Dragging old baggage around with you can taint the most promising relationship. Living with someone who is carrying excess baggage can feel a little like walking on egg shells; never knowing what will trigger the next blow out. Since it is impossible for your partner to ever be perfect enough to not trigger your baggage, it is wise to unpack.
A few tips for unpacking your baggage are provided below:
1. Accept and release your anger. Accept that it is healthy to feel anger about negative experiences and losses. Accept that you feel angry for a reason, acknowledge that you have a right to feel how you feel. Then choose to deal constructively with your anger and find a way to release that feeling, rather than allowing it to turn to bitterness.
2. Rid yourself of reminders. Give back, give away, sell or discard the physical reminders of old hurts. If you are hanging onto stuff that brings you pain each time you use or see it, it may be time to clean house. It can be helpful as a symbolic way to say I am choosing to let go of the past, or to free myself from its grasp.
3. Break the pattern. Carrying old baggage can mean that your partner gets painted with the same brush as your ex. If they say or do anything that even reminds you of something from the past, all that build up hurt and anger falls on them like a ton of bricks. Choose to be in the present and to deal with your current relationship and remember that your partner is not your ex or your parents or whoever else hurt you in the past.
4. Forgive yourself. It is important to accept responsibility for the hurtful things that you did or said in past relationships and to learn from mistakes that you made. Remember that you are only responsible for things that you can control. Choose to learn from your past and forgive yourself, rather than beating yourself up. Accept that, in whatever situation you found yourself, you did the best you could at the time.
5. Forgive others. Forgiving those who have hurt you frees you from carrying their baggage with you. You do not forgive them because they deserve to be forgiven or to give them peace of mind; you forgive them because you deserve to be free of them and you deserve peace of mind. Forgiveness can be difficult and sometimes takes years, but it really is the most effective way to unpack your baggage.
Get help if needed. If you strongly feel that your past is interfering with your present and stopping you from having the future that you want, it may be wise to seek help from a professional. Sometimes your partner can help you unpack and sometimes you just need a little extra help.
From Unpack Your Baggage for a Great Relationship
by Susan Derry