Relationship barriers

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Portrait of Gwen Randall-Young
Find the love you seek by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.
– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

I often work with individuals who have a history of not being respected or who were even treated badly in relationships. And not just in couples’ relationships – it can also happen with friends or in the workplace.

Almost always when I explore the client’s history, I find childhood experiences that are mirrored in present day relationships. It may be parents who treated them badly or simply did not validate them or give love. Sometimes, there is a history of being bullied in school. The result is an individual who devalues himself. There may be a strong inner critic who constantly berates, second-guesses or is overly concerned with what others think.

Interestingly, some of these people can be highly successful in their careers. It is like the inner wise adult soldiers on while the vulnerable inner child hides in a dark corner. Even so, the inner, devalued child has an impact. Some very successful people suffer from what is known as the “imposter syndrome.” They believe they are not as good as others believe they are and one day their inadequacies will be revealed.

The child who was devalued by others now devalues the self and the inner child gets triggered in adult relationships. The person reacts with the feelings of the child, not the wise adult. If one wants to go to a movie, and the other refuses the invitation, the wise adult says: “Okay, maybe another time.” The inner child says or thinks, “If you really loved me you would go with me.” It takes the refusal of the other as a rejection.

In effect, the person recreates in the adult relationship similar dynamics he experienced as a child. This can happen in two ways. One way is attracting people who treat them the way they were treated when they were young.

The other way is to project onto the other their own thoughts and motivations. For example, if he chooses to spend an evening with his friends, she feels he values his friends more than her, due to her own insecurities. She makes him responsible for her feelings of adequacy since she cannot do that for herself. A dysfunctional process of attack and defence begins. The relationship can never be healthy without two whole individuals.

Consequently, the person may keep ending relationships and looking for others to make her feel whole. Being unaware, the situation is interpreted as “Others keep treating me badly” and a history of bad relationships unfolds.

Sometimes, one actually is being treated badly and not just projecting feelings of being devalued. Sadly, we tend to attract others who will treat us as we treat ourselves. If we do not truly love, honour and respect ourselves, it is hard to attract someone who does.

The person who does not value the self and looks for that from others will stay too long in truly bad relationships. Their need for love and approval supersedes the need to honour themselves by getting out. One who has worked to heal the pain of the past and learned to truly love and honour the self will move away from dishonouring relationships much more quickly.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, Deep Powerful Change Hypnosis CDs and new “Creating Healthy Relationships” series, visit

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