By M. Lynn Griffin
We all carry it. We push it around or we pull it. Sometimes it’s packed all nice and neat; sometimes it’s messy. I’m not talking about the Louis Vuitton or Michael Kors with the 360° wheels and the projectile handle that airlines toss around without a care in the world. I’m talking about the kind of baggage that is damaging to your future, or current, relationships. This kind of baggage travels as well—it travels around your mind, heart, and spirit.
The dictionary defines baggage as “things that encumber one's freedom, progress, development, or adaptability; impediments”. An impediment is defined as an “obstruction, hindrance or obstacle”. Another word for baggage is “trappings”. Why would we knowingly carry around anything that weighs us down, traps us, or hinders any part of our lives? We wouldn’t, but we do.
Now, after years of waiting, you’ve met that special someone that you are truly into. Perhaps you believe you are baggage-free. Well, it’s debatable if that is even possible. See if you identify with any of these signs:
●You feel unworthy or like a failure. Are you filled with self-doubt and feel that no one will ever love you?
●You’re paranoid. You don’t fully trust them so you play mind games to see if they will slip up, or you stalk their social media.
●You compare them to past partners. You won’t go places or do the same things your ex liked to do. (You will love the chapter in my book called “We Not Going There”).
●You hide things. You don’t reveal important aspects of your life that they truly need to know.
●You won’t fully commit. You are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
●You are consumed with seeing your ex fail or “get theirs”.
If you currently identify with even ONE sign, you still have baggage. Don’t worry, there is hope. As long as you’re willing to be honest and put in the work, it is possible to drastically reduce the weight of baggage that you carry:
●Stop feeling guilty about your past. It’s. The. Past. Admit that it happened and understand there is no rewind button for a do-over. Begin to feed yourself affirmations EVERYDAY. Start small with one or two, then build from there.
●Stop being a victim and allowing others to make you one. Cut off people that always want to remind you of your past; that want to criticize you.
●Let go of the shame. Journal to get your feelings and emotions out. Put yourself in counseling to work through those feelings. You will be amazed at how helpful this will be.
●Let go of the anger. Being angry is not productive—it’s only keeping you angry. More about this later.
●Forgive. That’s right, forgive that person. I know from experience that this is hard. Write them a letter or make a phone call and forgive them. Forgiveness is not for them—it’s for YOU.
Holding onto baggage, especially anger, can be damaging. It’s bad for you physically and mentally, keeps you “living” in the pain, and keeps you thinking about the person when they have gone on with their lives like nothing ever happened. Hanging on to anger is unnatural, and over time can cause depression, eating disorders, heart disease, strokes, and prevent recovery from addictions, or even start them.
So, how do you deal with your significant other and their baggage? I’m glad you asked. Here are several suggestions. Many more exist but they can’t all be addressed here:
●Communication is key. Consistent, open communication is vital. Don’t shy away from the tough conversations. Not only listen but “hear” what your partner is saying. When revealing something significant, don’t overreact or make assumptions. It’s okay to ask questions; you need to know just how deep this issue runs for them. Learn what their triggers are and keep your finger off of them.
●Pay attention to patterns. If your partner is always trying to pick a fight or always bringing up a particular ex, that is a clear indication that a serious conversation needs to be had.
●Be patient and understanding. Don’t kick them to the curb just because they have baggage. You have some too.
●Be honest with each other. Talk about your expectations and don’t gloss over something important to make it appear trivial. You’ll regret it later.
●Put yourself in their shoes. The adage, “You won’t know what it’s like until you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”, is true.
●Consider couples therapy. There is no shame in asking for help from a licensed therapist. That third set of ears will help you hear something you missed.
●Don't forget to take care of self. You will be of no good to your partner if you’re not taking care of your own personal, emotional and mental needs.
●Remind yourself of the commitment you've made. If your partner means anything to you at all, don’t lose sight of the positive things about them and your relationship. Any good relationship is worth fighting for.
M. Lynn Griffin is a full-time employee and business owner residing in Michigan’s capital city of Lansing along with her two sons. Her background is in organizing and event planning but has now added writing to the mix. She loves spending time with family and friends as well as travelling, reading and making people laugh with her quirky sense of humor. She is the author of the soon to be released book “I Stayed Too Long”.