Jennifer Aniston said dating is hard because of her parents’ dynamic. A therapist explains how to build healthy relationships without a blueprint.

Jennifer Aniston

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p” data-mce-style=”box-sizing: border-box; display: block;”>In a recent interview, Jennifer Aniston said that she has always found romantic relationships to be a little bit difficult.She said that her parents, who got divorced when she was 9, never modeled a healthy relationship. A therapist says it’s still possible to have happy partnerships, even if you never witnessed them as a kid.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal Magazine, Jennifer Aniston dropped a relatable bombshell. The star, known for her high-profile relationships with other celebrities like Brad Pitt and Justin Theroux, said she struggles in her love life — and she attributes some of her difficulties to her parents’ failed marriage.

“My parents, watching my family’s relationship, didn’t make me kind of go, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to do that,'” she told The WSJ. Aniston’s parents, actors John Aniston and Nancy Dow, got divorced when Aniston was 9.

As a result, she said she generally found romantic relationships “a little bit difficult” and that it was easier to remain solo because she “didn’t like the idaof sacrificing who you were or what you needed.”

Parents have a tremendous impact on many aspects of their children’s successes, including how they navigate future relationships. And when volatile relationships are modeled, children often don’t know what a healthy partnership looks like once they grow up, according to Isabelle Morley, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in couples therapy.

“People typically do one of two things,” Morley told Insider. “They sacrifice their own needs more than they should because they’re afraid of the other person leaving, or swing to the other side of that pendulum and are unwilling to make any compromises because they’ve seen their parents do that.”

Luckily, she said, our parents’ relationships don’t need to define ours — it just takes some extra work to identify and foster healthy dynamics. Here’s how you can do it.

Identify your attachment style

Morley said that one of the main ways our parents may affect our future relationships is through our attachment styles.

People with healthy bonds to their parents usually become securely attached — meaning they’re comfortable with intimacy, but don’t depend on relationships to feel complete.

But if you grew up in a household that was “destabilized and felt unsafe,” as Aniston described hers to The WSJ, you might have an insecure attachment style — meaning you may be anxious, avoidant, or afraid of abandonment.

Luckily no matter which attachment style you have, Morley said you can change your attachment style with some work, like reading up on resources or through therapy.

Take notes from couples you admire

Morley said you can also improve your romantic relationships by learning from couples that you want to be like. They can be your friends, friends’ parents, or anyone else you know beyond a fluffy Instagram post.

“The more intimate view you have of the relationship, the better,” Morley said. “So you can see what it really looks like when people fight and how they repair and move forward.”

Of course, not everyone is willing to share how they argue. But if you have couple friends who are naturally more open about their relationship, it can be helpful to ask questions and take mental notes.

Reframe your past

Instead of focusing on what you didn’t see as a kid — like your parents navigating conflict calmly — you can reframe the lessons of your past to find your ideal relationship, Morley said.

For example, if your parents had screaming matches, you might pay extra attention to avoiding a raised voice or disrespectful tone. Or if they avoided conflict at all costs, you can make an effort to instead directly communicate with a partner.

The benefit is that now “you don’t have to go through a relationship like theirs to be able to know that’s what you don’t want,” Morley said.

And if you’re doing your best but still slide into your parents’ patterns? Morley said you shouldn’t panic — slip-ups happen to everyone. “The work really is having a partner with whom you can be open about the flaws in how each of you operate together,” Morley said.

You may never fully outgrow what you learned as a kid, but you can find someone who is willing to build a different life with you.

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