We are nothing, if not the sum total of our experiences, but when is it "baggage" and when is it not.
Baggage is when you’re weighed-down by past experiences, stuck and unable to move forward from the weight. We think of it along with such terms as dumping it, getting rid of it, carrying extra weight, and so forth. In other words, in negative terms. The GOOD things, we don’t refer to as “baggage.” We use terms like “happy memories.” Bad memories are a different story, especially if they’re still alive.
Heavy negative baggage will keep you from getting where you want to go.
What are some of the things we need to get rid of in order to have a good new relationship? Basically, anything not resolved that makes us feel uneasy, negative or defensive.
Let’s take a look at some:
1. Anything you have anger or resentment about.
We can tell on a date when suddenly the person flares up and “starts in.” You ask a simple question such as, “When you travel do you like ships or cars or airplanes?" and out comes a tirade about the former spouse's preferences and demands. The appropriate answer would be, “I prefer cruises.”
2. Anything you’re not willing to talk openly about.
Let’s say your new partner asks you what you did last night, and you say, “None of your business,” or “What concern of that is yours?” This shows lack of trust, that you’re hiding something, or that you’re really not willing to share your life. It also creates mistrust. My client Mary (not her real name) saw her new love had sent an email to an old flame and asked him if he was still seeing her. He replied, “What makes you think that’s any of your business?” Uh oh.
3. Something that makes you feel uneasy that’s just an ordinary thing.
Spencer and Helen headed out on a date. When Helen discovered they were going to an Oktoberfest, she refused to go. “Allan and I used to go to Oktoberfest all the time,” she said. Spencer had to wonder if she was ready for a new relationship, and who would blame him?
4. Anything from the ‘past’ that requires a consuming amount of your time or energy.
This can be financial problems, child custody arrangements you have not yet smoothed out, or a former spouse with whom you have not really cut the ties – emotionally, physically, or otherwise.
5. Anything the person is preoccupied about.
Leave Elizabeth alone for 5 minutes, and she starts ruminating about the woman her ex-husband had an affair with. “Do you think he’s still with her?” she asks.
This is a sign that her emotions are still tied up with the former spouse, and she is not ready to enjoy them with a new partner.
6. Problems with children.
I bring this one up because, as Step-Parenting Expert for a major website, I hear the stories. Children whose parents have divorced, deserve top priority in their adjustment to the new circumstances. You will (and should) remain emotionally invested in getting this situation in place until it's accomplished. If it's chaotic, this doesn't allow emotional energy for a new love.
7. Sexual Problems.
Most people who divorce eventually have problems in every area, including sexual. It can take some time to recover from this, if it has occurred. If you were still getting along great, you’d still be married, and chances are you weren’t getting along too great in bed. Or the opposite – where a couple has divorced and still spends the night together occasionally. This is heavy baggage, a sign you are nowhere near ready to move on.
Baggage can be thoughts you dwell on, or they can be challenging circumstances you still need to resolve, such as debts, moving, or a new job.
Whatever it is, it pays to get them worked through before you attempt a new relationship. Relationships call for sharing and openness, a clear emotional playing field, and emotional, physical and mental energy to spare. You want to be yourself, and have a partner who is, emotionally available and fully present in the relationship.
If you’re harboring old grudges, still half in love with your former partner, hate your former partner (still intensely involved emotionally), are still entangled with them financially, or over-reacting to ordinary things (“He stroked his tie just the way Ben used to and I hate that!”) you need to stop where you are, and give yourself some more time.
Coaching can help you can get things in perspective and talk about some of the things to someone other than a potential love. It’s only fair to clear the decks of baggage before you set sail again.
If you’re on the receiving end of what appears to be baggage, give it a good look. Do not get involved in it. For instance, if he mentions his ex-wife once, just listen. Don’t say anything. Continue this if he mentions her again. This may go on for a while, but it should play itself out. It was part of his life, after all. If it continues after what seems like a reasonable time, unfortunately this man is not ready for a new relationship. Bless him and send him on his way.
Susan Dunn, Life Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Individual coaching, internet courses and ebooks. Susan is the author of The EQ Course for success in all areas of life. She trains and certifies coaches worldwide in a fast, affordable, no-residency program. For information or free ezine, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org .