How to Stop Letting Old Baggage Ruin Your New Relationships
In high school and your early 20’s, dating is easy for one sole reason: no baggage.
During this time, couples are often forming their very first, real LTRs (long term relationships), and it’s all butterflies and dreams of the future and no responsibilities.
That moment when you snuggle up on a Sunday morning and laughingly talk about each of your “past relationships” is a breeze. It’s fun even to learn your stories. No one is jealous, no one looks lovingly off into the distance as they recall a certain someone … the one who got away.
That’s because you’re relationship newbies. Someone you start dating during this period might say stuff like:
- “I dated this one girl my freshman year of college, but … it only lasted 5 months.”
- “There was this one boy in 10th grade I really, really liked, but then he changed schools.”
- “I moved in with a girl who I met at work once, but we shortly realized it wasn’t a match, and I moved out.”
Where’s all the juicy stuff?
The ex who threw all of your clothes on the lawn in a rage?
The bad breakup that left you sad and depressed for half a year?
If you’re anywhere past 25, this is the stuff you’ve got to deal with when you enter a new romantic relationship. Yeah, we’re talking about: Baggage.
Baggage is all that beautiful information that you’ve gleaned over your time in the dating world (and beyond). It might involve such little gems as:
- “He just smiled at that waitress. He’s probably going to secretly find a way to get her number before we leave.” (cheated on)
- “She asked me how my work is going. She’s shallow and all she cares about is what I’ll buy her.” (used by a gold digger)
- “They haven’t returned my call in 2 hours. I guess it’s over, and fine with me!” (dumped without explanation)
Sound a little … cuckoo? Yeah, baggage will do that to ya.
Fortunately, there are ways to catch yourself from sinking into these patterns where old crap from past relationships somehow ends up in your present situation.
- Stop talking to your ex.
Ties to that past relationship that really did a number on you should be first to go. This is one of the top things that will cause you to be unable to move forward.
In some way, that relationship didn’t work out, and now you’re trying to move on. Well, in that case, you actually need to move on. Cut the ties. Be nice about it. Be frank about it. Or just literally stop talking to them with no explanation. It’s time to focus on you and someone new.
- Delete your ex from social media.
Oh jeez sorry, maybe you misunderstood: Move on. Yes, that includes deleting your ex(es) from social media. When you go to do this, you’ll immediately start thinking of the reasons why you shouldn’t.
- “But they still have my favorite sweater, how will I ever get it back!?”
- Deal with it, hon.
- “I still want to be friends. They’re so funny!”
- Well, ok fine. If you don’t want to have a healthy, successful romantic relationship with someone new and you would rather remain distant ‘friends’ with your ex … that’s up to you …
- “What if I want to get back together later on? This is really cutting the ties!”
- Yep, that’s the point.
- Take time to realize what exactly happened in your past relationship.
Ok. You’ve cut the ties with the past, but you still need the past. You need it for assessment.
“What exactly happened?”
“Who was most at fault?”
“When ____ happened (the cheating, the mistreatment, the breakup, etc.), how did I react?”
“If I had it to do over again, what would I have done?”
Think about these questions and others on your own, or do some counseling if it feels good to you. You have to figure out what went wrong in the past in order to move on and do better.
- Admit fault for your mistakes if they’re there.
You want to say that it was your “evil ex” who caused all the problems and the subsequent baggage. And maybe it was. But you had a part in whatever happened too.
Did you breakup and get together 10 times each? Probably not the best idea. Did you often have loud, angry fights where you would scream and accuse? Not great.
Even if you found out that they were cheating only after you snooped their phone, was snooping really a good thing to do? Probably not. So should you continue that behavior in this new relationship? Nope.
- Talk to your new partner about what you went through.
Your partner has their own baggage, but they also don’t know about yours. If you were cheated on in the past and you don’t explain that to your new partner, they’re not going to have the understanding when it comes to figuring out why you got so mad if they glance at a server.
- Don’t make assumptions about your new partner.
This is the last step you’ll need to take, and trust us, it will get easier as your new relationship progresses. At first, it will be hard not to associate your new partner’s occasional long absences in texting with your ex partner’s cheating. It will be hard not to cringe every time your new partner orders a second drink when you used to have an alcoholic as a partner.
But over time, remembering to abide by the lessons you’ve learned will become easier and easier until your new partner’s habits and tendencies have replaced the old, and you can just focus on the good in your relationship and keep moving forward.