Schema-Focused Relationship Problems

A schema is a strongly held belief that a person has about himself or herself, about other people, or about the world in general, and the belief can be either positive or negative in nature. In all cases, the schema is accepted as being true, even if it’s negative and causes harm or difficulties in the person’s life. A schema-focused relationship problem is a pattern of difficulties a person has with others that is caused by these negative beliefs. The theme of these problems often remains the same over time and repeats itself in different types of relationships, including romantic involvements, business relationships, and friendships.


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Most often, negative schemas develop at an early age. Children hold beliefs about themselves that they learn from their parents and other adults. For example, children who hears judgmental messages such as “You’re lazy” or “You’re stupid” will begin to think that these things are true and grow up to be adults who think they are lazy, stupid, or generally incompetent.

Similarly, children who are abused, mistreated, or criticized often think they’ve done something sufficiently bad to deserve their mistreatment—regardless of the fact that none of these unkind comments or actions is deserved. Nevertheless, these children often think poorly of themselves as a result, and may develop the belief that everyone will mistreat them. As adults, these same people continue to think poorly of themselves and their negative schemas continue to grow stronger. Sadly, if left untreated, negative schemas don’t change very much throughout life; instead, they continue to be harmful to the person’s self-esteem and relationships.


This website is for informational purposes only and does not provide an official diagnosis. Anyone struggling with a physical or mental health problem should seek the services of a medical or psychological professional as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you’re having thoughts about suicide or hurting someone else, please see our crisis resources list, contact your local emergency services, or go to a local hospital immediately.