Projecting a past relationship onto a current one is like re-living a dream we had last night, in the light of day. The past is no longer “real,” but our memories and experiences from our last relationship can come back to haunt us. And while we all know intellectually that it is not a good thing to do to ourselves or our significant others, it happens to many of us more frequently than we’d like.
Your history in relationships may seem like an epic of repetitive patterns. Maybe you were easy to control in the past and your last three relationships were miserable failures because you allowed your mates to dominate you. You were a doormat and became tired of having someone tread so hard on your sensitive nature. Now that you are ready to put the past behind you and set a course for a relationship in which you are treated with respect and as an equal, the past comes hurling back at you, memories flood in, and you retract and put up your guard. Looking for the behaviors that you deem red flags, you weigh everything your partner says and does in the light of someone you would like to forget. The first time your new mate tries to force an issue, makes a suggestion about a behavior change, or criticizes you for something you forgot to do your hair stands on end and you are ready for a fight or chance to flee. You might wonder what caused you to lose it. What is likely is that memories are coloring your experiences with your new love interest.
Memories die hard when we have been hurt deeply. The mind has a way of over-emphasizing previous hurts and storing them as evidence for future application. Those stored memories of how violated you felt or how someone diminished your worth countless times may make it difficult to shake the suspicion that your new partner is anything but a clone. Your mind is weighted by concerns that you will be hurt again and at all costs you want to avoid any more damage to your delicate self-esteem.
The psychological tendency that may be impacting your behavior is called “projection”. A Freudian term, “projection” is commonly defined as the defense mechanism of ascribing one’s own negative qualities, traits and impulses onto another person. “It takes one to know one” best describes this inherent tendency. Projection can also be applied to the negative emotions you are harboring about someone from the past that are projected onto someone new. You may also be projecting the personality traits of your last relationship partner onto your new love interest whether or not they are remotely similar. Because the memory produces a strong mental image and perhaps an even stronger emotional reaction, your perceptions become skewed. Although there may be some similarities to the two personalities, you lack the insight to recognize the obvious differences. As a result, you can’t see the person for who they truly are and respond to them inappropriately.
Good Memories Can Be Just as Bad
If you idealized your last romantic partner, the memory of them can make someone else look less appealing. You are apt to make unfair comparisons casting your new lover in a dim light. As the adage says, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Your tendency is to want to feel the same intensity of attraction or the identical nurturing vibe, but it is just not the same. Is it? What is likely true is that you don’t want to let go. Perhaps, it’s not so much the person you cling to as much as the feelings they produced in you. As a result, you revisit the memories in order to feel as good. Without insight into your behavior the danger is that you will continue comparing rather than embracing your new partner for their unique qualities, ones that may prove to be even more fulfilling in the long run.
Past Life Déjà Vu
A past life that you spent with a romantic partner may color your experiences of each other in this life. Although a rare occurrence, it does happen that impressions, images or feelings are carried over from one life to the next, producing a range of pleasant or unpleasant emotions. For instance, if your partner in a past life abandoned you, you may experience apprehension and insecurities about the commitment in this life. Or if the relationship was extremely fulfilling in the last life, you may expect the same volume of love and appreciation in this one. When it isn’t quite the same you fall to disappointment. Making the past life conscious through a past life regression process or a psychic reading can help dissolve the overlay of emotional content left over from that life. Remembering that you are different people with distinctly different tastes, attitudes and personality traits from one life to the next is an important distinction.
Parental Legacy Memories Are the Hardest to Shake
Your parents’ interactions in their relationship may not have been the romantic ideal. Or perhaps, they were so much in love that any relationship you have seems pale in comparison. Your earliest experiences witnessing your parents’ relationship dynamics are stored as subconscious material causing you to view your relationship through a convoluted lens. Therefore, your perceptions of your own relationship will be distorted. Early memories drive your thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs about relationships and may cause you to accept a role that perhaps is not suited to your personality or anything like what you would desire for yourself. You might see a bit of your father or mother in your mate and will incorporate some of your parent’s attitudes about marital partnerships, calling them your own. Until you realize your mate is not a replica of your father or mother and that you don’t have to assume their roles, the dynamics of your relationship are likely to replicate your legacy.
The more you bring the influence of early memories into consciousness the less apt you are to continue to project destructive attitudes on your partner. You can gain insights into the influence of memories on your relationship through working with your dreams. Dreams often reveal buried memories and how they affect our attitudes about relationship as well as the behavior patterns we develop in response. In this way, dreams help us become conscious of what we might ordinarily deny.