When we have certain expectations of our partners or our relationships, we may be unconsciously creating the very situations that we fear. For example, let’s say that a woman has experienced a pattern of infidelities in most of her intimate relationships. She may fear similar infidelities in her subsequent relationships and may act in a suspicious and distrustful manner in order to ensure that her partner is faithful. This behavior, in turn, can make her partner feel distrusted, criticized and even persecuted, even if he or she is completely innocent of any infidelity. Feeling constant distrust in one's relationship can then engender feelings of needing to hide even the most innocuous actions in an effort to avoid any future accusations. This, in turn, may make the partner with the history of being betrayed feel even more suspicious, creating a vicious cycle of distrust and distance, and ultimately fulfilling the most-feared outcome.
Yet, some of us may not be aware of what and how we should be treated in a relationship. All we know is how we have been treated in the past. We may then erroneously believe that the manner in which we have been treated previously is the only treatment that we can attain, and so we adjust our behavior to fit this expectation. Perhaps because some of our most formative experiences have been inconsistent and maybe even disappointing, we may, on some level, feel that any intimacy must come with a similar price tag. So we make excuses for certain unwanted and maybe hurtful behaviors in our partners, and may continue lowering our expectations, feeling that perhaps inconsistency and disappointment is just a part of love and that this is all that we deserve.
Yet examining the messages that we received from previous relationships, along with our assumptions about ourselves and our own worth can be wonderfully freeing in illuminating relational patterns. This type of analysis can also lead to the invaluable realization that we may, in fact, have some level of control in creating the kind of relationship that we want. When we can view the relationships in our lives as dynamic co-creations, we can gain a sense of mastery and choice, and may then finally learn to act and feel deserving of the type of relationships that we want.