EMOTIONAL HEALTH
September 10, 2019

New Relationship, Same Old Problems

Being in a new relationship doesn’t mean old problems won’t follow you. Better to deal with them.

Just because you’re out of a bad relationship doesn’t mean you're free of its problems — which might be because you’re part of the problem. The results from a new study from the University of Alberta in Canada suggest that people who leave unhappy relationships may find that their new relationships are, a year or two in, not so different from the last one.

“Just starting a new partnership doesn't mean things are going to be different,” study author, Matthew Johnson, said in a statement. “This research shows that chances are, you are going to fall into the same patterns in many aspects of the relationship. Even if things are different, they're not guaranteed to be better.”

People who leave unhappy relationships may find that their new relationships are, a year or two in, not so different from the last one.

He and his team followed over 550 people, from one relationship to another. They questioned them at four points in time: one year before the breakup of a person’s first serious relationship, within the last year of that relationship, in the first year of a new relationship, and finally one year later. They asked the participants about their satisfaction with the relationship, frequency and satisfaction of sex, frequency of conflict, ability to open up to their significant other, confidence in the relationship lasting and how often they expressed appreciation for their partner.

Most variables were exactly the same from the first time-point in the first relationship to the last time-point in the second; only frequency of sex and the expression of appreciation increased. The authors point out that because people remain largely the same over time, it may not be so surprising that they may encounter similar issues from relationship to relationship.

“Although some relationship dynamics may change, you are still the same person, so you likely recreate many of the same patterns with the next partner,” said Johnson. “New love is great, but relationships continue past that point.”

People may have the perception that things change from one relationship to the next — and they may in the shorter-term, from the unhappy end of one relationship to the blissful beginning of another — but over time, they stay the same. “Just starting a new partnership doesn't mean things are going to be different,” says Johnson. “This research shows that chances are, you are going to fall into the same patterns in many aspects of the relationship. Even if things are different, they're not guaranteed to be better.”

One way you may be able to avoid the same problems from occurring in your next relationship is to deal with your “stuff” — work on the psychological issues that need attention, perhaps with the help of a therapist.

The study was published in the journal of Journal of Family Psychology.

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