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Is your baggage holding you back?

Emotional baggage can keep you tied to the past
Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Unless you have experienced only loving, healthy, mutually dissolved relationships in the past, you can probably relate to the following statement: You have baggage.

Specifically, you have emotional baggage. What exactly qualifies as baggage, you ask? Holding onto feelings of mistrust, insecurity, sadness, fear, jealousy or just overall unhappiness from a past relationship. This state of mind is not always a conscious one, as many people are in denial about the existence of their baggage. Those same people often end up rebounding into new relationships without first trying to heal their emotional wounds.

Other people publicly carry their baggage and tell every first (and consequently last) date that they are damaged goods. Women tend to overdo it when it comes to co-rumination, as well. Friends, do your friend a favor the next time she wants to share a bottle of wine and whine about her baggage for the hundredth time…change the subject. Too much girl talk can end up being a bitch fest, which isn’t conducive to closure.

Healing from a traumatic past experience is, of course, easier said than done. Closure does not usually occur simply because you physically walk away from a situation. When betrayal in any form knocks you off your feet, it may take years to heal.

In the meantime, how do you embark on a healthy relationship with someone new?

First, be proactive in seeking out activities that do not involve you sitting alone on your couch, wallowing. That might not mean dating yet, but possibly spending more time with a group of friends to help you feel emotionally supported. Do your best to let go of the part of your past that haunts you and connect with new people.

Second, be open, but not too open, when you do meet a potential new partner. Choose a time, maybe on the third or fourth date, when you both start to share personal information with each other. Take it slowly and see what kind of reaction you get, and how it makes you feel to be vulnerable.

And third, be patient with yourself. If it feels too soon to start something new with someone, it probably is. Listen to your instincts if they tell you that you’re not ready to date. The heavier your baggage, the longer the healing process takes.

Just remember that your past does not define you. You decide how much space it takes up in your present life, and hopefully someday you’ll find someone amazing to help you replace it altogether.

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