Friday, April 8, 2011

The Past is the Enemy of Future Relationships

Your Past Can Destroy Your Future


Have you had some bad dates, failed relationships, and even disappointing marriages? Then you have a past and it may be hurting your future prospects. It isn’t entirely like my mother’s chant about being a three-time loser because you failed before, but it does have a lot to do with the fact you failed. We take our histories of abusive spouses, conniving boyfriends and stalker-ish acquaintances with us on every date. That’s right. We carry the baggage in and here are the results:


“All women use men,” states my date. He lists in detail about how women have used him. I know I’m not a user, but I can tell by his bitter attitude he already believes I am. I will only disappoint him somehow so it isn’t even worth trying to convince him otherwise. Women do this too and wonder why there is no second date.


The history buff—this date somehow relates everything he’s done in his adult life back to a woman he dated or was in a relationship with. Simple questions about concerts he’s been to or music he likes involves recitation of concerts he’s been to with other women in the exact same place you are sitting at the time. This pushes the ick factor to the nth degree. If a woman did this, we would probably say she was insecure trying to show her date she was loved before. When a guy does this, several times, it is thoughtless and you do wonder what point he is trying to make. Hey, I dated people, but somehow I manage not to bring them into every conversation.


Your past can get in the way of your future if you let it and plenty of people let it. Think of your worst fears. For some women it is the fear of a man leaving them because it has happened before. This fear is placed before the potential boyfriend like a golden fleece. If he fails to answer the leading questions appropriately then he fails to earn the next date. Too bad he didn’t get a study guide.


Many times when we leave a bad relationship, we tend to think everything about the previous man was flawed, which isn’t true. I refused to date men I thought looked like my ex-husband, and it even extended to his hobbies. Since he was an avid marathoner and bicyclist, just the mention of running had me jogging the opposite way. This sudden aversion to all things that had gone on before did not serve me well. I am an active person and I was passing on active men, too afraid they would be like my ex-husband.


Sometimes instead of the bad boyfriend syndrome, you may be packing around the old flame memory. Your first or first serious boyfriend, the great one that got away, tends to hang in the back of your mind. He is more special because he was your first; from slow dance to kiss to so many other things. Your memories may not be entirely accurate. Time tends to let us don the rose-colored glasses. At the age of forty, more women are searching for old classmates in hopes of finding their long lost love. Hearts are warmed by tales of young lovers separated and reunited again years later, but that isn’t the usual tale. Women anxious to meet up with their high school sweetheart are often shocked when he’s bald, overweight and not exactly charming. What happened to that wonderful man in their minds?


He was in their minds. All those wonderful qualities he was endowed with…he may not have ever had. This was brought home to me about my high school sweetheart that I thought was a wonderful guy. We dated off and on for seven years. Everyone thought we’d eventually marry. I urged him to move to another state to take advantage of graphic art opportunities…and then I never heard from him again, not even a letter, despite the fact I wrote. It made me rethink that the guy I’d been using to measure other guys against didn’t really exist.


Often we can joke about being attracted to the wrong kind of men, but if we can’t figure out why we cozy up to mama’s boys or tolerate a man who is a workaholic then we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. There is nothing sadder than seeing a friend engaged in yet another abusive relationship. We have to do the work to get out of the cycle. Sometimes the work can be done on your own with a couple of blunt friends and a journal, but other times a therapist is needed. Beware jumping into dating before you understand why you do what you do.


Then there is the self-fulfilling prophecy. If I don’t say it, even think it, my mother will remind me of all the previous bad relationships I’ve endured. Her unsubtle message is you’ve screwed up before so why even bother. Unfortunately, many women enter relationships with this type of pronouncement hanging over their heads. They figure sometime somehow they will mess up the relationship. The tension is palatable. Often they will sabotage the budding relationship just to get it over with before it hurts too much.


What you can do is start fresh. Don’t compare your date to anyone in your past. Let him be himself. Do enjoy YOUR time together. Do not waste precious time by inserting talk about past relationships. Those relationships are over. If they were so good, you’d still be in them. Why allow them to screw up an opportunity at future happiness.


I guess it all comes down to checking your luggage at the door. Really, leave it there. Don’t go back for it. You don’t need it to go forward in love. In fact, it may keep you from getting through the door in the first place.



Update: I will admit I’ve caught myself more than once picking up old baggage. Often checking your baggage is an everyday thing


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