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The issues in one's past can often explain relationship problems in the present.

The term “daddy issues” is common in pop culture today to describe a person, typically a female, who has a poor relationship with their father and is now an adult dealing with those repercussions in their current love lives. However, “daddy issues” aren’t the only relationship issues that may have ties to the past. 

It’s inevitable that as children grow up, they experience heartbreak in some capacity, though some people end up in repetitive cycles of toxic love much more frequently than others. The repercussions of childhood trauma and poorly learned emotional behavior manifests itself in many different ways. It may seem as if romantic relationships are present and future problems, but the truth is that many issues with heartbreak — repetitive or not — are rooted in the past.

The sooner young adults realize this, the sooner they can manifest something closer to the fantasy relationship they wish they had. Learning how to choose people that are good for you or learning to love what you know is good for you is more effective than falling for the next person you’re simply attracted to. Looks fade, but relationship styles and coping mechanisms normally stick with a person. 

The formative years are crucial to how people will form emotional bonds as adults. Children learn through example, and the biggest emotional impact on children are parental relationships. This isn’t just the relationship between the adult and the child but also how the child experiences the way the adults in their lives interact. Children are sponges; they truly do absorb everything around them as a survival instinct to help them cope. The things people learn as children can create either healthy adult problem-solving and relationship techniques or can cause an adult to unknowingly seek out toxic situations to match the relationship style they were accustomed to as a child. 

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network reports that 78% of children reported more than one traumatic experience before the age of 5. Couple this with the fact that the divorce rate in the U.S. is nearly 50%, and it results in the average child having some sort of negative relationship-oriented experience. Grant Brenner, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, said, “It is not uncommon for people traumatized by key caregivers to end up with friendships, romantic relationships, and even work settings, which are not good for them. They find people who fit their traumatic identity, even when they are trying to make different and better choices, leading to re-traumatization through repetition of the past.” 

There’s nothing wrong with creating standards for dating, and emotional coping skills should be one of them. It’s better in the end to start with someone less broken than to try and fix them along the way. This goes the same way for oneself. It’s easier to grow and evolve as a person when single and focusing on oneself than trying to grow alongside someone who might not have the same goals in mind.

I’ve realized that so many people in college had unhealthy home lives growing up. At the end of the day, I'm sure most people love their parents and can accept the way they were raised, but for others, childhood memories aren’t all camping trips and pancake breakfasts. No matter how perfect or imperfect a childhood might have been, experiencing relationship issues or a string of unhealthy relationships may be the time to turn back the clock and examine the relationships one experienced as a child.  

The National Institute of Health explains common unhealthy habits adults receive from their parents. If parents rarely displayed acts of love or kindness toward each other, it may be difficult for one to know how to show affection or love toward significant others. If parents yelled and screamed during arguments instead of having calm discussions, that’s how the child experienced problem solving and may see that as the go-to way to display unhappiness as an adult. These habits can be hard to break and even difficult to recognize as a behavior that was ingrained as a child.

The faster college kids get serious about dating and ditch hookup culture, the sooner they find out relationships are hard and take work. Everyone brings something different to the table, and if that contribution is trauma, it’s better to start working on that now so it doesn’t continue to work against the relationship or any future relationships. 

 Another way to examine the type of human bonds people form as adults is to understand what kind of attachment one had to their parents growing up. The four attachment styles are secure, avoidant, anxious and disorganized, according to the Evergreen Psychotherapy Center

Evergreen said, “Adults with these attachment styles differ in a number of significant ways: how they perceive and deal with closeness and emotional intimacy, ability to communicate their emotions and needs, listen to and understand the emotions and needs of their partners, modes of responding to conflict, expectations about their partner and the relationship (internal working models).”

Daddy issues aren’t the only parental relationships young adults should recognize. Noticing the possible side effects of the relationships that were molded as a child is helpful with self-improvement and current relationship issues. No one should be ashamed of these issues because it’s so common for children to pick up unhealthy coping mechanisms. Everybody grows up differently and comes from different backgrounds. Childhood has a profound impact on who we become and who we choose to spend significant amounts of time with. Understanding your past can be the key to your successful love life in the future, not just for your significant other, but also to model good emotional behavior for the next generation. 

Rebecca is a sophomore media arts and design major. Contact her at cutsinrj@dukes.jmu.edu.