Ask the therapist: Do your childhood experiences impact the quality of your present relationships?

Dr Annette Schonder
Filed on February 18, 2021

How can I move away from letting my childhood and past relationship experiences (romantic and non-romantic) affect my present relationships in a negative manner? — Sania

Dear Sania, you exhibit good insight when you understand that past relationship experiences can continue to influence your present relationships.

When children have secure attachments to their primary caregivers and grow up in a loving and supportive environment, they have an excellent foundation to go into the world and find meaningful relationships and good friends. They know how to be respectful and set healthy boundaries.

I see that you are writing about negative relationship experiences from childhood and life. In your case, it would be important to understand your family of origin (of birth). With the help of a therapist, you can uncover the relationship styles and dysfunctions of your parents or caregivers. What you will most likely recognise is that you have gone through life repeating old dysfunctional patterns. The therapeutic process will help you understand the patterns, heal from emotional pain, address your fears, and learn what to avoid or look for in potential mates and friends.

When people come from dysfunctional families, they unconsciously connect with what feels familiar. This is why, for example, children of alcoholics have a high probability of marrying alcoholics. Alternatively, this is also why children of abusive parents frequently repeat the pattern when they become parents. And this is the very reason it is important to break the cycle of dysfunction.

Dr Schonder is an integrated therapist at