is at the mercy of their past. There is always an opportunity to outgrow old habits. As a first step, the girl from our example could become aware of which characteristics of the partner did not do her good in past relationships. For many, it is also about choosing a partner based on internal values instead of externalities. Dating apps like Tinder often make the search for a partner very superficial.

What is being done in psychological counselling to help people who repeatedly struggle with the same relationship problems?

The aim is basically that the person concerned learns to give himself what he expects from the other. In psychological counseling, coaching, as well as psychotherapy, we approach the problem by finding out together what specific needs are involved. Imaginative techniques from schema therapy are used, or a so-called limited subsequent parenting of the therapist. In this, the client * can experience an attentive, caring, needs-answering attitude and action. As a result, a longing can turn into a concrete self-caring motive for action.

Usually, psychological counselling or psychotherapy initially slows down

It is carefully examined how it comes to recurring problematic situations in the relationships of the person concerned. In everyday life, stimuli, emotions and reactions often run very quickly and unconsciously. When I work with individuals, what exactly happens in these situations is revealed: What was the hope? What is the expectation and the real need behind it? What was the perception? How did I feel? How did I behave and what was the effect?

In the end, it’s about being able to give yourself what you would like to get from the other

If you always feel attracted to the same type of person, then it is helpful to ask yourself what you associate with this type of person. We often see in the other a quality that we think we need. For example, if you like being muscular and strong, this may be associated with stability or protection. In psychological counselling or in coaching / therapy, it is then often about learning to meet one’s own needs. For example, if you want to feel respected and taken seriously, the need is usually not met if we withdraw offended or talk to the other person. Instead, it is important to take yourself seriously first, to respect your own limits and to be clear about your needs. Then we can consider what an action would be that meets our needs. Perhaps it would be to make a request clearly, say no, distance yourself, or seek closeness.

If you are interested in working on recurring relationship problems together, please contact me right away and arrange an initial meeting. I can be reached by phone, WhatsApp and email .

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