Anastasia Christidou
Counseling & Gestalt Therapy

Romantic relationship: what is it?

romeo and juliet road

A romantic relationship is the union of two people coming from different families carrying different beliefs, values and needs. It is a union that has physical, emotional, social and spiritual elements.
There are many views and theories over what actually makes people fall in love with each other and form a relationship. Men and women, sometimes consciously and other times unconsciously hope to fulfill their deepest needs through a relationship. Usually they hope to re-live gratifications or experiences that occurred in the past (often the first years of their life) or they want to have corrective experiences to heal the frustrations that they have painfully experienced in the past (again often during their childhood).
Several researches shed light on the various criteria of choosing a mate. One thing I believe is that nothing is a coincidence and physical appearance is not the most important factor.

One of the factors that attracts people to each other is their family histories, especially the painful parts. A couple can share similar family experiences or they replay matching roles that they learned playing in their families. E.g. a man that watched his father to express his anger in a nasty aggressive way, he will often reproduce this behaviour as an adult and find a mate that bears his anger. A woman that is accustomed to accept as normal the aggressiveness of her parent expressing anger, she will chose a mate that will treat her in the same abusive way.           So now the two of them can reproduce their original families environment. Choosing each other is subconscious of course since our psychic/emotional experiences are registered in our body and transmitted with signs related with our body posture, movement, expression etc.        Why on earth should we choose to replay unfulfilling roles? Because we are so used to it, it‘s familiar, we feel safe, we do what we know best. Maybe these “best options” are out of date with our current situation but it‘s scary to leave the familiar no matter how much it hurts us.

Family histories also contribute to attract two people so they could face their unfinished business from the past while being in a loving environment where they can grow (if that was something they missed in their original family).

When an adult forms a romantic relationship, he follows natural phases going from dependency to independence. The experience is similar to the way a person experienced the relationship with “the important other” (a parent) the first 3 years of his life.                                                     If the child’s environment was supporting and encouraging his independence, then as an adult the person will have good self-image, self worth, trust people, feel closeness and approach other people easy.
If that was not the case, then as an adult, the person will face problems in his relationships.

The good news is that our current life is not determined only by the past. Yes indeed the past has an impact, and it‘s difficult to become aware of the ways we can sabotage ourselves and our relationships. A romantic relationship and a lot of our adult relationships can become corrective experiences and help us heal our wounds. This is a mere chance, it‘s not something to be taken for granted. It is a choice we can make and we commit to our personal development with the help and support of our loving partner. Relationships can be wonderful experiences of growth and personal development for both partners if they are up for it!

Giannakopoulou, L. & Papantriantafyllou, S. (2010), Relationships and Communication in Families (in greek language only)


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