Relationships can be challenging, especially as we get older due to all life experiences we bring with us. In my practice I constantly hear the words “issues” and “baggage” thrown around and I feel those words need some discussion. Let’s be perfectly clear, everyone (yes everyone) comes into relationships with triggers from past couplings. It is unavoidable. What is avoidable, however, is how you handle the triggers and what steps you are taking to resolve or heal them. We all have something to work on or work out including the very person who is telling you that you have baggage.
The words “problems,” “issues,” “challenges,” and most definitely “baggage” come across as red flags. When discussing your feelings and how experiences in past relationships have affected you, do so in a mater-of-fact, positive way. How you view and discuss them is how your new partner will as well. If you view a situation as traumatic and difficult to get over, so will he or she. If you view a situation as a life experience and acknowledge that it has affected you emotionally but you are working on it, your potential partner is more likely to stay and help you through it versus running for the hills. And if she or he doesn’t, well, you picked the wrong person. Again, let me reiterate – everyone has emotional triggers from a past relationship.
It’s very important to accept yourself at this stage. Because you have something to workout does not mean there is something wrong with you. That being said, some people can work on triggers while in a relationship and some can’t. Only you can be the judge of that but keep in mind, if you try to work them out in the parameters of a relationship and it is having a negative impact on your partner or yourself, you more than likely need to take some time off from dating. You most definitely don’t want to perpetuate the problem. Acknowledging that you have things to work out is not a weakness, it is a strength.
So how does one tackle these past relationship demons?
1 – Be completely and brutally honest with yourself. No sugar coating. Keep a journal.
2 – Realize and accept this is not going to be a quick fix. It took months or years to manifest and it won’t go away over night. Being patient with yourself is important.
3 – Forgive yourself. So many people blame themselves for not seeing it sooner. This is wasted energy.
4 – Decide if this is something you can work out on your own or you need the help of a therapist. Some people are great at sorting out what they need and are disciplined to follow through on their own. Others need the guidance and accountability of a coach or therapist.
Nothing is worse that unresolved issues. Smoothing them over or hoping they will go away will not serve you. The quicker you start working on them, the quicker you will find yourself happier and in a fulfilling relationship. One step at a time, one day at a time, will lead you to an emotionally healthier life. So, let’s get moving.