Repeating the Past?

Like it or not, humans are creatures of habit …

Blu enjoying his bone
by harminder dhesi photography

Especially when we feel our habit is not “complete.” We like to resolve things, fix things, have a “happy ending,” if you will—clinging to them, like a dog to an old bone! 

That’s why we end up being drawn into marriages and relationships that mirror some unresolved conflict from our past, and encountering similar negative consequences in our present.

It isn’t until we identify these repeating patterns—choosing to act/think in different ways—that we can ever hope to resolve them or heal them.

The Bible calls this “repentance”—a change of direction, mindset and behavior.

I have many old patterns that I repeat, sometimes unknowingly. They make my marriage and other relationships messy. They keep me confined to conflict and spiraling toward despair.

Some of my patterns are:

  • If someone sounds harsh or starts a conflict with me, I feel extreme anxiety and usually want to run from the conflict. This has to do with the heated conflicts I often saw between my parents.* Sad to say, they had a messy marriage too. I’ve written about how this problem plays out in my marriage often on this blog.
  • If vulnerable emotions are being expressed in a certain situation by others, I become very uncomfortable with giving-in to my own vulnerable emotions—opting for a more stoic response. This is due to an intentional habit I formed as a child, because I came to believe that emotions or crying was a sign of weakness.
  • If someone even hints of leaving me out, I feel like an outsider and dwell too much on it. This is a leftover issue from my past when I perceived or believed that I was all alone and emotionally abandoned by my parents.*

I’m still working on changing my thinking/relating regarding each one of these, but it’s an uphill battle sometimes. These patterns stem from a child-like or immature way that I coped in past situations. Ultimately, they are unhealthy attempts to grasp control or love, when I now know that I need to surrender control to the God who loves me unconditionally. 

It’s important to become aware of and acknowledge the unhealthy patterns you tend to repeat because it will give you a starting point to deal with it.

So how do you deal with it?

  • Pray about it, asking God to give you awareness whenever you fall back into the pattern.
  • Surrender to God your need to control the person, the situation or the uncomfortable emotions you feel whenever the pattern emerges.
  • Work with a counselor or godly, mature friend to help you understand the reasons why you’re repeating the pattern. Understanding “why” can help you to address the need that’s feeding the pattern.
  • Forgive the people in your past that hurt you. Often patterns are born out of the hurt or damage others have done to us.
  • Ask God to give you insight into what new, healthy behaviors can replace the old.
  • Ask a counselor or godly, mature friend to hold you accountable to do the “new” and get rid of the “old.”

So what old patterns are you repeating? Care to share?  

God can use your authenticity here to ignite the process toward healing!

“Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” Ephesians 4:22-23 (NLT)

*I am not blaming my parents. I know they did the best that they could. I simply am acknowledging the past problem in an effort to give you, the reader, an example of ways we can get hung up on unresolved issues or experiences from our past.

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Linking up with NOBH, Imperfect ProseWomen Living Well, and New Life Steward

  • Pam

    Beth, that was great! Always love hearing about your growing up years, good and bad, as you know all about mine. :o)

  • Ro elliott

    yes…we have to look at those roots…not to blame but to find freedom…than we can forgive and start moving forward…the definition of insanity…doing the same things expecting a different result. thanks for sharing your wisdom…blessings~

  • Richetta Blackmon

    Amen I love the step’s anfd yes praying is the key ina ll sistuations… you were recommended somewhere. Blog hopping so I can’t say but I am glad I found your blog 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Yes, we’ve swapped our stories over the years and I think it has brought healing to both of us. I’m so thankful for a safe, caring friend like you, Pam! Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me today!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, it’s hard to always see when we are acting “insane” 😉 but facing those patterns and surrendering them to God is the best place to start anew. Thanks for coming by, Ro! I always appreciate it.

  • messymarriage

    So glad that you found me too, Richetta. And glad I found your blog as well. Yes, prayer is so important to this process. Thanks for encouraging me, my new friend!

  • Yes, only Jesus can heal us from unhealthy patterns. But he can do what’s impossible for us. Great post, thank you. BLESSINGS!

  • soulstops

    Hi Beth,

    Yes, it is wise and necessary to look at roots, not to blame, but so we know what to pull out at its source…funny, but I posted about dealing with a vulnerable emotion and tears today…blessings to you 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Yes, when God is involved, so much redemption is done in our lives and hearts. I’m a testimony to that, Mari-Anna. BTW, sorry for referring to you as “Kyle” on your site. I mistakenly looked at your photo attribution for your name. You are a beautiful “female” blogging friend! Thanks for your encouragement and grace, Mari-Anna!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, I just went to your blog and read your beautiful post. It speaks volumes to this issue. So I hope my readers stop by your place as well! http://soulstops.com/

  • Jen

    I shut down. My body goes into flight mode and I avoid conflict at all costs. Been working on engaging the conflict, the feelings that I avoid, with my husband who really does want to know but who I often lock out.

  • Thanks for the chuckle, Beth! Stay strong in Christ & blessed beyond measure!

  • Cindy

    Oh how I wish I shut down, and went into flight mode!! I am toatally the opposite and I really hate it…… I am getting better (I think) but it is WORK!

  • messymarriage

    All I can say, Jen, is that you are not shutting down here … you are not going into flight mode now. And for that I am grateful and proud of you for being honest about your struggle. Thanks for taking a step toward dealing with your past and I will certainly pray that God continues to heal your heart and marriage. Hugs to you!

  • messymarriage

    It really is work and work that is often filled with pain, Cindy. But God walks with you in this struggle. He comforts you and redeems the pain and hurt as you daily, even moment-by-moment, surrender it to Him. Praying for you, my sweet friend!

  • Cindy

    Totally agree…..without Him holding my hand all the way, well, I can’t even imagine. Praising Him for the strength He gives, and the help I need along the way.

  • soulstops

    Thank you, Beth 🙂

  • Make me New

    I tend to stop talking to my husband as if that will help the situation….prayers to not continue to fall into this same pattern when there is something on my heart…thank you for messymarriage!

  • how hard it is to change those patterns. let our minds be renewed, day by day.

    i just finished a book, Acedia & Me, and it’s a lot about combating the apathy that just gives into the despair of what is/was. yours is a fitting and related challenge.

  • Oh yes, so many messy habits here. Looking back, my early marriage was full of these habits. Every little thing my husband did that seemed remotely like something my father would do sent me into a tailspin. Marriage has been a tool of refinement, cutting away those fears with grace. Great post!

  • Becky Kopitzke

    I can identify with this, Beth. I’ve always had a fear of appearing stupid – as though I need to defend my intelligence. And I see this play out in my marriage. If I interpret my husband’s words as an attack on my intellect (which in reality they are not), I lash out. The funny thing is, I actually have a tremendous capacity for doing dumb things. Maybe I just don’t want to be found out. 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Sounds like an interesting book, Suzannah. And yes, it is hard to change patterns that we’ve done for most, if not all, of our lives. I like your way of putting it – it is important to “let our minds be renewed, day by day.” Thanks so much for coming by and weighing in on the subject.

  • messymarriage

    I think I’m too much like you, Becky … I do a lot of “dumb things” too! 😉 But you bring up an important point, our spouse’s often trigger our need to repeat past patterns. There are lots of reasons why, but the important thing for you to know is that “you” are not stupid. I can tell from your blog and writing that you are a VERY smart gal! Thanks so much for coming by, my friend!